ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Parris Glendening highlighted achievements in education, employment, and crime while vowing to hire more teachers, devote money to cancer research and enact legislation to require guns be childproofed in his sixth State of the State Address Wednesday.
Urging lawmakers to “seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” and “take advantage of our unprecedented prosperity,” Glendening boasted of Maryland’s robust finances and justified the proposals in his $19.6 billion budget released Tuesday.
Before the address, delegates rushed to take their seats inside the House Chambers. When senators marched in they were greeted with smiles, handshakes and hugs. As Glendening strolled to the podium up front, lawmakers clapped and cheered, giving him a one-minute standing ovation. They stood clapping again after he was introduced by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany.
“This is the moment to be true to our values,” Glendening said. “Because of our work together, life is better for the people of Maryland. Our children’s futures are brighter, our communities are safer, and our environment is healthier. More people are working. And fewer people are being left behind.”
During his address, some delegates rested their heads on their fists, resembling Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Thinker.” Others chewed on the ends of their glasses, listening carefully to Glendening’s words. At certain times, there were nods of approval and whispered affirmations.
Glendening said he would devote $256 million to building and modernizing schools. He also promised to devote $8 million to install telephones in classrooms to improve parent-teacher communication.
The governor asked lawmakers to continue pushing for classroom improvements and cited himself as an example of how education can change lives.
“Without a college scholarship, I would not stand before you today as governor,” he said.
Glendening grew up poor in Florida and attained a doctorate with the help of financial aid and scholarships. In his speech he promised to help attract and retain more teachers.
“Our teachers need more than our respect,” Glendening told lawmakers. “They need a pay raise.”
To this the audience clapped and a handful of delegates and senators stood and cheered.
Since taking office in 1994, Glendening has praised the benefits of education and pushed for improvements. But he drew criticism last year for failing to allocate money specifically to hire new teachers at a time when the state faces a critical teacher shortage. This year he vowed to work with lawmakers and officials to be sure money will reach teachers.
Delivering his speech just one day after a light snowfall crippled metropolitan Maryland with hours-long delays for commuters, Glendening vowed to control sprawl and over-development by revitalizing older communities.
Glendening pledged to use money from the national tobacco settlement to improve the health of Maryland residents. He said the money would be invested in cancer research, treatment and anti-smoking efforts “with special attention given to the minority communities that were targeted by the tobacco companies.” Money will be used to help tobacco farmers convert to other crops.
“We have it in our power to protect our children from tobacco,” he said. “With this money we have a rare opportunity to make a real difference.”
Glendening also urged lawmakers to support legislation to require that handguns sold in Maryland be childproof.
“The gun lobby will say that this cannot be done reliably or affordably,” he said. “Nonsense. Absolute nonsense. Whether it is air bags or childproof aspirin bottles we know that the industry will not do what is right until we make them do what is right. And we can make them do it.”
The governor also pushed lawmakers to fight hate crime with strong legislation.
“I hope the children of Maryland one day will think of handguns and cigarettes as relics of a past, unenlightened age,” he said. “I want the word “tuition” to be seen as an anachronism. All children will move into college just as they now move from junior high to high school.”
After his speech, Glendening’s wife Frances Hughes Glendening, planted a congratulatory kiss on his cheek. She passed out kisses to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, Taylor and others as they left.
The governor’s program won mixed reviews from child advocates.
“We were pleased that he made such reference to the well-being of children,” said Jann Jackson, executive director of Advocates for Children and Youth, a Baltimore-based nonprofit advocacy group. “We couldn’t agree more to that. But there were things we are concerned about.” Jackson said they hoped Glendening would devote more money to helping children from low-income families and to helping child protective services reduce caseloads. State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick applauded Glendening’s dedication to youth and education. “We need more incentives for teachers,” she said. “We are facing a teacher shortage. I was pleased – he’s making education the highest priority.” – 30 – CNS-1-19-00