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2004 Legislative Wrap-up
April 15, 2004


During the 2004 General Assembly session, which adjourned on April 12, the Prince George’s Business-Education Alliance tracked a number of proposed bills that would have had a significant impact on the county’s schools. This wrap-up describes each bill, reports on its final disposition, and provides a link to the bill entry on the Maryland General Assembly website, where complete information is available. The Alliance also closely followed the budget and appropriations process, which ultimately determined how much aid the Prince George’s Public Schools will receive from the state. A separate report on the budget is posted on this website.

House Bill 345/Senate Bill 245 – Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act – Trigger Provision – Repeal.

Primary sponsors: House Ways and Means Committee Chair Sheila Hixson and Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chair Ulysses Currie.

Action: Passed by both Houses; became law without the governor’s signature on March 4.

Analysis: This bill repeals the provision in the Bridge to Excellence Act requiring the legislature to affirm by the fiftieth day of the 2004 legislative session that the amount of aid scheduled to be distributed under the Thornton plan for fiscal 2005 is within the state's fiscal resources. Absent such a resolution, state education aid for each school system would increase by only 5 percent from fiscal 2004 to 2005 and by 5 percent to 6 percent annually from fiscal 2006 to 2008 – much less than called for by the Thornton plan. Under this default provision, total state aid would have been reduced by almost $187 million in fiscal 2005, $385 million in fiscal 2006, $597 million in fiscal 2007, and $872 million in fiscal 2008. The Prince George's County Public Schools would have lost $75 million in fiscal 2005 alone, with total state aid cut from $726.6 million to $651.6 million. Enactment of HB 345 guarantees full funding of the Bridge to Excellence Act except for the geographic cost-of-education index (see House Bill 992 below).

House Bill 992 – Funding due to Regional Differences in the Cost of Education.

Sponsors: Delegate Anne Healey and 31 cosponsors.

Action: Killed in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Analysis: The Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act provided for supplemental funding to Maryland school systems to reflect geographic differences in the cost of education. The act used a temporary formula to determine the distribution of funds and called for the state to devise a “geographic cost-of-education index” (GCEI) to go into effect in July 2004. However, in October 2003, an assistant state attorney general issued an opinion that, because the act did not specify the amounts to be spent for the GCEI in future years, the governor is not required to include this money in his budget. Governor Ehrlich did not request GCEI funding for fiscal 2005. HB 992 would have required the state to distribute an extra $47.4 million to school systems in fiscal 2005 to reflect geographic differences in the cost of education. It would have delayed implementation of the GCEI until 2006 but continued funding for the program. As a result of the bill’s failure, Prince George’s County will lose $16-19 million in state aid next year.

House Bill 584 – Prince George’s County – Education Funding – Tax Limitation Exception.

Sponsors: Prince George’s County House Delegation.

Action: Passed by the House; not taken up by the Senate.

Analysis: The bill would have circumvented TRIM tax limitation amendment to the County Charter by authorizing the County Executive to recommend that the County Council set a property tax rate higher than that permitted by the charter in order to provide adequate funding to the Board of Education. If the County Council adopted a higher rate, it would have to be approved by the voters in a referendum. The bill also would have established priorities for the Board of Education to use in distributing the extra funds, such as offering accelerated mathematics instruction in elementary in middle schools, increasing the number of students taking honors and advanced placement courses in high school, reducing class sizes, upgrading old schools, and building new ones.

Senate Bill 222 – Task Force to Examine and Establish Boundaries of the Prince George’s County School Board Districts.

Sponsors: Senators Exum, Currie, Giannetti, Green, and Lawlah.

Action: Killed in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Analysis: Legislation passed in 2002 dissolved the elected Prince George’s School Board and replaced it with an appointed board. The law mandates that a new nine-member board will be elected during the November 2006 general election and take office the following month. Five members will come from districts established by the legislation; the other four will run at large. SB 222 would have established a task force to redraw the School Board districts. Its report and recommendations would have been due by December 1, 2006, and presumably would have gone into effect in the following election. The task force would have consisted of two members each of the Senate, House of Delegates, and County Council, two members appointed by the County Executive, and three citizens appointed jointly by the chairs of the county’s House and Senate delegations.

House Bill 1230/Senate Bill 787 – Public School Facilities Act of 2004.

Sponsors: Members of the General Assembly’s Task Force to Study Public School Facilities.

Action: Passed with amendments by both Houses; not yet signed by the governor.

Analysis: This bill enacts the task force’s wide-ranging recommendations. Among other things, it would allow school systems to enter into sale-leaseback and lease-leaseback arrangements and partnership agreements with private companies for school construction, renovation, and improvement projects. It also would increase the share of school construction costs to be paid by the state for projects in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City.

House Bill 1212/Senate Bill 736 – The Maryland Public Education Facilities Act.

Sponsors: House Ways and Means Committee Chair Sheila Hixson and nine other delegates and senators.

Action: Killed in the House Appropriations Committee.

Analysis: This bill would have enacted recommendations by the Task Force to Study Public School Facilities designed to accelerate school construction, renovation, and improvement projects by allowing school systems to enter into sale-leaseback and lease-leaseback arrangements and partnership agreements with private companies. These provisions were included in HB 1230 and SB 787 (see above).

House Bill 1 – The Public School Construction Assistance Act of 2004.

Sponsors: House Speaker Michael Busch, Ways and Means Committee Chair Sheila Hixson, and numerous other delegates.

Action: Passed by the House; not taken up by the Senate.

Analysis: HB 1 would have imposed local recordation and state transfer taxes on the transfer of a controlling interest in a corporation, partnership, association, limited liability company, or trust that owns real property in Maryland valued at more than $500,000. The revenue would have been distributed to the counties to supplement their school construction funds.


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PGBEA
P.O. Box 73
College Park, MD 20741-0073
Phone: (301) 277-8042 Fax: (301) 864-2977
E-mail: alliance@pgbea.org