The session begins on Jan. 8th.
Frederick, Md (KM) With the start of the 2020 Maryland General Assembly about four months away, local elected officials are preparing their legislative packages.
During Tuesday’s Council meeting, County Executive Jan Gardner talked about her top priority for the upcoming legislative session: education. “I’m going to have a position statement on the education issues this year, both on Kirwan–because that’s going to be a big debate–and on school construction,” she said.
The Kirwan Commission, or Commission of Innovation and Excellence in Education, was established by the General Assembly in 2016 to make policy recommendations to enable Maryland’s schools to perform at the level of the best performing schools in the world, and to propose changes to the current funding for schools. Gardner says she wants to be part of the discussions on changing school funding formulas.
Also on her “wish list” for 2020 is a bill to expand the State’s tax credit for reenters to include a local credit. “It’s pretty simple; adding the word Frederick County into state law where other counties are currently listed,” she told the Council.. “And then that would have to have a local law passed to implement it. . So you would get to come and decide how that might happen within the framework of the law.” Gardner said four other counties in Maryland have that authority to grant a local tax credit to renters up to 50%.
A second bill would give members of the Board of Education a pay raise of $14,000 annually. “I proposed $4,000 increase for both the President, who makes a $1,000 more, and the members. But I’m open to that being some other amount,” said Gardner. “I’m also open to having a discussion about adding an annual escalator to that, like to a cost of living, or tying it to some other salary adjustment somewhere.”
Gardner said the Board of Ed has not had a pay increase since 2006.
The County Executive will be holding a legislative town hall meeting on Wednesday, October 9th at Winchester Hall beginning at 7:00 PM.
Council Also Discusses Legislation.
The Council also discussed a bill covering how vacancies on the Board of Education are filled. The legislation sponsored by Councilman Steve McKay would not set up a special election, and the County Executive would still have the authority to appoint candidates to fill the empty seats. But the County Executive would have to make public the names of the individuals, and all interviews conducted by the Council would be open citizens.
He says the County has the authority to hold a special election to fill vacant seats on the School Board, but the costs would range from $250,000 to $300,000. McKay was citing figures from the County’s Election Director Stuart Harvey.
“Where we have a vacancy, we should endeavor to try to put the decision back with the voters,” says McKay. “So that’s what I’m trying to accomplish.”
He says these are elected positions on the Board of Education, and the public needs to know as much about the candidates as possible. :”Elected officials campaign. They’re out there,” he says. “So the appointee being considered for an elected seat I think we should treat very similarly in terms of giving the public exposure who we are considering for these types of things.”
During discussion on Tuesday, President M.C. Keegan-Ayer was wondering if a lot of these changes could be done locally, rather than taking it the Legislative Delegation. “I hate to put things in state law that we can’t go back and tweak later on rather than going to the delegation again,’ she said. “I would much rather do it in local rules or ordinance.”
“We may amenable to put it our rules and procedures. But another Council or two from now may not be,” McKay responded. “Whereas from the standpoint of a public responsibility for these processes, when it is mandated in state law, it’s a lot hard to move away from that.”
The Council is expected to vote next week on whether to add this bill to the County’s Legislative Package.
The 2020 Maryland General Assembly gavels into session on January 8th of next year.
By Kevin McManus