Glendening offers bills

Proposals include scholarships, low-cost mortgages for teachers

16 measures in package

Governor also targets mandatory terms, safer guns, children's health

January 25, 2000|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Seeking to alleviate a serious faculty shortage in Maryland public schools, Gov. Parris N. Glendening proposed legislation yesterday that would increase state scholarships to prospective teachers and offer low-cost home mortgages to members of the profession.

The education measures are part of the governor's 2000 legislative package, which also includes a potentially contentious initiative requiring more expensive septic tanks in environmentally sensitive areas.

Another of his proposals would require a mandatory five-year prison term for violent felons and drug dealers who have served their time and are later caught with a handgun.

The 16 Glendening bills introduced last night also include previously announced legislation intended to make guns safer, rewrite building codes to encourage development in older towns and cities, expand the state's children's health program to cover an additional 19,600 youngsters, extend prevailing-wage protections to school construction workers and promote high-technology development.

The education aid proposal would raise the maximum payment under the HOPE scholarship program for teachers from $3,000 to $5,000 a year at four-year colleges and from $1,000 to $2,000 at community colleges. The money could be used for tuition and fees.

Recipients would have to agree to teach in Maryland after graduation -- one year for each year of the scholarship. That requirement is more strict than for those who receive $3,000 HOPE scholarships to study science and high-technology fields, who only have to work in the state. The legislation would give prospective teachers a greater monetary incentive.

The mortgage legislation would provide low-cost mortgages for teachers to buy their first homes in Maryland.

To qualify, recipients would have to agree to work as public school teachers for five years.

Michael Morrill, Glendening's press spokesman, said the loan rates could be as low as 5 percent. He said an estimated 250 to 300 loans could be made each year from $25 million set aside for low-cost mortgages.

Karl Pence, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, was lukewarm toward the scholarship proposal, saying he would prefer to see the state move toward full payment of tuition. But the union chief welcomed the mortgage initiative.

"A mortgage is kind of a longer vision type of thing, so obviously it could induce people to come in [to the field] as well as to stay," Pence said. "You have to find some way to get people into the teaching ranks."

State education officials say local districts will need to hire as many as 11,000 teachers annually by September 2001 -- possibly more if class sizes are cut.

However, only 2,500 teachers graduate each year from the state's colleges and universities, and half take out-of-state jobs or decide not to teach.

The environmental proposal would require newly installed septic tanks in sensitive areas to include nitrogen-removal technology.

Nitrogen in runoff has been identified as a leading cause of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries and the coastal bays.

The requirement would add $3,000 to $7,000 to the cost of a new or replacement septic system, said Dane Bower, deputy director of the state Water Management Administration.

Kathleen McHugh, executive vice president of the Maryland State Builders Association, put the cost at $7,000 to $10,000.

McHugh said the builders do not want to oppose legislation that promotes public health, but expressed concern about the cost. "You can't pass off a $10,000 increase when you're trying to build affordable housing," she said.

The legislation would delegate to counties the task of identifying specific areas that are environmentally sensitive. The criteria would be based on proximity to aquifers, municipal wellheads and other sources of drinking water. State officials could not provide an estimate of how many homes would be affected.

Glendening's proposal to create a mandatory minimum for possession of handguns by violent felons and drug criminals drew praise from a leading prosecutor.

"Whether you're for gun control or you're not, the people who commit felonies in possession of a handgun are precisely the people who ought to be in jail," said Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas Gansler. "I think it's great. It's a step in the right direction."

Sun staff writer Gady Epstein contributed to this article.

In Annapolis

Today's highlights:

House of Delegates meets. 10 a.m. House chamber.

Senate meets. 10 a.m. Senate chamber.

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Hearing on SB-8, to require in-line skaters to wear helmets, and on SB-31, to prohibit breast-feeding by persons other than a parent. 1 p.m. Senate Office Building, Room 300.

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