Prince George’s County could have some important rule changes on how two bodies govern, if state lawmakers approve the changes by April 10.
The House of Delegates already passed two pieces of legislation that would allow the county executive to choose commissioners on the liquor control board and school board members to select a vice chair and veto powers over the superintendent of public schools.
The Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affair Committee held two hearings this week on both bills. If approved and signed by the governor, each would go into effect by July 1.
“As long as [state lawmakers] have some say and local control is given in the county, I have no problem with that,” said state Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-District 24) of Landover.
Both pieces of legislation got introduced after the county dealt with various controversies.
The school system legislation labeled House Bill 1565 comes after former teacher’s aide and school volunteer Deonte Carraway was charged last year for producing child pornography inside an elementary school, a municipal center and other locations.
Carraway, 23, pleaded guilty in January and is scheduled to be sentenced in June.
A federal agency in August decided not to provide more than $6 million to the county’s previous Head Start program after reports of child neglect and abuse. It created a division amongst the school board, with five of the 14 members requesting the resignation of the board chair and vice chair.
The bill introduced earlier in this year’s session sought to seek to decrease to decrease the school board from 14 to 10 with nine elected members and one high school member.
The current rule instituted in 2013 allows the county executive to appoint the chair, vice chair and one other school board member and the school system’s superintendent, called the chief executive officer in Prince George’s.
The current legislation would allow the school board to select the vice chair, a three-fifths vote of the board to veto any proposal by the CEO and submit a report to state officials by Oct. 1.
“We wanted to make sure that after a few years of this initiative being in place [that] there could be some compromises in ensuring that the school board members had an opportunity to elect their vice chair,” said Delegate Alonzo Washington (D-District 22) of Hyattsville, who voted in favor of the bill. “We thought it would be the right direction to go in right now.”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III proposed the liquor control board legislation after two former delegates got charged this year in bribery scandals to help get bills passed in exchange for money.
Two county businessmen, a former liquor inspector and a former board member also were charged in the scandal.
According to the document labeled House Bill 1317, the county executive, not the governor, would appoint all five commissioners, with final approval by County Council.
The county executive would also appoint a director to oversee the office managed by state rules and regulations. In addition, two full-time inspectors and up to 24 part-time inspectors would become county employees and employed by the director.
The state’s Office of Legislative Audits would conduct an audit of the county’s liquor office starting July 1 and at least once every three years “to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the management practices of the board,” according to the legislation.
Delegate Angela Angel (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro compromises amongst the county House delegation ensured the bill’s passage last month.
“We’ll wait and see what the Senate does,” she said.