Despite some raucous Senate hearings and tough votes during the 2014 legislative session, Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D- Baltimore City ) believes her bill aimed at preventing duplication of state university programs could make it out of the Senate this year.

Unfortunately, however, Conway also believes the bill would meet the fate of other similar pieces of legislation she has crafted over the years—certain death in the House of Delegates.

“I can get it passed out of the Senate, but there’s no need for me to expend all that energy…for the bill to die in the House,” Conway said during a phone interview this week.

She said her colleagues in the House have made it clear the measure would never make it out of the House Appropriations Committee chaired by Del. Norman Conway (D-Wicomico and Worcester counties).

“He has never let that bill go since I’ve had it,” Joan Carter Conway said.

The venerable senator seems resigned to the fact that SB 169 will sit in the Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, which she chairs. For about a decade she has been introducing essentially the same bill in the Senate. If it becomes law, the measure would allow for judicial review of the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC).

She initially crafted the legislation following the 2005 decision of MHEC Secretary Calvin Burnett to allow the creation of a joint MBA program at the University of Baltimore and Towson University, despite the existence of MBA programs at Morgan State University and other Baltimore area schools.

However, this year the duplication bill was introduced against the backdrop of the October 2013 ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake, who declared Maryland’s treatment of HBCU’s—specifically in reference to duplication and its segregative effects—is a violation of the Constitution.

Joan Carter Conway and other supporters of the duplication legislation believed Blake’s ruling could have provided some much-needed momentum for SB 169. The state is currently in mediation with lawyers representing Maryland’s historically Black institutions at Blake’s urging.

But, according to the Baltimore City senator, the court’s decision may have generally had the opposite effect.

“The state has every intention of appealing Judge Blake’s ruling. They don’t care what the court says. It appears to me…that they are dead set on not abiding by federal law,” she said, referencing the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. “It’s going to be another two to three years (of appeals).”

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling of 1954 and Conway recognizes the irony given the fate of her bill.

“The governor will ultimately make the decision based on the recommendation from the office and they will appeal” the Blake ruling,” Conway said.

“They are all in the same boat, rowing together…in the same direction,” she said.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor