Montgomery Legislators Consider Potential Bills for 2016 Session

A November 18, 2015, Bethesda Magazine article reported that Montgomery County’s Delegation members are considering bills for the 2016 Session tackling a wide variety of issues, including letting private distributors sell certain alcohol products in the County rather than going through County’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC),  increasing the number of early voting centers, allowing the production and sale of alcohol near schools and churches and at stadiums, creating a County student loan refinancing authority,  and establishing general and special elections for school board member positions where an elected member has stepped down before the end of the member’s term. From the article:

To allow private distributors to sell specific craft beer and wines in the countyMC 7-16

This bill is the result of a resolution passed over the summer by the Montgomery County Council to enable private distributors to sell “special order” products in the county. Currently the DLC controls the wholesale distribution of all alcohol in the county. Special order products include specific craft beers and fine wines that the DLC doesn’t sell in large volumes. …

To increase the number of early voting centers – MC 14-16

This bill would increase the number of early voting centers from eight to 10 in the county. The legislation follows controversy surrounding early voting centers after the Board of Elections voted to relocate centers in Burtonsville and Chevy Chase. The Republican majority board later reinstated the voting centers after Democrats vehemently protested the change. However, after the controversy was settled, County Executive Ike Leggett said in a letter he would support state legislation that would add an early voting site in Potomac.

To enable the county to set up a student loan refinancing authority – MC 27-16

More than a dozen county representatives signed on to support this bill, which would enable the county to set up a student loan refinancing authority. The authority could help local students finance the cost of higher education through loans it would offer, according to the bill. Because this is “enabling legislation,” the bill would not automatically set up the authority upon passage; county officials would have to establish the authority and appoint a five-member board to run it. If established, the authority could then raise funds by issuing bonds in order to provide college loans to students. …

To set a special election to fill vacant school board seats – MC 2-16

This bill would set special primary and general elections to replace a Montgomery County Board of Education member who steps down at least a year before the end of his or her term. The election dates would be set by the county executive, and if an upcoming election is already scheduled for between 60 to 120 days from the board member stepping down, the special election would coincide with that previously scheduled election. Under current regulations, the school board is permitted to select a “qualified individual” if a board member steps down during his or her term.

Prince George’s Legislators Unveil 2016 Priorities

A November 16, 2015, Washington Post article reported that members of the Prince George’s County Delegation have announced their priorities for the 2016 Session, including a County tax on plastic bags, school system reporting and oversight, assisting nonprofits who cannot meet the County’s minimum wage law, and changing the amount and cost of County-issued liquor licenses.  From the article:

A bag tax? Delegation Chair Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s) will once again introduce a bill that will give Prince George’s government the authority to impose a 5-cent tax on retail stores that provide disposable bags. Similar bills failed to emerge from committee last year and a statewide bill, proposed by county lawmakers, died in 2012 by one vote.

School finances: During County Executive Rushern L. Baker’s (D) campaign to raise property taxes for schools last spring, opponents dominated the debate with concerns about the school system’s finances. Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D) is proposing that CEO Kevin Maxwell be required to report regularly to the General Assembly about financial management practices cited in a scathing 2014 audit by the state.

School inspector general: Del. Alonzo Washington (D) is tacking on more school accountability measures with a proposed bill to establish an inspector general’s office responsible for investigating and examining complaints about the public schools. …

County supplement for nonprofits: Del. Dereck E. Davis (D)…has signed on as a sponsor for a bill attempting to address an unintended consequence of the county’s raising of the minimum wage. A council of Prince George’s nonprofit organizations working with residents with intellectual disabilities says they cannot afford the county’s minimum wage scale, which exceeds the state’s. Negotiations with county leaders failed, and nonprofit leaders are asking the delegation to force county government to reimburse them for millions of dollars to make up the difference and keep their operations running.


Commission to Review Testing in Public Schools Begins

A new commission will develop recommendations to state and local school boards on student testing.

As described in the Maryland Reporter, a legislatively created commission began its work this week to review the use of student assessments and testing in Maryland.

The Commission comprises state legislators, state and local school board representatives and other members of the education community.

The article quotes Delegate Eric Ebersole, a former math teacher and current member of the House Ways and Means Committee stating that if the commission’s recommendations are not adopted by the state board and local school boards, legislation for the 2017 legislative session could be in the works. The article states,

“A few people criticized me and said, ‘Why didn’t you pass a law to get rid of testing?’ and the answer was testing is very entrenched, but not entirely unnecessary,” said [Delegate] Ebersole.

For more information, see the Maryland Reporter article, Md. commission studies testing in all 24 school districts.

Boards and Counties – Coming Together on Education

County governments and school boards share ideas, perspectives on school construction and education funding.

craig rice at mabe
Council Member Rice listens to comments from local school board leaders at a meeting with MACo this week.

Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice and MACo policy staff met with the Maryland Association of Boards of Education Legislative Committee this week to discuss the legislative priorities for both organizations in the coming legislative session. Council Member Rice is MACo’s Education Chair and Chair of Montgomery County Council’s Education Committee.


School construction dominated the conversation.

MABE’s Legislative Committee chair, Joy Schaefer of Frederick County started the conversation referencing recent cost increases in school construction.

Council Member Rice emphasized public education as a priority, saying,

It’s a moral imperative…we need a robust education for our children.

Rice also shared his perspective on the link between education and economic development, suggesting that “we haven’t heard enough about this” as part of the public dialogue.

meeting with MABE
The Maryland Association of Boards of Education Legislative Committee prepares to hear from MACo representatives at their meeting this week.

Michael Sanderson, MACo’s Executive Director described MACo’s legislative priorities and provided an overview of county budgets. MACo’s top priority, a restoration of highway user revenues points to a pressure point for counties, making the link between this funding loss and education funding restraints.

MACo’s education policy analyst Robin Clark described MACo’s education initiative and shared ideas for mitigating some of the cost drivers in school construction funding.

Many members of the MABE Legislative Committee responded positively to Council Member Rice’s remarks and the passion that he showed for education. Committee members also asked follow-up questions on school construction and the legislative outlook for 2016.

Chairperson Joy Schaefer followed the meeting with a social-media “thanks” for the positive exchange:

Frederick STEM Connects Students to Careers

Science, technology, engineering, and math opportunities in Frederick County’s schools, libraries, and new higher education research center prepare residents for careers in biotech industry.

As reported at, Frederick County recently hosted Maryland’s first STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) festival.

The festival highlights the county’s efforts to bring STEM learning to their residents and connect them with careers in the biotech industry.

The article quotes Elizabeth Cromwell, President of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce speaking about the new Frederick Center for Research and Education in Science and Technology (CREST),

“We have businesses saying, ‘this is where we’re growing. This is where our opportunities are in the future,’ and then the universities are coming in to support those efforts so that we can strengthen these programs, strengthen those companies, and hopefully bring more economic development into the county,”

For more information, see the full story from

Opinion Piece Advocates for GCEI Funding

ACLU advocate points to $23 million loss in funding for Baltimore students.

An opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun advocates for the Governor to fully fund the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI). The writer, Gary Therkildsen, is an advocate with the ACLU of Maryland’s Education Reform Project.

While there are 13 counties that receive GCEI funds, Therkildsen frames the issue as a particular loss for Baltimore City, stating,

Governor Hogan should stop holding the GCEI funds hostage and immediately release these critical education dollars that legislators freed up earlier this year. The city schools’ budget is balanced, but let’s not pretend the missing funds do not impact schools. The children of Baltimore cannot afford the loss of $23 million in state funding.

For more information, see the full opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun, Fully fund education, and our previous post, General Assembly Leaders Urge Governor to Release Education Funds.

Schools CEO Recommends Closing Five Schools in Baltimore City

Factors include enrollment, academic performance, and use of the school buildings.

The Baltimore City Schools CEO recently recommended closing two high schools, one elementary school, and two charter schools in the district, according the the Baltimore Sun.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun,

Such recommendations are made annually, based on factors such as academic performance, enrollment and, in recent years, whether a building is being utilized enough to keep it open.

Thornton’s recommendations will be the subject of public hearings in coming months. The school board will vote in January on whether to accept them.

For more information, see the full story from the Sun, Thornton calls for closing five city schools

Anne Arundel Executive Proposes County Presence in School Budgeting

One county executive seeks to modify a process that many counties find frustrating. 

As reported in the Capital, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh proposes a task force to study ways of improving the school budget process.

“We’re at the very end of the process, and it’s only then that any fiscal reality is brought to the discussion,” Schuh said. “But by then expectations are set, public declarations have been made and things may be going off in a direction that is unsupportable.”

For more information, read the whole story from the Capital.

While local boards of education develop local school budgets and oversee education-related spending, Maryland county governments and the state provide their funding. In fiscal 2014, local governments provided 46% of total revenues for local school systems, according to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.

Other county governments have encountered similar frustrations with the budget process, and some have sought changes. Prince George’s County successfully reformed its education structure through state legislation two years ago. For more information see our previous post, Prince George’s Schools Take New Path.


Governor, Comptroller Demand Responsible Spending on New Schools

Screenshot 2015-11-05 13.59.21
School construction has become a hot topic on the Board of Public Works agenda.

The school construction conversation continues to heat up at the Board of Public Works. 

As reported by the Maryland Reporter and the Washington Post, Governor Hogan and Comptroller Franchot School construction voiced criticism about school construction spending and school system accountability with the Interagency Director of Public School Construction at the Board of Public Works meeting yesterday.

The Reporter described the Governor’s interest in a school systems doing a better job of managing their funding,

In the Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday, Hogan said that education was his “top priority,” citing his administration’s spending on schools, which he said was the highest in state history. Still, he said, he’d like to see state and individual school districts improve their spending plans and fiscal responsibility.

The Washington Post reported,

Hogan and Franchot also expressed growing frustration that the school construction commission has provided little justification for its funding requests on behalf of school districts. They said the requests offer virtually nothing beyond the name of the districts and dollar amounts.

“This is why fiscal responsibility is so important,” Franchot said. “It’s not good enough to just shovel money into education. Somebody has to actually look at how the money is spent and whether the taxpayers and the educators are getting a fair return and getting a good product.”

For more information, see coverage from the Washington PostMd. comptroller rips school construction chief for AC policy, and this coverage from the Maryland Reporter, Hogan, Franchot criticize spending on school construction.

Watch the Board of Public Works November 4 hearing.

General Assembly Leaders Urge Governor to Release Education Funds

Democratic leaders in the General Assembly held a press conference yesterday to urge Governor Hogan to release $68 million in additional education funding set aside in the fiscal 2016 budget now that the budget surplus is greater than expected.

As reported by the Washington Post,

Hogan in May withheld half of the $136 million that lawmakers had allocated to the state’s 16 most costly school systems under a formula known as the Geographic Cost of Education Index.

The governor said the money — much of which would have gone to public schools in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City — should instead be used to bolster the state’s underfunded pension system.

State Democratic leaders argued Monday that the legislature had — at Hogan’s urging — taken steps to put the state on stronger financial footing, paying an additional $50 million into the pension system and launching a two-year plan to close the state’s structural budget deficit. They released estimates showing surpluses of $520 million for fiscal 2016 and $215 million for 2017.

Given the current surplus, they said, Hogan should release the money that the legislature earmarked for schools in parts of the state where education is more expensive.

This budget issue and others will likely be front and center during the upcoming General Assembly Session. To learn more about issues confronting the Administration and the General Assembly, attend the “2016 General  Assembly Session Forecast” session to be held during the MACo Winter Conference.

Description: The upcoming session appears to be a challenging one for officials in Annapolis. Revenues are up for the coming fiscal year, but competing ideas on how the funds should be used may trigger disagreements. At the same time, the increasing cost of school construction, the growing concern over public safety issues and improving the state’s business climate warrants public and political attention. The General Assembly’s two presiding officers, the House and Senate minority leaders, and a policy advocate from the Administration will share their views on the issues confronting Annapolis for 2016 and beyond.


  • The Honorable Thomas V. Mike Miller President, Maryland Senate
  • The Honorable Michael E. Busch Speaker, Maryland House of Delegates
  • The Honorable J.B. Jennings, Minority Leader, Maryland Senate
  • Joseph M. Getty, Chief Legislative Officer, Governor Hogan’s Administration

Moderator: The Honorable John F. Barr, Incoming MACo President, Washington County Commissioner

Date/Time: Friday, December 11, 2015; 9:30 am – 10:45 am

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December 9-11, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge. This year’s conference theme is “Mission: Public Safety.”

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

Questions? Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White.