Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Friday, August 04, 2006

Legislative Scholarship Reform

I very much agree with the thrust of the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times editorial of Aug. 3 opposing Maryland's legislative scholarship program. But I believe we should aim high and totally abolish this program that amounts to vote-buying with public funds rather than start out with a halfway measure.

The late Bob Kittleman, with whom I did not agree on much as his career unfolded, does deserve much praise for initiating scholarship reform legislation throughout the 90s while enduring the brickbats of his peers in the House of Delegates and State Senate (who acted like he was stealing their toys). While he was not successful, he did get to see the House Ways and Means Committee send alternative measures at least three times to the House floor where they had overwhelming support. The most recent bill to pass the House did so by 114-20 in 1996, with the vote showing that there was nothing partisan about it. The whole problem was, and undoubtedly remains, in the Senate. That's surely because State Senators get way more of our money with which they can, intentionally or unintentionally, buy votes. That 1996 bill was passed by the House in mid-March and was sent to be totally ignored in the Senate Rules Committee.

It's good to know that Bob's son, Senator Allan Kittleman is carrying on in the tradition of his father on this matter by turning his allocation of scholarship money over the the Maryland Higher Education, which would make the decisions on its dispersal. That Senator Schrader and Delegates Pendergrass and Bobo do the same is also good to hear. Suffice it to say that I disagree with the two Republican Senators on a lot of other issues, so they won't be getting much praise from me in general.

I have noticed that Senator Schrader has been introducing scholarship reform bills as a form of memorial to Bob Kittleman (and that's nice), but the bills themselves don't go as far as I'd prefer. While recognizing that politics is the art of the possible, I believe you have to aim high and try to get as much reform as possible.

Since this is a wholly self-serving program for legislators, it would take a very strong public demand to end it and get electoral politics out of scholarships. Editorials and articles like those of Aug. 3 can only help.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Melissa said...

I had three different people ask me about this issue today at the the HOCO Fair. The article has made an impact.

If anyone is visiting the fair, come see me at the main exhibit hall!

11:17 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Melissa,

Glad to hear people are discussing this issue at the fair. What other issues are coming up?

Evan

2:40 AM  
Anonymous ninabasu said...

If the scholarships were better publicized, with more transparent competition and clear standards, I don't think I would have an issue with legislative *district* scholarships per se, assuming such awards were blind as to party affiliation or allegiance to any office holder. The "legislative district X" scholarship versus scholarship funds distributed by Delegate or Senator John Q. Public's office, under non-transparent criteria.

I've heard a *lot* about BG&E at the Fair. A bit about transportation from those who live in the south/eastern part of the County.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Hey - sorry for the delayed response - the fair is keeping me quite busy.

People obviously are very interested in zoning and preservation - even though that is a county issue.
The BGE issue has come up a number of times as well as slots, and land use (eminent domain questions). I wonder if the E.D. questions were driven by the parade magazine in today's sunday paper? I got more than I expected on that one.
A lot of people are giving me the "Why should I vote for you" question and I've been able to engage them for a nice long chat at that point. So far I believe people are fairly interested in the elections and seem to be knowledgeable about the candidates. But we also have a lot of out of county residents that just want my free popcorn!!

Are you coming to the fair? Stop by, I'm in the main exhibit hall.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Hi Nina - how's it going? :-)

10:27 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

This week looks to be pretty crazy so I may not make it out to the fair, but it is always great to hear elected officials and candidates actually talk to and listen to voters. Nina and Melissa I am really impressed to hear both of you out there listening and engaging the voters. I feel that to frequently recently party bosses of both parties have tried to take away the voters choice through central committe appointed vacancies and slates. I am all for vacancies being filled by special election. I also wonder if candidates who slate harm their own cause because people may not put up their yard sign if they aren't supporting someone else on their slate.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

I saw some of that last week when I was out knocking on doors. I rang the bell and when the owner opened the door I saw a bates/miller sign in the foyer. I thought "uh oh." But I went into my introductions and the owner informed me that she was supporting one of the candidates but not the other (Won't say which was which) so they were hesitant about putting the sign out. I spoke with them for another 5 minutes or so and asked if they put out my sign. They agreed and so now, instead of supporting one of the others, they are visibly supporting me. The other candidate lost this visible recognition.

I told the owner, tongue in cheek that duct tape or an exacto knife would solve the sign problem!! I am told, but have not confirmed, that a different owner in another neighborhood (with no prompting from me) has taken off one of the names and only has that part of the sign in their yard.

I suggested to Nina that she carry duct tape with her campaigning and they take care of her slate problem right on the spot!

8:17 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Hi Nina,
I see no good way to preserve legislative scholarships (with legislator's names on the scholarships) and get the vote-buying out of it. It's not their money they're passing out. It's the public's money, but there are legislators in Maryland who publicize the program as though it was theirs.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Nina Basu said...

Ken,

The Senator / Delegate's name would have to be removed - instead it would have to be the "District 13 scholarship" or something like that. I do think one problem in politics is community identity versus artifical political boundries. Despite the fact that I'm obviously interested practically in District 13, I don't feel that I particularly with the concept of a District 13, though I do identify myself as someone who lives in Long Reach / Columbia / Howard County. I don't know if there is a way to increase citizen investment in a particular voting area or precinct versus a community like Village / town / County, however.

12:08 AM  

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