Capital Notebook

CAPITAL NOTEBOOK

March 09, 2007

MBA program at Towson U. in peril

After a swirl of procedural maneuvers and two hours of debate, the state Senate moved a step closer to signing off on a bill that endangers Towson University's Master of Business Administration program.

The school's course is under fire from nearby Morgan State University, a historically black public school that some officials believe is entitled under federal guidelines to have the only business master's program in the area. Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway's bill would allow a circuit court to overrule the 2005 Maryland Higher Education Commission vote endorsing the Towson program.

FOR THE RECORD - An item in yesterday's Capitol Notebook incorrectly reported the college that is partnered with Towson University's Master's of Business Administration program. The program affiliate is the University of Baltimore.
The Sun regrets the error.

"We do not want to be disruptive or hurt the students," Conway said. "We merely want to be in compliance with federal law."

A similar bill was vetoed last year by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat who represents Towson, led an unsuccessful attempt to vote down the bill yesterday. The Senate ultimately supported three Brochin amendments, one of which would allow students in the Towson program to finish their studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the program partner.

Calling the students "innocent bystanders" in what amounts to political jockeying for public funding and enrollment, Brochin also pushed successfully for an amendment that would require the Towson program to continue for four years after any court decision that would shut down the MBA program.

"It's cruel to say to them in a year or 18 months of a three-year program, you can't go here anymore," Brochin said.

The Senate also agreed that if the matter goes to circuit court, it cannot be heard in Baltimore or Baltimore County.

Jennifer Skalka and Gadi Dechter

Death penalty vote delayed

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee decided yesterday to delay until next week a vote on a proposed repeal of the death penalty.

The bill's sponsor, Baltimore Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, said yesterday that she is gauging support on the committee and in the chamber.

Jennifer Skalka

Ban on political calls killed

A Senate committee has killed legislation that would have prohibited automated political calls to Marylanders on the federal do-not-call registry.

The do-not-call list protects residents from telemarketing calls or companies calling to sell something. Charities and politicians are exempt from the regulations in most states.

Last week, the Senate Finance Committee voted 9-to-2 to reject an effort to rein in automated calls from candidates, a cheap way for them to reach voters.

Del. Dan K. Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat and the bill's sponsor in the House, said that when the calls pick up again, residents need to complain to their legislators.

"If they're sufficiently annoyed, these bills will be back," he said.

During hearings on the bill, Sen. E. J. Pipkin, an Eastern Shore Republican, said such calls are the only way for candidates to respond to last-minute and false literature mailed by opponents.

Sen. George W. Della Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, and Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, a Howard County Republican, were the only committee members to support the legislation.

Melissa Harris

Sudan divestment gets boost

Legislation aimed at divesting state funds from companies doing business in war-torn Sudan got a boost yesterday when Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp pledged their support.

"The world has witnessed an unconscionable tragedy in Darfur," Brown said yesterday at a news conference, referring to the Sudanese region where as many as 450,000 people have been killed in a campaign that the United States has labeled genocide. "Today we stand up to protect the weakest among us."

The coalition is backing compromise legislation sponsored by Sen. Verna L. Jones, a Baltimore Democrat, that would require the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System to pressure companies to sever ties with Sudan and prohibit new investments in companies that have operations in Sudan or a financial relationship with its government.

The bill differs from proposals that failed in previous legislative sessions in that it would not force the state to divest. That approach was struck down recently in federal court in Illinois.

Franchot and other supporters said the state intends to divest from about a dozen companies that have been identified as doing business in Sudan. They likened divestment to the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa three decades ago.

Six other states, including California, Connecticut and New Jersey, have taken steps to divest public pension money from the African nation.

Laura Smitherman

Ban on truck ornaments killed

House lawmakers have effectively killed a bill to outlaw fake bull testicles and other anatomically explicit vehicle decorations that truckers dangle from the trailer hitches of their pickups.

The House Rules Committee declined to act on the truck bill at a meeting last week.

The measure was filed in the General Assembly last month by Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., a Washington County Republican, who said children shouldn't be exposed to the decorations.

Associated Press

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