An emergency Maryland state bill, designed to specifically alter the number of votes required for the members of the Baltimore County School Board to elect its chair and vice chair, was filed on Friday and sponsored by four state delegates.
House Bill 1633, which is sponsored by Delegate Eric Ebersole, and co-sponsored by House Speaker Adrienne Jones, and Delegates Jessica Feldmark, and Pat Young, all Democrats, seeks to reduce the amount of affirmative votes needed in order to approve the selection of the school board’s leadership.
The bill states that it is an “emergency measure” which is “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public health or safety.”
The Baltimore County School Board is required to vote on new leadership during the first week of December for its leaders’ one-year terms.
But this past December, the board was unable to elect its chair and vice chair, and remained deadlocked for days with five members voting for incumbent School Board Chair Kathleen Causey and Vice Chair Julie Henn, while six members voted for District Two Board Member Cheryl Pasteur and District Seven Board Member Rod McMillion for chair and vice chair, respectively.
The normally 12-member board has been down one member after at-large member, Roger Hayden, died in October.
As a result, 11 members were left with deciding the board’s leadership which required seven affirmative votes.
When the seven votes were unable to be found, board attorney, Andy Nussbaum, stated that Causey and Henn would be holdovers until the board was able to find the required votes to elect its official leadership.
If passed, the Baltimore County Board of Education – Election of Officers Act (Board Leadership Election bill ) would change the required number to a “quorum of a majority of the voting members then serving.”
This would mean that of the 11 members, only six votes would be required in order to approve board leadership.
Meanwhile, a commission charged with nominating potential replacements for the vacancy left by the late Roger Hayden is currently considering nominees to forward on to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Hogan will choose Hayden’s replacement once he receives the commission’s nominations in the coming weeks or months.
As reported last week, Commission Chair Aaron Plymouth purportedly withheld seven of 17 applicants for consideration by the entire commission.
Once some of the applicants, who met the requirements for application for the position of school board members, were not granted anticipated interviews, they found that their applications had been removed from the process.
The seven applicants have since been restored and will be interviewed by the commission.
The 19-member Baltimore County School Board Nominating Commission votes on applicants and then sends the commission’s nominees on to Gov. Larry Hogan who makes the final selection. The commission is separate and distinct from the Baltimore County School Board, and is tasked with nominating applicants who seek appointment to the school board.
After the school board was unable to elect its official leadership in December, some community members expressed that the majority vote should have ruled, allowing Pasteur and McMillion to take on the leadership roles or that Causey and Henn should remove themselves from the leadership election as a gesture of good sportsmanship.
The current holdover leaders did not remove themselves and, as it stands, state regulations require the seven votes for board leadership, even if some members are absent, and for most matters that members have to approve or disapprove that come before them.
An exception to the seven required votes is when concerning matters relating to the capital and operating budget as well as matters regarding collective bargaining with association members such as teacher contracts. The student member of the board is currently not permitted to vote on those matters, making the vote requirement only six.
But Del. Pat Young, who is among those who sponsored the bill to reduce the necessary votes required to elect board leadership, is also among other lawmakers who introduced an unrelated bill this session which would allow the student member to vote on budgetary matters, increasing the required votes – in that case – to seven.
But while the Board Leadership Election bill seeks to reduce the number of required votes for board leadership, it does not seek to change the number of required votes for any other matter brought before the school board, and is specific to the board voting on its own leadership and only for the Baltimore County School Board.
Emergency bills, passed by three-fifths of the total number of members of the House of Delegates and the Senate, become effective immediately upon their approval by the governor.
Bills are usually given an enactment date of July 1 or on October 1. But since the Board Leadership Election bill has been filed as an emergency matter, it would will be effective upon the approval by the governor. A three-fifths vote of the elected membership of both chambers is necessary to override a veto if the governor rejects the legislation.
The cross-filed bills progressed to committees on Monday. The senate bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Charles Sydnor, was referred to the Senate Rules Committee. The house bill has moved forward to Ways and Means.