School Construction Bill Rebounds

The General Assembly successfully overrides the Governor’s veto of the 21st Century School Facilities Act, meaning the legislation is now law.

The 21st Century School Facilities Act bounced back from the Governor’s veto with an override vote in the General Assembly.

It was another big week for the 21st Century School Facilities Act. The Governor vetoed the legislation on Wednesday and on Thursday, the House and Senate both brought the legislation back to the floor and overrode his veto. The Senate’s override vote was 29-15, just barely the 2/3 required to supersede the Governor’s action.

The late-introduced bill made its way quickly through both House and Senate last week, likely in order to provide the Assembly with the opportunity to override his veto before adjourning for the year.

The legislation incorporates more than thirty-six recommendations of a two-year commission on school construction appointed by the Presiding Officers of the General Assembly. Many of the bill’s elements support local flexibility and authority in building schools, and efficiency in school construction.

However, an amendment added to the legislation by the General Assembly would strip the Board of Public Works of much of its authority over the allocation of state funding for school construction. The Board of Public Works is made up of the Treasurer, the Governor, and the Comptroller.

The new body that will make school construction funding allocations will be the Interagency Commission on School Construction, made up of:

  • The State Superintendent of Schools
  • The Secretary of Planning, or the Secretary’s designee
  • The Secretary of General Services, or the Secretary’s designee
  • 2 members of the public appointed by the Governor
  • 2 members of the public appointed by the President of the Senate
  • 2 members of the public appointed by the Speaker of the House

MACo’s advocacy on the 21st Century Act has focused on areas of county importance, including flexibility for local school construction programs and efficient and effective use of state and local dollars for schools.

County representatives on the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin and Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner articulated several county concerns that were included in the original legislation – including a revolving loan fund to help smaller counties with timely funding needs, and alternatives to state environmental and emergency management building requirements.

Members of MACo’s Legislative Committee testified in both houses of the General Assembly on the legislation, raising several suggestions that were also adopted through amendments to the bill. In the Senate, Prince George’s County Council Member Todd Turner, Anne Arundel County Council Member Chris Trumbauer, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine testified on the bill. In the House, Caroline County Commissioner Wilbur Levengood, Talbot County Council Member Laura Price, and Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner testified.

The House and Senate adopted amendments to address concerns MACo raised in testimony. Those amendments include clarifying county-required approval for any alternative financing project, establishing a waiver process to exclude lease payments on school facilities from maintenance of effort, and studying whether the types of costs eligible for State school funding should be expanded in certain cases.

For more information about this legislation, see the reprint of the legislation and MACo’s previous post, Amended, Amending, Amended: Schools Act Moves Along.