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Senate Committee Approves Amended School Board Bill

Controversial bill passes 7-3 just one day after the same committee delayed its vote.

A state Senate committee Friday approved an amended version of a controversial Baltimore County school board bill.

The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee approved the bill by a vote of 7-3. Sens. Joanne Benson, Bill Ferguson, and Karen Montgomery—Democrats from Prince George's County, Baltimore City and Montgomery County, respectively—voted against the bill.

Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore City Democrat and chairwoman of the committee, abstained.

The committee voted to pass the bill after adopting amendments proposed by  Sen. James Rosapepe, a Democrat who represents Anne Arundel and Prince George's Counties.

Rosapepe's amendment creates a hybrid board with six elected members and five appointed members. The elected members would come from districts drawn by the Baltimore County Council in consultation with the Baltimore County Board of Education.

If the bill becomes law, the first elections would be held in 2014. The five appointments would be made in staggered terms by the governor.

The original bill, sponsored by Sens. Bobby Zirkin and J.B. Jennings, called for an elected member from each of the seven council districts and four appointments.

The committee's vote comes one day after the same committee delayed the vote and supporters said its prospects for passage appeared grim.

"This is a tremendous step for the bill," said Zirkin, adding that he had no problem with the amendments.

"There's no pride in authorship," said Zirkin. "For me, it's always been about giving Baltimore County residents something they've never had before—an opportunity to vote for their school board members."

Zirkin thanked Conway for the work on the bill.

Conway, in an interview earlier this week, said and expressed concerns about the .

The committee delayed a vote Thursday after a over the bill.

The bill could come up for a vote in the full Senate as early as next week.

David Marks March 30, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Congratulations and thank you to all the state legislators who have worked on this issue. A majority of the Baltimore County Council supports direct election of School Board members.
Mark Patro March 30, 2012 at 10:52 PM
A great step forward for democracy. And it was supported with a bipartisan voice in both the Baltimore County Council and in the state Senate.Now, lets get this bill passed on the floor of the Senate.
Jean Suda March 30, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Thank you Senators Rosapepe and Committee Chairwoman Conway for your amendment and abstention. At least our state government understands the art of compromise! "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God, or as they say in the UN, they shall take flak from all sides."
John Dingedahl March 31, 2012 at 01:24 AM
I am delighted that a hybrid board bill will reach the senate for debate, but I don't like that politicians from other jurisdictions have the power to dictate to the people of Baltimore County on how to run our school system. I wonder how our 8th district senator will vote on this, since she has indicated from previous actions, (hybrid commission) that she is not in favor. If passed, how is the process going to work with six elected from seven districts. This should be interesting!
gpowder123 March 31, 2012 at 01:37 AM
A small victory and let's hope that it keeps going. Urge your fellow Baltimore County citizens and voters to support this bill by reaching out to their legislators. We could use a change on our school board.
Gary Laubach March 31, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Great work. It is about time the Baltimore County School Board has some accountability to the parents and citizens of the county. I feel the board has become out of touch with the community they serve. Gary
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