A Baltimore County lawmaker said he plans to sponsor a bill in the 1992 General Assembly that would end a House of Delegates program that currently allows members to hand out money for college scholarships based on their own criteria rather than on need.
Del. Gerry Brewster, D-Baltimore County, said the bill would allow the State Scholarship Administration to award the money directly to students, instead of first to delegates, who then dole it out as patronage.
Maryland is the only state in the nation that permits legislators to award scholarships to constituents, Brewster said. Pennsylvania abandoned the practice in 1979.
A growing contingent in the General Assembly has seen the scholarship program as a form of political patronage. However, attempts to eliminate the program the past three legislative sessions have failed.
For the fiscal year that began July 1, lawmakers decided the recipients of more than 25 percent of the $22.2 million in scholarships awarded by the state, said Jeff Welsh, a spokesman for the State Scholarship Administration.
Delegates can award 16 one-year scholarships equivalent to the tuition at the University of Maryland, for a total of $38,800 over their four-year terms.
Senators have far more money to divide among constituents, allocating a total of $5 million annually, compared to the delegates' $1.4 million. Senators can award $108,000 in four-year scholarships every year.
Brewster said he is establishing a committee of community leaders to award scholarships assigned to him under the current system. Anyone interested in serving on the committee may contact Brewster at his Annapolis office.