In a letter dated April 14th, the Harford County Board of Education has asked Governor Martin O’Malley to veto the legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly that would create a partially elected school board in Harford County.
Citing technical problems with the transition from the current, 7-member board to a 9-member board made up of 6 elected and 3 appointed members, board attorney Patrick Spicer asked the Governor to veto the bill because it presents “potentially intractable practical difficulties with implementation”. The letter goes on to say that the concerns “in no way relate to the merits of the bills as a matter of legislative policy.” Really?
The language in the bills relating to the transition appear in the uncodified section and if “intractable” problems exist, they can worked out by the board itself or through amendments in the next session. So what’s the need for a veto? Also interesting is that the first of the board’s two stated concerns is a problem that might occur if the two board members whose terms expire in 2012 are “unable to agree” as to which one’s term concludes in 2011 and which one’s term will conclude in 2015 as called for during the transition phase. Those two board members would be Robin Rich and the board’s most vocal opponent of school board elections, Mark Wolkow.
Here’s the full text of the letter:
Dear Governor O’Malley:
Please be advised that I represent the Board of Education of Harford County (the “Board”). The purpose of this letter is to request that you veto either or both of the above bills, as applicable, due to the Board’s concerns regarding certain language contained in the bills as more fully explained below. The Board understands that either or both of the above bills have been passed by the General Assembly and have been or will be forwarded to you by the General Assembly for approval.
The Board’s concerns and its corresponding request for veto are conveyed solely because the Board believes the bills, as written, contain language which results in the bills failing to meet their stated purpose and which presents potentially intractable practical difficulties in implementation. The concerns, more fully discussed below, are confined solely to the matters discussed herein and in no way relate to the merits of the bills as a matter of legislative policy. The Board’s concerns are twofold and are as follows.
1. The potential impasse relating to the Board members whose terms are currently scheduled to expire in 2012.
The bills provide in Section 3(a) thereof that one of the two appointed Board members whose term is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2012 shall terminate at the end of June 30, 2011. The bills also provide in Section 3(c) thereof that the term of the other appointed member whose term is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2012 shall terminate at the end of June 30, 2015.
The bills do not, however, include any language which provide a mechanism to determine which of these two current appointed members shall be the specific individual member whose term shall terminate at the end of June 30, 2011, and which of these two such members shall be the specific individual member whose term shall terminate at the end of June 30, 2015.
Should the two Board members whose terms are currently scheduled to expire on June 30, 2012 be unable to agree as to which one’s term concludes at the end of June 30, 2011 (as provided for in Section 3(a)) as opposed to concluding at the end of June 30, 2015 (as provided for in Section 3(c)), the bills provide no method to resolve such an impasse or stalemate.
2. The contraction of the Board to six members as of July 1, 2009 and failure to expand the Board beyond eight members after June 30, 2011.
Section 3(d) of the bills provide that the term of the one appointed member whose term is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2015 shall terminate at the end of June 30, 2015, and that the member appointed by the Governor in 2014 shall succeed the appointed member whose term expires on June 30, 2015, and serve for a term of 4 years until a successor is appointed and qualifies.
Currently, however, there is no appointed Board member whose term is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2015. The bills do provide in Section 3(c) that, as of July 1, 2009, three members’ terms shall terminate at the end of June 30, 2015. However, these three Board member positions are in addition to the Board member position referred to in Section 3(d) because they are the subject of a different section (3(c)) and because they are to be replaced by election rather than appointment. Thus, Section 3(d) of the bills refers to an appointed Board member whose term does not exist currently and will not exist on or after July 1, 2009.
Furthermore, the term of a current Board member is not mentioned or referred to in the bills. The term of Board Member Lee Merrell expires on June 30, 2009 under current law. The bills do not refer to the term of any appointed member whose term is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2009, nor do they provide any mechanism for the reappointment of Mr. Merrell or appointment of a successor to fill this Board member position. As a result of same, it appears that the bills provide no basis or authority for you to either reappoint Mr. Merrell or appoint a successor to Mr. Merrell. Further, current law (codified at Section 3-108 of the Education Article which provides for appointment of all Harford County Board of Education members) cannot be relied upon to reappoint Mr. Merrell or appoint his successor, as such law is abrogated and superseded by the above bills effective July 1, 2009, the same date when the term of Mr. Merrell or his successor would be effective. Consequently, effective July 1, 2009, it would appear that the Board would function with only six members until July 1, 2011.
The bills’ erroneous reference to an appointed member whose term does not exist and/or the failure to address Mr. Merrell’s term appear to result in the following outcomes. As of July 1, 2009, the Board’s membership would contract to six voting members until July 1, 2011 (when it would expand to eight members) and the Board’s membership would never expand to nine voting members. Such a result conflicts with other language of the bills which state that there shall be nine voting members of the Board.
For the reasons stated above, the Board requests that you veto either or both bills upon presentation for signature. Please feel free to contact me should you have any further questions or need for information regarding the above.
With kind regards, I am
Patrick P. Spicer
Cc: The Honorable Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. (regular mail)
The Honorable Michael E. Busch (regular mail)
Mr. Joseph C. Bryce, Office of the Governor, Chief Legislative Officer (via fax and regular mail)
Ms. Elizabeth D. “Betty” Anderson, Office of the Governor, Special Assistant Legislative Office (via fax and regular mail)
Ms. Patricia A. Foerster, Office of the Governor, Education Policy Advisor (via fax and regular mail)
Mr. Patrick L. Hess, President of the Board
Members of the Board
Ms. Patricia L. Skebeck, Interim Superintendent