Maryland Senate Confirms Education Accountability Board Members, Approves Mail Ballot Reforms

View of the Maryland Senate Hall from the Visitor Gallery. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

The Maryland Senate confirmed members of the education reform oversight group Tuesday morning after Republicans tried to postpone appointments, citing concerns about geographic diversity.

Senator Stephen Hershey (R-Upper Shore) reiterated concerns in the Senate hall Tuesday about how members of the Maryland Future Reporting and Implementation Planning Board were elected, arguing that the council does not reflect state diversity.

Four board members reside in Montgomery County, three in Baltimore County, one in Baltimore County and one in Anne Arundel County.

Hershey questioned Senator Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), who was on the committee nominating AIB members, about the advocacy efforts of the committee to find candidates for the board, which is tasked with overseeing state education reform and may hold funding. from local school districts that do not achieve specific goals.

Pinsky said the committee had sent public announcements to 40 media outlets across the state and that all 180 lawmakers, aware of the accountable commission, had some responsibility for appealing to potential applicants.

Pinsk also stressed that the village representatives in the Kirvan commission approved the creation of an accountable council of seven people. “We had only seven slots – not every county received a slot based on geographical representation,” Pinsk said.

But Hershey did not appreciate the fact that the nomination committee did not reconsider the candidates after letters from various groups – including the Latin American faction of Maryland and the executive branch of Prince George’s County – to do so. “It wasn’t just a few angry village lawmakers,” Hershey said.

“What was the rush that it failed to solve?” he continued. “If the nomination committee receives letters about the composition of this council, and they have done absolutely nothing with it, they do so because they say – we are not accountable to the General Assembly.”

Pinsk noted that the board members were unanimously approved by the nomination committee, including two members elected by Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (right). “We believe we have made the right decision,” said Pinsky, who called AIB members “good, smart people who care about the state.”

Pinsk also criticized Hogan for delaying the implementation of the Maryland Future Plan, firstly by vetoing the bill in 2020 and secondly by not including full Blueprint funding in his budget. Since Blueprint officially became law after the lifting of the veto last year, Hogan did not need to include this funding in the proposed budget for this fiscal year, which began on July 1. To account for this, lawmakers have earmarked the first $ 4.8 million of new sports bets. revenue is received by the reporting board, which is issued as revenue is collected.

The Senate approved confirmation of AIB candidates – who received initial approval from the Senate Executive Committee on nominations earlier this month – 31 to 16 votes, mostly along party lines. Two Democratic senators, Catherine Klausmaier (Baltimore County) and Ron Watson (Prince George County), joined Republicans in voting against the candidates. Senator Edward Reilly (R-Anne Arundel) was the only Republican to vote for the nominees.

The Senate approved the reform of postal voting

The move to give Maryland voters another chance to sign the oath in a mail envelope was passed by the Senate on Tuesday by 33-14 votes.

Maryland law now requires voters who do not sign the oath in a mail envelope to automatically reject ballots, but Senate Bill 163, authored by Senate Cheryl K. Kagan (D-Montgomery), would allow Maryland residents provide the missing signature by contacting the local election commission or contacting voters by phone, email, text message or mail.

The Kagan bill stipulates that local election commissions must notify voters of the need to sign within three days of detecting the error, and will give voters until 10 a.m. on the tenth day after the election to correct the error. Earlier, Kagan said more than 1,500 ballot papers by mail were rejected due to unsigned vows during the 2020 election, when the method became popular.

Republicans had previously tried to amend the bill to include measures to verify signatures and verify ballot papers by mail, but that measure was unsuccessful. On Tuesday, Republicans in the Senate again called for measures to verify signatures.

Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Simoner (R. Ann Arundel) argued that adding measures requiring election officials to verify voting signatures would make the process safer, and noted that other states, including California, were taking similar measures. .

“These are not Republicans or Democrats,” Simoner said. “It’s about security, about making our elections fair.”

Democrats in the Senate declined a call from Simoner to verify the signatures, and Senator Delores G. Kelly (Baltimore County) noted that her 87-year-old husband’s signature had changed due to tremors in his hands.

“Many people’s signatures change over time,” Kelly said.

Now the bill will be submitted to the House of Delegates.

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