Scholarship bills in trouble Senate chief faults House measure STATE HOUSE REPORT

March 18, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said yesterday that he opposes efforts to abolish the $7 million legislative scholarship program and predicted that a Senate committee will kill the bills.

Mr. Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat, contended that the House passed such a measure last week primarily in an effort to embarrass the Senate -- a form of retaliation, he said, because the Senate had embarrassed the House by voting to end the controversial keno lottery game. "I don't favor the bill. It is solely in response to the Senate [attempting to force the House] to be responsible in terms of the keno legislation," Mr. Miller said. "I'm confident the Senate committee will not support this legislation."

Critics of the scholarship program say it has been frequently abused by senators and delegates alike who have given scholarships to relatives, friends, campaign workers, party officials and well-to-do constituents.

Mr. Miller, however, said the program has proved its worth over its history, noting that it "has been in effect for over 100 years."

Traditionally, the program has been especially dear to the Senate, where each of the 47 senators has $120,000 a year in scholarship money to hand out. The 141 delegates have less to dispense, $10,000 apiece. Altogether, the $7 million program represents about one-fourth of the scholarship money awarded by the state.

According to one reliable Senate source, Mr. Miller's confidence may stem from a conversation with Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee Chairman Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore, in which the Senate president sought assurance that the 11-member committee would defeat the House bill and similar Senate proposals. Otherwise, the source said, Mr. Miller was prepared to send the measures to the Senate Rules Committee -- which he controls, and where the legislation would surely die.

Committee members privately say they expect the proposals to be defeated, probably by a margin of 8-3 or 7-4. Some suggested that next year -- which is an election year -- senators might find the idea more appealing.

An informal survey by The Sun this week found that about one-third of the 47 senators favored abolishing the legislative scholarship program.

Del. Tyras S. Athey, D-Anne Arundel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee that passed the scholarship bill and also killed the Senate's bill to terminate the keno game, denied there was any link between the two.

As for predictions that the Senate will kill the House scholarship measure, Mr. Athey said: "I predicted that was going to happen weeks ago."

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