Education groups lead in spending on lobbyists in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Two groups advocating for education and the Maryland Jockey Club were among the organizations that spent the most on lobbyists in Maryland in the most recent reporting period, when major legislation affecting them was before state lawmakers.

The spending on lobbying reported to the State Ethics Commission this week came at a time when state lawmakers in the last legislative session approved a far-reaching education funding measure and a plan to rebuild the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

Strong Schools Maryland spent about $559,600 between Nov. 1 and April 30. That was the highest amount spent on lobbying by one group. The Maryland State Education Association, the state's teachers' union representing more than 74,000 educators and school employees in the state's public schools, spent the second-highest amount on lobbyists: $516,558.

While the Maryland General Assembly adjourned in March almost three weeks early in their annual 90-day session this year due to the coronavirus, lawmakers focused on approving top-priority legislation in the waning days.

The K-12 education measure, known as the Blueprint for Maryland's Future, focuses on five policy areas, which include expanding early childhood education and increasing teacher salaries. College and career readiness, aid for struggling schools and accountability in implementation also are among the main policy areas.

The bill, which would gradually be phased in and cost an additional $4 billion in fiscal year 2030, was vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who cited its huge cost and the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, passed the bill with enough votes to override the veto the next time the legislature meets, now scheduled for January.

The $389 million plan to rebuild Pimlico, with the goal of keeping the Preakness in Baltimore, went into law without the governor's signature. The Maryland Jockey Club spent about $470,213 on lobbying, the fourth-highest amount.

Johns Hopkins spent $481,756, the third-highest amount reported.

While the pandemic prompted lawmakers to leave Annapolis early, the shortened session did not have a major impact on the salaries of most top-earning lobbyists, compared to the year before.

Gerry Evans was again on top, reporting $2.3 million. Bruce Bereano was second, with $1.6 million. Tim Perry reported nearly $1.5 million. Lisa Jones, Frank Boston and Michael Johansen reported roughly $1.1 million each.