BACKGROUND: Maryland Juice recently wrote about the great news that after years of failed advocacy efforts, Montgomery County students had succeeded in gaining a greater voice for themselves on the Board of Education. It appears we spoke too soon. Through a message on Twitter, Delegate Anne Kaiser reports that State Senator Brian Frosh has broken from long-standing protocol and is unilaterally blocking a youth voting rights bill that was approved by a super-majority of his colleagues.
The legislation in question concerns a bill that would grant full voting privileges to Montgomery County's elected student member of the Board of Education. The bill MC 9-12 passed unanimously in the Montgomery County House Delegation and 5-2 in the Senate. Students have fought for these rights for years, and this legislative session the bill received a super-majority of support from Montgomery County's lawmakers in the House and Senate. The bill was filed as a "local bill" since it only applies to Montgomery County. Legislative protocol in Maryland would dictate that when these bills go to the floor, the full body passes them pro forma. Indeed, it is highly unusual for Senator Frosh to break protocol to kill this bill.
After some poking around for an explanation for Frosh's undemocratic actions, a young Democrat pointed me toward an article in The Gazette:
GAZETTE: Legislation that would grant full voting rights to the student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education passed the House of Delegates on Monday afternoon, but still faces resistance in the Senate....
Several student government leaders appealed to the Senate delegation last week to pass the bill so it can be considered by the full chamber, but a vote on the measure was delayed. The House vote in favor of the measure was 92-39.
Montgomery County delegates overwhelmingly approved the legislation in early February, but several senators are hesitant to allow students the same voting privileges as members elected by countywide voters.
"These are great kids and they're really sincere and really competent, but this is undemocratic," said state Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda.
The student member is largely elected by nonvoting residents who do not pay county taxes and therefore do not have the same perspective as adult members, he said. Students also should not have to endure contentious debates on redistricting that can even be difficult for adult members, Frosh added.
"The hardest part of our job here is to say no and you don't learn that before you graduate high school," he explained.
Wow. So a Democratic Senator now believes that paying taxes is a pre-requisite for political representation. Where do I begin? First, this reeks of "poll tax" dynamics. Second, young people do pay taxes: Um, isn't the State Senate trying to raise all sorts of taxes (ie: sales taxes, gas taxes, Amazon and mp3 downloading taxes) and fees that would be paid by minors? And third - that is just a downright condescending argument.
You want to know what is "undemocratic," Senator Frosh? Using your influence and position of power to alter the normal course of the legislative process to get your way. It is especially undemocratic to do so when a super-majority of your colleagues have already voted against your position.
The Montgomery County Young Democrats and a number of high school activists are now urging MoCo residents to contact Senator Brian Frosh to express their displeasure. Check out the Young Dems' email action alert below:
Montgomery County’s youth have been fighting for years to expand the voting rights of the Student Member of the Montgomery County Board of Education (SMOB). This year, Delegates Anne Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) and Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20) introduced House Bill 701 which would allow the SMOB to have a real voice on the Board of Education by granting voting rights on certain issues.
The bill passed the House by a 119-13 vote with the support of the entire Montgomery County Delegation. It is now in the Senate, but is being held up procedurally by one senator – Senator Brian Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Montgomery County.
Please take a moment to send a message to Senator Frosh to let him know that this issue is important to Montgomery County’s youth.
Senator Frosh had the bill special ordered on the Senate floor this afternoon, postponing further discussion of the bill until Monday. Senator Frosh has spoken out against the bill in the past, even telling the Gazette last year that, “these are great kids and they're really sincere and really competent, but this is undemocratic.”
In order for the bill to be sent to Governor O’Malley for his signature, it needs to make it out of the Senate - and fast! The last day of the 2012 Legislative Session is this Monday.
Make sure your voice is heard on this important legislation.
MCYD Executive Board
P.S. Not a member of MCYD? Join today! Visit http://www.mcyd.org/register
NO MORE DINOSAUR POLITICS!