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Bills Change School Board Composition, Ban Arsenic In Chicken Feed
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Friday, April 6, 2012
The State Senate passed bills yesterday to ban arsenic in chicken feed and to give Baltimore County a partially elected school board as the General Assembly headed toward adjournment at midnight Monday. WYPR’s Joel McCord reports.
The Baltimore County bill would create a school board with six elected and five appointed members. It stirred controversy and confusion and apparently exacerbated lingering racial tensions among lawmakers. Barry Glassman, a Harford County Republican, reassured reluctant lawmakers that a hybrid board has worked well in his county for three years.
“And the hybrid model does give parents the ability to elect some members and also preserves the right of the executive to appoint some members. It can work. I can guarantee the world won’t come to an end once you get this adopted.”
But Joan Carter Conway, chair of the committee that moved the bill to the floor, was not convinced.
“But the demographics of Harford County is very different from what’s happening in Baltimore County.”
She complained that county lawmakers invoke the legislature’s “local courtesy” code for this bill, but ignore it when it comes to Baltimore City bills. And she abstained from the vote.
“But then when it comes to a demographic change, then it becomes about local courtesy. And that’s why I will not be voting on the bill; cause this is not a local courtesy issue. This is more than local courtesy.”
The issue has roiled Baltimore County politics for several years, with opponents worried that an elected school board could lead to a lack of diversity, while proponents say it would make the board more responsive to parents. Bobby Zirkin, a Democrat from Pikesville, sponsored the bill. He said the hybrid version provides for accountability and diversity.
“Because quite frankly I think you can get the best of both worlds and quite frankly the worst of both worlds. And they tend to cancel each other out. You can get the accountability and responsiveness you want in a school board to your citizens, but you can also get the type of experience and diversity you want representing your school system.”
The chicken feed bill didn’t stir nearly the controversy today that it did yesterday. E.J. Pipkin, the Republican leader, warned that the ban would send the wrong message to farmers and to the poultry companies that provide 25,000 jobs on the Eastern Shore.
“Passing a bill like this has so little practical impact on health, so little practical impact on environment sends the wrong job message, the wrong investment message for the key players in this industry who indeed may decide to look elsewhere.”
But Thomas Mac Middleton, a Charles County Democrat and farmer, said the opposite is true. McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants have stopped serving meat from chickens raised with arsenic additives in their food, he said.
“So, the fact that we have this legislation I think sends a message to the McDonald’s the Wal Marts and what not, buy from Maryland poultry producers.”
Both bills have to go back to the House for approval before being sent on to the Governor’s desk.
I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Annapolis for 88.1, WYPR.
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