- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — Laws that make it easier to set up charter schools in Maryland, authorize Sunday deer-hunting and provide more money to underwrite salaries for doctors who staff hospital trauma centers will take effect tomorrow.

They are among about 125 new laws passed by the 2003 General Assembly and signed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that take effect July 1. Most of the bills approved this year will not take effect until Oct. 1.

The charter-schools bill was a top priority of Mr. Ehrlich, who promoted it as a way to provide better education for children attending low-performing public schools.

Charter schools are public schools run independently of county school boards. They can be set up by groups of parents, nonprofit groups and universities.

“Charter schools are essential to providing options to parents who have children that have become mired in poor-performing schools,” said Shareese DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ehrlich.

Delegate John R. Leopold, Anne Arundel County Republican and a longtime supporter of charter-school legislation, said charter schools can “provide an alternative for children who have been trapped in low performing schools.

“It would be irresponsible to keep these children waiting years and years for our well-intentioned reform of public schools to catch up,” he said.

Diana Saquella, director of government affairs for the Maryland State Teachers Association, said her group supported the charter-school bill after it was amended to require charter schools to meet the same standards as other public schools and to guarantee teachers the same rights to be represented by a union as other public-school teachers.

But Miss Saquella does not share Mr. Ehrlich’s confidence that charter schools will provide a better education for some students.

The new law will allow the state school board to grant a charter if a request is rejected by a local board. It also will make Maryland eligible to apply for federal aid for charter schools.

The new law dealing with hospital trauma centers will increase the registration fees for motor vehicles by $5 every two years. It will raise a little more than $12 million annually to help underwrite salaries for physicians staffing the state’s nine trauma centers.

The hunting law will repeal a ban dating from Colonial days on Sunday hunting in Maryland.

The new law gives the Department of Natural Resources authority to allow hunting on two Sundays each year.

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