Annapolis Roundup - Southern Maryland Headline News

Annapolis Roundup

By Deidre McPhillips

ANNAPOLIS (Feb. 19, 2015)—The following is a roundup of bills heard Thursday in the state legislature.

House Advantage: Bill Proposes Decriminalization of Gambling At Home

Maryland residents may soon be able to legally host poker nights.

A bill sponsored by Delegate Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery, would decriminalize games of chance or skill involving bets or wagering that occur in an individual’s home, protecting participants from current potential punishments of imprisonment and up to $1,000 in fines.

Delegate Marvin Holmes Jr., D-Prince George’s, also proposed a bill that would decriminalize the games in 55 and older communities.

“What makes a casino a casino is that a cut of the winnings is saved for the house,” Reznik said at the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday. “The laws are so restrictive now that a person’s home is deemed a casino.”

The bill would only apply to games in which the host would only financially benefit from wins related to playing the game.

Reznik said that the police he’s spoken to support the bill, and Holmes said the state’s casinos would not lose business.

Additional Protection for Students’ Online Data

Maryland’s K-12 students may be getting additional protection online.

A bill sponsored by Delegate Anne Kaiser, D-Montgomery, would block websites, apps and other electronic services designed for school purposes from selling student information for profit, including names, grades and test scores, socioeconomic information, search activity, photos and other student identifiers.

It would also prohibit targeted advertising and profiling of individual students by these services.

The bill steps up the cyber security offered by two federal laws: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which does not cover new ways of student recordkeeping, and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act that covers children younger than 13 years old.

The bill was not met with any opposition testimony when presented at the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday and has signatures from 44 co-sponsors.

Push for More Financial Literacy Classes in Maryland High Schools Questions Effectiveness of Existing Programs

Delegate Jay Walker, D-Prince George’s, wants all of Maryland’s high school students to complete a semester-long financial literacy course before they can graduate.

But the Maryland State Department of Education feels that such a mandate by the legislature would undermine the state board’s authority, said Lynne Gilli, co-chair of the board’s Financial Literacy Education Advisory County at Thursday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing.

The board consistently opposes graduation requirements, said Gilli, and the bill would also be redundant.

After years of study, the board adopted a policy in June 2010 that requires all state school systems to incorporate financial literacy teaching into curriculums from third grade through graduation, she said.

John Woolums, director of governmental relations for the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, agreed.

“Let legislation defer to the education arena,” Woolums said. “Already in place is a statewide framework and overlay with discretion at the local level.”

When asked about a large jump in expenses anticipated in the third year of implementing the new curriculum, Walker said his intention was to use existing resources to fulfill the requirement.

“Welcome to Annapolis,” he said.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, prepared by the Department of Legislative Services, the spike would be due to increased retirement costs associated with additional teacher certifications.

No Opposition to Legislators’ Move to Mandate Supplemental School Funding—Yet

When state Senator Nancy King, D-Montgomery, presented a bill to the state Senate Budget and Taxation Committee last week that would mandate the full funding of a state formula that provides additional spending to some jurisdictions, it was met with no opposing testimony.

The same happened when Delegate Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, presented the partner bill to the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday.

In his fiscal year 2016 budget, Gov. Larry Hogan proposed to cut the formula, known as the geographic cost of education index, in half, reducing expected funding for public K-12 schools in 13 jurisdictions by $68 million.

Delegate Carolyn Howard, D-Prince George’s, was a member of the Commission on Education Finance, Equity, and Excellence—commonly known as the Thornton Commission—that originally created the formula in 1999.

It was intended to be a mandate, she said.

When asked by Delegate Haven Shoemaker Jr., R-Carroll, where to find the additional funding in a tight budget, John Woolums, director of governmental relations for the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, said he had practiced a response to that very question in the mirror.

“I am an expert in education law,” Woolums said. “We lobby for education. We do not have the expertise to weigh in on other parts of the budget that should be cut.”

Any real opposition to mandating full funding of the formula would come directly from governor’s office, Woolums said.

Happenings of Note:

--A quiet announcement that freshman Delegate Diana Fennell, D-Prince George’s, had just presented her first bill was met by cheers from members and attendees at the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday. The bill would establish a Youth Wellness Leadership pilot program for 125 students in Prince George’s County public high schools.

--Delegate Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery, presented a bill on behalf of the Montgomery County Delegation to the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday that would repeal a law that prohibits more than two pinball machines on the same floor of a building in Montgomery County. Delegate Kathryn Afzali, R-Carroll and Frederick, asked if “the deaf, dumb, blind kid put this in,” quoting The Who’s “Pinball Wizard.”

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