ANNAPOLIS - A Maryland Senate panel on Thursday considered a bill that would give hiring preference to graduates of state schools who apply for jobs with the state government.

The measure would give applicants who attended a Maryland higher-education institution an extra point on a selection test under the State Personnel Management System. Sponsor Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore, said that would give the edge to Maryland school graduates if two or more candidates are equally qualified.

"We need to put our money where our mouth is," Gladden said.

Also in Annapolis
• Natural gas companies would be able to seek a surcharge of up to $2 on monthly gas bills to help recover costs for replacing aging infrastructure, in a measure approved by both the House and Senate.
• Gov. Martin O'Malley pushed some initiatives he hopes will stimulate job growth by increasing training for positions in the highest demand and clearing some hurdles to employment for military families.
• Del. Heather Mizeur introduced legislation calling for a moratorium on fracking until studies on its impact are completed.

"The student decided to make a commitment to the state of Maryland. We need to now make a decision about how we help out students who are investing in Maryland and perhaps living in Maryland."

However, the General Assembly's analysts aren't too keen on the proposal.

An analysis by the Department of Legislative Services says some applicants who might be unqualified for a job could qualify with the extra point, or serviceable candidates could be viewed as being more qualified than they actually are.

"This may have a negative effect on the quality of state hires and the work they perform," wrote Michael C. Rubenstein, an analyst with the Department of Legislative Services.

The Department of Budget and Management estimates it would cost between $6,000 and $20,000 to reprogram the Personnel Management System to factor in the extra point. In addition, it would cost $5.50 per applicant to verify a degree, and the state vets hundreds of thousands of job applicants every year.

Applicants already get extra points on the selection test for a number of reasons.

For instance, current state employees get one-quarter of a point for every year of service to the state, up to five points. Military veterans and their spouses get 10 points, with an extra two points if the veteran was wounded in service or was a prisoner of war.

State residents get five points just for living in Maryland, and people living in counties with high unemployment get an extra five points.