ANNAPOLIS — Frederick Democrats are defying the Republican-controlled county delegation again by introducing a second local measure in the General Assembly after it was voted down at a delegation meeting.
Delegates Carol Krimm and Karen Lewis Young, both D-District 3A, and Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, have introduced bills in their respective chambers that would grant limited voting rights to the student member of the Frederick County Board of Education.
That same bill was voted down in a 5-3 party-line vote at the county delegation’s last meeting on Friday.
Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4, has long protested bills that grant student members voting powers, and he dominated the delegation’s discussion of the bill.
“It was really clear to me that the [delegation’s] decision had been made in advance without the courtesy of really hearing out what the Board of Ed had to say and what the student behind it had to say,” Lewis Young said Wednesday, when the bill was read across the desk in the House of Delegates.
She pointed out that the proposed bill created a number of limits on the student member’s right to vote and earned the support of a majority of school board members through such compromises.
“It was reasonable. I saw no flexibility on the part of the majority of the delegation. And I believe the delegation did not respect the decision of the Board of Ed and certainly did not show any interest in hearing the voice of our students,” Lewis Young said. “So I decided to move ahead, with the understanding that the delegation opposed it, and allow the bill a hearing among a more general audience.”
But Hough said that standing committee chairs typically don’t hold committee votes on local bills without first receiving a letter of support from the delegation along with the legislation.
He called the bill’s introduction a political stunt.
“I’ve never seen legislators introduce a bunch of losing delegation bills. ... I don’t even know why you would do something like that other than being partisan and make us look silly in front of the rest of the General Assembly,” Hough said.
This is the second year delegation disagreements have made their way to the hearing rooms of standing House and Senate committees. Last year, disputes over the county’s hotel tax and state funding for a proposed downtown hotel and conference center attracted split votes among the delegation and dueling testimonies in committees. Neither of those bills ended up receiving committee votes in either chamber.
During committee hearings, the bill would receive supportive testimony from the Board of Education because four members voted to support the measure, board President Brad Young said.
“As board president, I honor that our board voted that way,” said Young, who does not personally support student member voting rights.
He said what’s happening at the delegation represents the worst of politics.
“I’m just extremely disappointed that they’re doing this end-run around the traditional practices of the delegation,” he said.
Brad Young and Lewis Young, his stepmother, continued the debate on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.
Lewis Young criticized Brad Young for publicly criticizing his father, Ron Young.
“You could have had the conversation more discretelty (sic) or just referred to the ‘minority opinion’ rather than naming him,” Lewis Young wrote in one post.
“My comments were addressed to an elected official who represents me and I stand by them. I can separate dad from Sen. Young and I know he can too,” Brad Young responded, in part. “He’s an experienced politician and I know he can speak for himself. I would expect nothing less from him if he disagreed with what I did as an elected official.”
The younger Young nevertheless continued to disagree with the introduction of the bill.
After months of debate, the Board of Education came to a consensus on a set of voting rights that are very limited: The student member could not vote on judicial or quasi-judicial matters, budget expenditures, school boundary changes, board officer elections, personnel matters, contracts, collective bargaining and the school calendar.
Each of those restrictions is included in the now-pending version of the bill.
There are other restrictions, as well, including that the student member would not count toward a board quorum and the student member’s vote would be discarded if it resulted in a tie.
Lewis Young responded to criticism about introducing the bill after a majority of the delegation voted against it.
“Sometimes you have to pick your causes and fight for them and not allow obstructionists to get in the way,” she said.