Miller, O’Malley promise school construction study -- Gazette.Net


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Montgomery County will not get more school construction money for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, but Annapolis leadership is not willing to let the issue stagnate.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said Tuesday that he and Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D) have agreed to issue an executive order to study alternative financing methods for school construction.

“Last night while y’all were out there partying,” Miller said at a bill signing Tuesday morning with O’Malley. “The governor and I were working.”

In the final hours of the session Monday, the Senate squatted on legislation requiring a study of alternative financing methods for school construction funding, effectively killing it.

“We were so sure, even at 5 minutes to 12,” Sen. Nancy J. King said. “I was just sure it was going to come up on the calendar and we were going to vote on it.”

But the bill never resurfaced.

“And when it’s midnight, it’s done no matter what,” King (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village said.

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington said repeated special orders — motions to delay consideration of a bill — kept pushing off the final vote.

When the balloons fell and the cheers rose marking the end of the 90-day session, King said Montgomery lawmakers flocked to talk to Miller (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach.

Miller said Tuesday the executive order will resolve the issue. King, who attended the bill signing, said she understands the order will require what the bill required, a study with recommendations by December.

Montgomery lawmakers said early in the session that establishing a steady, predictable stream of school construction funding was their top priority.

Montgomery County Public Schools enrollment has been steadily growing by about 2,000 students per year, the equivalent of a high school, according to county figures.

But midway through the session, Delegation Chairwoman Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Calverton and King both admitted that there was little hope of a program passing this year. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) also said the county knew it likely faced a multi-year battle.

Lingering state structural deficit meant Maryland lacked the money Montgomery sought.

A study of funding mechanisms was a compromise crafted to still move the issue forward, King said. Council President Craig L. Rice said a study should be able to give state lawmakers concrete evidence of what Montgomery faces.

“We knew it was going to be a hard sell for us to get this done this first year,” Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said. “I think this [study] really sets us up well for next year.”

All three of the Democratic candidates for governor — Del. Heather R. Mizeur, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler — have openly supported the county’s push for the funds.

“I’m hopeful that whoever is governor next year — assuming it’s a Democrat, we have a 100 percent chance of having a governor from one of the jurisdictions that benefit from this plan — that we will get it through,” Madaleno said.

Leggett (D) said in a statement Tuesday that Montgomery made significant progress and he remains confident it will ultimately be successful.

Other legislation of note:

• Maryland expanded its anti-discrimination laws to include gender identity.

• Maryland made it no longer a crime to possess small amounts of marijuana. While still illegal, possession of a small amount of pot will not automatically result in jail time, but rather a civil fine starting at $100 for a first offense.

• Maryland expanded its laws for medical marijuana by allowing specialized doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients and by licensing growers and dispensaries in the state.

• Maryland closed a loophole in a law protecting students by including part-time, temporary and contract employees and coaches among those who cannot engage in sexual contact with students.

• Maryland made fatal accidents caused by driving and texting, or holding a hand-held device, punishable by up to 1 year in jail.



kalexander@gazette.net