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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Olszewski asks for school construction money at special session

John A. Olszewski Jr.

Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. (File Photo/Bryan P. Sears)

Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. wants the Maryland General Assembly to take up a failed school construction measure during next week’s special session.

Olszewski is so far the only leader of a major county to call for the legislature to revisit the Build to Learn Act.

Legislative leaders are making it clear, even in advance of Olszewski’s Thursday press conference, that no legislation will be considered in a brief special session intended to allow the House to elect a new leader.

The bill, had it not died in the Senate, could have pumped $400 million in state school construction aid to Baltimore County over four years.

“Let me be clear, we cannot put shovels in the ground for these projects without more support from the state,” said Olszewski Jr.

Olszewski said the county desperately needs the aid to replace dilapidated facilities, such as Lansdowne High School.

“The building is literally crumbling,” he said. “The drinking water is brown.”

The school was given the worst score of all the high schools in Baltimore County.

“Too many of our schools are aging,” said Olszewski Jr. “Too many of our schools are run down. We don’t have enough seats in our school buildings to meet the needs of our county’s growing population.”

Gov. Larry Hogan called a special session for May 1 to allow the House of Delegates to elect a new speaker of the House.

By law, the General Assembly can take up any business it wishes in special session even if it is not related to the stated purpose.

A spokeswoman for the House declined to answer questions about possible legislation.

The Senate is not expected to take up any bills on Wednesday according to Senate spokesman.

That chamber is expected to gavel in, handle some pro forma business and adjourn faster than one could likely order a pizza.

It is not clear how much support — if any — Olszewski has from other county executives.

Olszewski’s news conference in Towson Thursday was attended by only legislators and school board members from Baltimore County.

Michael Sanderson, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, said the organization supported the bill during the 2019 session. So far, the influential group that represents Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions has not taken any position on calling on the legislature to reconsider the bill next week.

Some of Maryland’s larger counties expressed support for more school construction aid but were slow to back a call for a bill during the special session.

“We’re supportive of the effort, but I don’t think we’ll be joining an official call for this to be handled during the special session,” said Chris Trumbauer, a senior adviser to Democratic Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. “Our understanding is what the legislature is going to do is elect a new speaker.”

A spokesman for Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, a Democrat, declined to comment when asked about the session. A spokesman for acting Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young did not respond to a request for comment. A Prince George’s County spokeswoman said County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, a Democrat, was out of town and not immediately available for comment.

Harford County Barry Glassman, a Republican, said his county is also supportive of finding more money for school construction but said the bill cannot be dealt with in a short special session.

“It is too complicated an issue to take up in a one- or two-day special session,” said Glassman.




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