- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2000

ANNAPOLIS A dozen members of the Maryland House of Delegates announced Thursday they oppose Gov. Parris N. Glendening's plan to give private and parochial schools $6 million.
Delegate Rushern L. Baker III, Prince George's Democrat, said Mr. Glendening, also a Democrat, should not be offering private schools money when salaries are too low to recruit and keep qualified teachers and when funds still fall short to put up-to-date technology, textbooks and classrooms in all public schools.
Joining the all-Democrat group were seven delegates from Montgomery and Prince George's counties as well as delegates from the Baltimore region and the Eastern Shore.
Glendening spokeswoman Michelle Byrnie said the governor felt the time was right to grant the request, which private schools have been making for years.
Maryland has a surplus of almost $1 billion and is expecting to get $256 million this year from a nationwide tobacco settlement.
If the private school money stays in the budget, the legislature will restrict its release pending a plan on how it is to be distributed, said Sen. Robert R. Neall, Anne Arundel Democrat.
About three or four letters a day roughly split about giving public funds to private schools have been coming to Mr. Neall, chairman of a subcommittee that will hear the bill.
Some lawmakers want the neediest private schools to be able to buy textbooks under the state contract, which would take advantage of the volume discount but limit textbooks to the state-approved list.
State House veterans said this marks the first time lawmakers have confronted the issue of giving public money to private elementary and secondary schools.
Some legislators are calling Mr. Glendening's plan a dangerous precedent. But others note that for decades the state has supported private colleges and universities.
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Maryland's racing industry has improved its tracks as promised, and deserves $5 million the state withheld to ensure the industry kept its word, legislative leaders said Thursday.
After hearing from industry representatives, Mr. Neall and Delegate Nancy Kopp said they would draft a letter urging the governor to release the money. Mr. Neall and Mrs. Kopp, Montgomery Democrat, chair legislative committees overseeing the racing industry.
"Progress is being made," said Mr. Neall. "Money is being spent."
The additional money will be used to pay higher purses to owners of winning horses. Track owners say they desperately need the aid to help them compete with tracks in nearby states, especially Delaware, which are flush with money from slot-machine proceeds.
The Maryland Jockey Club submitted in June a five-year, $60 million master plan to upgrade its two tracks: Pimlico and Laurel.
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Under one state legislator's bill, Marylanders could kiss their cousins but couldn't marry them. Under legislation heard Wednesday by a House committee, Maryland would prohibit marriages between first cousins.
"It's embarrassing" that such marriages are not already illegal in "progressive" Maryland, said the bill's chief sponsor, Henry Heller, Montgomery Democrat. Twenty-eight states prohibit marriage between first cousins.
Mr. Heller pointed to a magazine article that suggested first cousins are coming from West Virginia, where such marriages are illegal, to marry in Maryland.
He objects to such marriages on the grounds that the offspring of those couples have a greater chance of having genetic problems.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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