Md. House Clears Way for Thornton Plan
Measure Funds School Aid Unless Ehrlich Vetoes
By Gretchen Parker
Friday, February 27, 2004; 4:22 PM
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The House of Delegates approved an education bill on Friday that will force Gov. Robert Ehrlich to fully fund an expensive reform plan unless he takes a public stand against the measure with a veto.
Ehrlich, who hasn't decided whether to sign or veto the bill, has until the end of next week to make his decision, said spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver.
State senators voted 35-12 Friday to repeal an escape clause in the Thornton law, making it more likely that public schools will receive the full $1.3 billion envisioned by legislators when the law was enacted two years ago. Earlier this month, the House approved the bill 93-43.
The legislation, filed as emergency bills, required a three-fifths vote for approval -- the same vote required to override a veto.
The Senate vote came minutes after the body approved a bill legalizing 15,500 slots machines at up to six locations in Maryland. Ehrlich says revenue from the machines will generate more than $800 million a year for schools.
"This is a good day for the students of the state of Maryland," said Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, D-Baltimore.
The Thornton plan spread out the $1.3 billion in new state aid over six years and requires the governor to include money in the budget each year to make the payments.
But the legislature, responding to complaints from critics that they were not providing a way to pay for the plan, added the trigger, a requirement that full funding would not be required for the final three steps unless the legislature adopted a resolution this year affirming that money would be available.
Without the trigger, no resolution vote will be taken, and the governor would be required by the law to put the full amount of Thornton funding in the budget.
The trigger came into question last year when Attorney General J. Joseph Curran said the provision may be unconstitutional because it could amount to a legislative veto.
The Supreme Court has ruled federal legislative vetoes unconstitutional.
© 2004 The Associated Press