Despite efforts from lawmakers to end the so-called annual “Beg-a-Thon” for school construction funding in Annapolis, the meeting is on.
At Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that he expects representatives from each jurisdiction to come to the board’s next meeting in the State House, when funding recommendations will be considered.
“We’re going to have the school systems that are looking for money come before us at our next meeting or they won’t be getting money,” Hogan said.
In past years, after state school construction money is directed to local districts across Maryland through recommendations of the Interagency Committee on School Construction, a portion is kept aside for a later round of disbursement.
School system representatives come before the Board of Public Works — which is made up of Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp — to make their case for additional funding for their districts.
Last year, a General Assembly budget conference committee amendment stipulated that recommendations by the Interagency Committee on School Construction on additional funding for fiscal 2018 would not be subject to further appeal in front of the Board of Public Works, but did not specifically address how the process should change. In other words, the Beg-a-Thon, in its traditional form, appeared to have ended.
On Wednesday, Franchot expressed support for the governor’s announcement that school leaders were expected to be present for the meeting. Franchot went further, saying that delegates and senators from the jurisdictions should also attend.
Kopp said she agreed with her colleagues about the board’s ultimate authority to approve the school construction funds, but also said the Beg-a-Thon has turned into a “political barrage” and “bullying” in recent years.
Last year’s controversy over the Beg-a-Thon amendment took a uniquely Frederick twist. A Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland letter asking legislative leaders to end the meeting was signed by the association’s then-president, Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Terry Alban.
River board’s work attracting council attention
Recommendations under consideration by the Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board have reignited the debate over property rights at the County Council.
Councilman Kirby Delauter (R) has said he opposes the draft plan along with a number of his constituents.
At this week’s meeting, Delauter also said the advisory board’s recommendation continues a trend of property rights infringements by County Executive Jan Gardner (D).
He said Gardner was responsible for a contested rezoning along U.S. 15 in the early 2000s, had downzoned more than 700 properties through the comprehensive plan in 2010 and now was involved in the river board’s recommendation to create a Monocacy River Resource Protection Area that extends 300 to 500 feet from the river.
“There is a common denominator,” Delauter said, invoking Gardner.
But Gardner said in a phone interview this week that Delauter, in his comments, mischaracterized her past actions.
She said the 2001 rezoning action was at the Frederick County Planning Commission, and though she was the county commissioners’ liaison to the board, she was at another political event when the U.S. 15 rezonings were voted on. That move by her colleagues on the planning commission ultimately had unintended consequences and was rolled back, she said.
Gardner said a majority of the downzonings in the 2010 Comprehensive Plan were because the county mapped the 100-year flood plain for the first time and moved those parcels into a resource conservation zone. Gardner said there were also other properties outside the flood plain that were moved into categories with fewer development rights.
“Some of them I voted for and some of them I didn’t,” she said.
Finally, Gardner said she had no role in the creation of the advisory board’s recommendations. When she saw a copy of the plan in October, however, she asked the county’s planning staff to recommend that the river board hold public hearings and notify all of the affected property owners.
“I had no role in the creation of the plan,” Gardner said. “I will definitely read the entirety of the plan when it comes to me in its final form.”
The board’s report will be presented to the Frederick County Council and Carroll County Board of County Commissioners for a vote.
It’s not the first time discussion of the plan has come up at the council in recent weeks.
At a December meeting, Delauter said he hopes to write a bill to keep the board’s recommendations from taking effect. He characterized them as a land grab.
“Environmentalism is the new socialism. You know, if you want to take something, just call it environmental. Just call it somehow environmental and everyone’s got to bow down and give up all their rights for that. It’s ridiculous,” Delauter said.
Many new lawmakers
have held office before
Half of all current members of the U.S. Congress are former state legislators, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-8th, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) — who were among the 59 newly sworn members of the 115th Congress — contribute to the trend.
Van Hollen was the only former state legislator among the seven new senators sworn in for the first time this week. Raskin is one of 23 former state legislators who were sworn into the House.
In total, 44 members of the U.S. Senate (22 Republicans and 22 Democrats) are former state lawmakers, as are 222 members of the U.S. House (105 Democrats, 115 Republicans, one independent and one member of the New Progressive Party), according to NCSL.