Mathias ‘staying busy’ with legislative session

(Feb. 20, 2015) With the initial pomp and circumstance of the early session out of the way for now, lawmakers are getting into the meat of the legislative session.

Sen. Jim Mathias reported this week that he’d spent “all day” in bill hearings and meeting with people, such as Gov. Larry Hogan on the reintroduction of phosphorus standards and working with stakeholders on school start date legislation.

“I’m staying steady and I’m staying busy,” Mathias said.

Earlier this month, the “Phosphorus Management Tool” resurfaced as Prince George’s County Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D) introduced a bill to implement standards to minimize phosphorus runoff. A similar item had been yanked from the register by Gov. Hogan one day after he entered office.

“We’re taking solid steps to bring the farming and environmental communities together,” to mitigate the need for this bill, Mathias said.

“We’re working on the details,” he said. Mathias said he met with Hogan and Agriculture Secretary E. Buddy Hance to formulate a plan of opposition.

Mathias also reported that he is continuing to work and is strongly supporting Comptroller Peter Franchot’s plan to shift the opening day of Maryland schools to after Labor Day.

Worcester County school officials have already addressed the issue, having recently finalized their calendar for the 2015-16 school year, with schools opening after the holiday.

But although the adjusted calendar produced by local school officials matches the comptroller’s objective, they do not necessarily embrace the idea that state government should be making this decision.

“The general thinking is that we’d rather leave it up to the local jurisdiction to decide, because there may be something extenuating at some point,” Bob Rothermel, president of the Worcester County Board of Education, said.

Worcester County school system spokesperson Barb Witherow added, “The key, I think, is we want to have local control. We want to keep the authority within the Board of Education.

“Elected officials are sensitive to the communities they serve. Worcester County was the first to decide to go back to a post Labor Day calendar. When it falls late, as it does this year, the board may want to adjust,” Witherow said.

Labor Day 2015 is Monday, Sept. 7.

A state mandate would remove all debate among those who might think that Sept. 1 is a reasonable start date for school next year.

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