Bill to set up a nominating commission gets a push


The majority of Anne Arundel County's delegates have thrown their support behind a bill that would establish a nominating commission for school board candidates.

Del. Michael Busch's proposal stands the best chance of being passed by a House committee and sent to the Senate because it has the delegation's support. The county's House delegation approved the bill by a 9-to-4 vote.

"We're all trying to address a problem that we know exists," Mr. Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, told the delegates before Friday's vote. "The nominating convention has been circumvented for eight years. If it's not dead, it's been on life support."

For 25 years, the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Convention Committee, an ad hoc group of citizens, has sponsored public forums to screen school board candidates. Convention delegates vote on the candidates and send the winner's name to the governor. But former governors have ignored the convention's nominee in seven of the last 10 years.

Mr. Busch's bill would create a commission similar to the one that screens candidates for judgeships. The school board nominating commission would give the governor a list of three names from which he would have to choose.

Del. Joan Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, said Mr. Busch's bill was "elitist" because it would give the county executive and the governor the power to appoint commission members. Mrs. Cadden co-sponsored a bill that would have let voters choose whether or not the school board should be elected. The delegation rejected that proposal by a vote of 9 to 4.

Mr. Busch said county residents can draft a petition to put the question of an elected board to a vote.

Del. Marsha G. Perry, a Crofton Democrat and the main sponsor of the referendum bill, was trying to find out how she can get the question on the ballot without a petition. She said she may draft an amendment that would allow Anne Arundel to "piggyback" onto a bill that will let Calvert County voters decide whether their school board should be elected.

Del. George W. Owings III, who voted against Ms. Perry's bill, sponsored the Calvert County bill. His 29A District is split between Anne Arundel and Calvert counties. Ms. Perry said she didn't understand why Mr. Owings voted against her.

"What's good enough for the residents of Calvert County isn't good enough for us?" she asked.

Mr. Owings defended his vote, saying he supported Mr. Busch's bill because it was the only one of the four Anne Arundel bills

that made sure residents in his district had a say in appointing school board members. Mr. Busch's bill specifically calls for a student member, three at-large members, and one representative from District 29A or 30.

The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a public hearing on both bills at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

A Senate bill giving the county executive the power to appoint school board members is opposed by most members of the county's House and Senate delegations.

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