Annapolis Notes

February 26, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

School funding on minds of many

Perhaps it was through blind coincidence that Washington County's school board and the county's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly each picked Wednesday to focus, again, on the dynamics of school funding.

It's a delicate topic these days.

School board members want their state representatives to have more fire in their bellies when going after school construction money. They've talked about hiring a lobbyist.

The delegation says it's doing all it can in a process based on need, not political back-scratching.

On Wednesday in Annapolis, the delegation hosted David G. Lever, the executive director of the state's Interagency Committee on School Construction. The IAC hears funding requests from the state's public school systems and recommends how much money they should get.

For fiscal 2008, the committee received $894 million in requests for $242 million in funding. For Washington County, it recommended about one-third of the $20.4 million the county asked for, a percentage that was about average, said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.


School board member Ruth Anne Callaham was in the room for the presentation, but representing the nonprofit Food Resources. She was part of a lobbying coalition from Washington County that met with key state lawmakers.

The same day, 90 miles away, the school board unveiled its "2007 Legislative Advocacy Toolkit" - a list of seven priorities (including school construction funding) and a "Campaign for 1,000 Voices."

"During the 2007 General Assembly Session" - which is half over - "we are challenging our supporters to write 1,000 letters to our local delegation to ask for support of one or more of these legislative priorities," the toolkit says.

Get those letter openers ready.

Legislative fruit of the vine

Just like birds, lawmakers with common feathers flock together. There are caucuses based on party, gender, race, geography - even military service.

Now, we have fruit.

And alcohol.

The first Wine and Grape Legislative Caucus meeting was held in a Senate reception room Wednesday.

Technically, there was business to take care of, said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, a caucus co-chairman who spoke briefly. Those wandering in seemed more attuned to Maryland winery representatives eager to pour samples.

Munson is an advocate of expanding wine production in Washington County to boost the agricultural economy and tourism.

Ripken visits State House

State delegates jumped to their feet and applauded thunderously Thursday when retired Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. was honored for his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Last time I got that big an ovation, I had to run around Camden Yards," Ripken said, referring to when he broke Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played. "You don't expect me to take a lap, do you? I'll say what I said then: I don't think I can make it."

Still, delegates beckoned to Ripken, so he ventured from the podium to the first few rows of the chamber. Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, was among those to get a quick handshake.

Another lively celebration took place in the Senate chamber. A reception later with Gov. Martin O'Malley was more subdued.

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