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Report issued on bettering state government

February 23, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Hundreds of recommendations for improving Maryland's government were officially released on Thursday, a 1,000-plus-page report from Gov. Martin O'Malley's transition committee.

The report broadly covers 21 topics, including agriculture, health and transportation. Many recommendations are for better funding, or analysis of existing or already proposed programs.

O'Malley said Cabinet leaders will have 45 days to read sections about their departments and respond. A plan of action then will be adopted and published online.

Patricia K. Cushwa of Williamsport, a former Maryland Parole Commission chairwoman, was one of at least two people representing Washington County on the transition committee, which formed in November.

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With the release of the report, Michael Harsh, also representing Washington County, talked about his hopes for changes in higher education.

Harsh, a Hagerstown Community College professor of speech, drama and English, pointed out parts of his subcommittee's report, of which he was particular enthused.

One was a renewed call for arts and humanities education to develop well-rounded citizens. A traditional emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math isn't enough, he said.

"I want my surgeon to be an efficient technician," Harsh said. "But I also want my surgeon to know he's operating on a person, not just bones and cartilage."

Another was that changing demographics have led an increasing number of "first-generation college and minority students" to turn to community colleges, the report says.

Harsh also reiterated his and his subcommittee's interest in having Maryland fund out-of-state community college students, as it already does for students in four-year colleges.

The state's total cost, based on fiscal year 2007 statistics, would be $12 million to cover all out-of-state community college students and about $1 million for students in Hagerstown, which draws from West Virginia and Pennsylvania, Harsh said.

Finally, Harsh supports a recommendation to give students transferring from community colleges to four-year schools a chance to compete for academically based financial aid.

Cushwa's public safety subcommittee suggested several ideas about corrections, a topic with ties to Washington County and its three prisons.

The recommendations include addressing staffing shortages, evaluating compensation, developing a mandatory inmate uniform and creating Specialized Emergency Teams to respond to simmering problems that could lead to prison violence.

Cushwa couldn't be reached for comment.

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