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March 7, 2014

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Baltimore City and County Agree on Red Line Funding Commitments

August 27, 2014

As reported by the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City and Baltimore County have reached agreement on the amount of funding each will contribute toward the funding of the Red Line light rail. The combined $280 million will be funded through in-kind and monetary contributions.

Under the local commitments made Tuesday, the city plans to contribute $230 million, up from an initial request from the state for $200 million. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a longtime proponent of the project, said the city’s contribution would be made without raising taxes or introducing new fees for city residents.

[Baltimore County Executive Kevin] Kamenetz made the county commitment of $50 million in a letter to [Maryland Transportation Secretary James] Smith.

…Kamenetz’s proposal commits $17 million in in-kind contributions in 2016, including water and sewer line relocations and installing traffic signals, and the rest in cash payments starting with $5 million in 2018 and $5.6 million each year through 2023.

The Red Line is a proposed 14.1 mile light rail route that would run from Woodlawn in Baltimore County to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in East Baltimore.The State plans to use a public-private partnership to help underwrite the cost of the project.


Montgomery Officials Hopeful on School Construction Funding

August 27, 2014

As reported by the Gazette, Montgomery County state and local officials are hopeful that the General Assembly will pass legislation during the upcoming session to direct more school construction funding to the county.

After a Monday event at Wilson Wims Elementary School — built to relieve overcrowding in the Clarksburg area — Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said he feels “very confident” state lawmakers can “make some progress” in the upcoming session toward a funding method that would help the county accommodate its growing student body.

According to the article, Montgomery County’s increase in its student body this year was the largest since 2000.

Montgomery County legislators introduced legislation this past session to direct more school funding to the county.

Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Calverton put forward a bill that would have established a program to fund construction projects based on a county’s bond rating and a school system’s total number of students. Legislators from Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties, who likely would have benefited from the program, pushed for the legislation’s passage.

State Sen. Nancy J. King submitted another bill that would have established a grant program and doled out money based on student enrollment growth.

Both legislators felt the bills did not have a strong chance of passage last session, but hope with a new Administration, the outcome will be positive next session.

However, County Council President Craig Rice commented that he is hearing a “different conversation coming from Annapolis.”

Rather than a focus on the state’s three bigger counties, he said, he thinks there will be a “statewide approach” this session concerning construction funding.

The Governor issued an Executive Order in May to conduct a study on school construction in Maryland.  The study will address the topics raised in Delegate Kaiser’s legislation, HB1323 Public School Construction – Creative Financing Study  and HB 349/SB 388 Study of Alternative Financing Methods for the Purpose of School Construction.  Additional information on the Public School Construction Financing Study can be found on Conduit Street.

 


Applications for 2015 Maryland Sustainable Growth Awards Due September 19

August 27, 2014

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission is seeking nominations for the 2015 Sustainable Growth Awards. Time is running out…applications are due September 19!

Sustainable_03sFrom the announcement:

Know someone leading initiatives to advance community revitalization or resource protection? The time is now to apply for a Sustainable Growth Award, which highlights people and projects that advance smart growth and effective stewardship and, by extension, create quality communities.

Applications are due September 19. Visit Planning.Maryland.gov/sgc to learn more and for information about how to apply.

The contest is judged by the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission. Each winter, the commission hosts an awards ceremony as part of a forum that showcases smart growth principles. All Maryland organizations and individuals are eligible to apply; self-nominations are encouraged.

Read about a 2014 winner in our recent Smart Growth Maryland blog post.


Washington County Commissioner Cline Wins MACo Summer Conference Mobile App Leaderboard Contest

August 27, 2014
Washington County Commissioner Jeff Cline

Washington County Commissioner Jeff Cline

Washington County Commissioner Jeff Cline has won a FREE registration to the 2015 MACo Summer Conference due to his participation with the mobile app from this year’s MACo Summer Conference.

Attendees and exhibitors could participate and use the mobile app to earn points. MACo took the top 5 point-leaders from the app each day of the 4-day conference, and placed the names of the individuals into a drawing.  The drawing was held at the conclusion of the conference.

Congratulations to Washington County Commissioner Jeff Cline!


NACo Catalogs Recent Supreme Court Decisions That Affect Counties

August 27, 2014

An article in the August 25th edition of the National Association of Counties’ (NACo’s) County News examined cases being considered as part of the United States Supreme Court’s 2014 docket that could a significant effect on county governments.  The article noted that it was the first in a two-part series and focused on four subject areas: (1) First Amendment rights including legislative prayer, employee speech protections when testifying in court under oath, and restrictions on protests at abortion clinics; (2) 14th Amendment Rights pertaining to prohibiting affirmative action preferences through voter ballot; (3) the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate; and (4) the federal Clean Air Act’s (CAA’s) “Good Neighbor” provision.

Here is an excerpt from the article relating to the CAA:

The Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Good Neighbor Provision prohibits upwind states from emitting air pollution in amounts that will contribute significantly to downwind states failing to attain air quality standards. In EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, the lower court concluded that upwind states must be given a chance to allocate their emissions budgets when they are known, before the federal government can do so, and that EPA can only rely on physical contributions to air pollution when determining responsibility for downwind pollution.

The court, in a 6–2 opinion, disagreed. It concluded the CAA does not require that states be given a second opportunity to file State Improvement Plans (SIP) after EPA has informed them of their emissions budgets.  The CAA makes it clear that once EPA has found a SIP inadequate, EPA has a statutory obligation to issue a Federal Improvement Plan.

The court further concluded that the Good Neighbor Provision does not require EPA to disregard costs and consider only each upwind state’s physically proportionate responsibility for each downwind state’s air quality problem. “EPA’s cost-effective allocation of emission reductions among upwind States, we hold, is a permissible, workable, and equitable interpretation of the Good Neighbor Provision.”  States and local governments filed on both sides in this case.


NACo Webinar: Legislative Update on Issues Important to Counties – Sept. 9

August 27, 2014

On Tuesday, September 9 from 4:00 pm until 5:00 pm EDT, the National Association of Counties (NACo) will host a webinar giving a Legislative Update on Issues Important to Counties.

NACo logoFrom NACo’s website:

When members of Congress return, in early September, from their annual summer recess, the 113th Congress will enter its “home stretch.” This is an important time for county officials to engage with their Congressional delegation on issues important to counties across America, and NACo’s legislative staff will facilitate this engagement by hosting a webinar on Tuesday, September 9 at 4:00PM EDT to provide county leaders with the most up-to-date information on counties’ federal legislative priorities, including:

• The proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule
• Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools Programs
• Transportation reauthorization and the Highway Trust Fund
• Online sales tax legislation / Marketplace Fairness Act
• Tax-exempt municipal bonds

NACo hopes you will join this webinar to enhance the knowledge and tools needed to advocate effectively on behalf of counties to members of Congress, the Administration and related agencies at this critical juncture.

Click here to register.


School Systems Prepare For Common Core Testing Changes

August 27, 2014

An August 24 Baltimore Sun article examined the challenges county school boards are facing to implement the new testing requirements under Common Core.  The tests, which will replace the Maryland School Assessments, are called Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC).

These tests, aligned with the Common Core, will be much harder as the state begins to expect more analysis and deeper thinking from students. Pass rates of 80 percent and higher seen at most Maryland schools are expected to drop substantially in the spring.

Students may also expect to see more computers and laptops in their classrooms, as schools gear up to integrate technology in teaching and to give the new PARCC tests. Many school districts plan to give the PARCC tests online this coming school year, even though they will not be required to do so until the 2016-2017 school year.

The article noted how the Anne Arundel and Baltimore County and Baltimore City school systems have been upgrading student and school technology in preparation for administering PARCC :

Some school districts said they have used federal Race to the Top money to purchase new technology to give the tests online. Anne Arundel County will soon have about 8,000 Chromebooks at a cost of $2.6 million in addition to 33,000 desktops and laptops, according to Greg Barlow, the county’s technology officer. County schools have recently updated the bandwidth so they have the capacity to give the tests online.

Baltimore County has announced it plans to provide a device for every child over the next several years. It is introducing laptops to several grades at 10 elementary schools this fall and has supplied all of its teachers with the devices this summer.

[Baltimore] City officials said that after participating in the state’s PARCC field tests last year, when about 5,300 students took the exam online, the district is prepared. In the 2012-2013 school year, only six schools had administered a state assessment online, compared to 136 last year.


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