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Strong Showing For School Board Bill

Sponsors Plan to Revive It for 2006

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 14, 2005; Page AA03

A legislative effort to change the way Anne Arundel school board members are chosen died as the 2005 General Assembly session came to a close. But the measure had earned support from county delegations in both houses of the state legislature, and sponsors plan to revive it next year.

"We took this bill further than anybody expected," said Del. John R. Leopold, the Pasadena Republican who co-sponsored the bill with Severna Park Republican Tony McConkey. "We were able to build a consensus coalition, which we had never been able to do in 20 years."

_____Maryland Government_____
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Full Report

Anne Arundel state senators approved the bill in a 4-1 vote in the final hours of legislative action Monday, setting the stage for votes in the Senate education committee and in the full Senate. But the senators ran out of time; the session ended at midnight with the bill still in limbo.

The bill, amended several times over the course of the session, would have placed school board appointees on the ballot for retention or rejection by voters, giving the electorate a limited role in the selection of board members. It would have replaced the current 250-person nominating convention with a commission of 13 or so members, who would have forwarded names to the governor to fill vacant school board seats.

The bill won nearly unanimous approval in the House of Delegates last month after multiple revisions. An early version of the legislation called for voters to decide in a referendum among several alternate models for choosing school board members, including filling vacancies by election.

The bill changed radically when House Speaker Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel Democrat who had opposed the legislation, proposed to recast it. The nominating commission process he proposed is modeled on the way Maryland selects appellate judges.

With Busch's support, the bill easily cleared the House and went to the Senate. Anne Arundel senators lined up behind it after offering amendments that would have augmented the commission with representatives of various constituencies.

Maryland counties are almost evenly divided between elected and appointed school boards. McConkey had hoped to persuade fellow lawmakers to move to school board elections in Anne Arundel, but he could not build sufficient support.

The compromise bill called for the governor to appoint five members of the nominating commission, one from each Anne Arundel Senate district. The county executive would appoint two members. Six other groups would each get one appointment. A series of amendments proposed additional members.

The nominating commission would interview candidates and submit names to the governor, who would have the power to make the appointments. The governor would not have the authority to choose someone not selected by the nominating commission, an important change from current practice.

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