Two major pieces of reform legislation concerning University of Maryland-affiliated boards of directors advanced Tuesday to final votes in the House of Delegates.
Without objection, the delegates voted to advance Speaker Michael Busch’s sweeping legislation that would reform the University of Maryland Medical System’s board of directors amid accusations of self-dealing that have rocked the hospital network.
The legislation would bar no-bid contracts for the hospital network’s board members, force all members to resign and reapply for their positions, and mandate an audit of contracting practices. It would also take all elected officials off the board.
“The whole goal of this is to avoid people using their positions of power to personally benefit,” said Anne Arundel County Republican Del. Nic Kipke, the House Minority leader who is pushing the legislation while Busch, an Anne Arundel Democrat, is out with pneumonia. “We’re doing our best to react to the shameful things that have come to light recently.”
The legislation was introduced after The Baltimore Sun reported this month that nine of the board’s 30 members — including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh — had deals benefiting their private companies with the hospital system they were tasked with overseeing.
Pugh, facing a call by Gov. Larry Hogan for a criminal investigation into the book deal that paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars, announced Monday that she will take an indefinite leave of absence because of her health.
The House is likely to have a final vote on Busch’s legislation Wednesday before sending it over to the Senate, where Sen. Jill P. Carter, a Baltimore Democrat, is lead sponsor.
The House also voted to advance legislation aimed at reforming the University of Maryland Board of Regents, which is facing backlash over its handling of the football team scandal and the death of player Jordan McNair.
Legislation sponsored by state Del. Ben Barnes of Prince George’s County and Sen. Sarah Elfreth of Anne Arundel County would require the Board of Regents to livestream its meetings on the internet; accept comments from the public; record all motions and vote tallies; and conduct any votes related to employment or termination of university presidents or the chancellor in open session.
The legislation also would add four new members to the 17-member board, including a student and appointees from the state Senate president and speaker of the House of Delegates. The bill also would subject the chair of the board to additional vetting from the state Senate.
The lawmakers say the goal of the bill is to bring increased oversight, accountability and transparency to a board they believe badly mismanaged the football program at the University of Maryland.
The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents came under fire last year over its decision to retain University of Maryland head football coach DJ Durkin despite the heatstroke death of McNair, an offensive lineman, and a subsequent investigation into the university’s football program that found pervasive problems. University of Maryland President Wallace Loh nevertheless fired Durkin a day after the regents reinstated the embattled coach.
Elfreth’s version of the bill, which passed the Senate 46-0, will likely receive its final vote in the House tomorrow. Barnes’ version passed unanimously in the House and is making its way through the Senate.
Both chambers must approve the same version of the bill for it to advance to the governor to sign into law.