The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval Thursday to legislation that would allow Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker to take greater control over the county's school system.

While Baker had originally asked for full control over the system's $1.7 billion budget along with the sole authority to appoint a superintendent who would be part of his cabinet. But the legislation was watered down to assuage fears that the Prince George's would set an extreme precedent for other counties.

Under the bill, the system's $1.7 billion in funding would remain in the hands of the county school board. Four new voting members would be added, with the county executive appointing three and the county council appointing one. The executive would also appoint the board's chair and vice chair, though the latter would have to be a board member already elected by the voters.

The superintendent would be selected by Baker from a list prepared by a three-person board. While the superintendent would not be a member of Baker's cabinet, he or she would be required to attend all cabinet meetings.

The bill passed the Senate 36-8 a day after Prince George's Senate delegation overwhelmingly approved the changes. Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George's, was the only Prince George's lawmaker to oppose it after making an impassioned plea for legislators to disregard the common courtesy afforded to local bills and vote the measure down.

"Here we are four days before session ends being asked to do something that's never been done before," Muse said, adding that the proposal was "a bad plan and a bridge to nowhere."

The bill will likely be up for final Senate approval late Thursday.