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March 7, 2014

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Montgomery County Executive Halts Drone Program Indefinitely

October 1, 2014

As reported by the Washington Post, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett has set aside a county drone program indefinitely stating that it is “not ready for prime time.”

A group of officials, led by chief innovation officer Dan Hoffman, told a County Council committee earlier this month that they had purchased four small, commercially available helicopter-style models of the unmanned craft to assess their possible use at fire scenes or during police emergencies.

Council members, expressing concerns about privacy and other issues, said they wanted staff to return with a firm set of policies and protocols covering drone use.

However, before that occurred, County Executive Leggett stepped in, stating he has both policy-based and personal reservations about drones.

“At this time, it’s not something that we need,” Leggett said. “I’m not sure there’s a demonstrated need.” He said Hoffman and public safety officials were “premature” in bringing the matter to the council.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the county council introduced a resolution requesting that the county executive provide a plan for the use of the drones for review and approval by the council.


Transportation Experts Discuss Funding and Infrastructure at Annual Summit

October 1, 2014

Congressman John Dulaney and former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood were joined by other transportation consultants and policy experts to offer their solutions to funding transportation and improving infrastructure at the 7th Annual Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) Transportation Summit.

As reported by MarylandReporter.com,

LaHood, a 36-year public servant, proposes a higher federal gas tax to fund nationwide projects, but also suggested that the solution for a broken transportation system could be something like what Virginia did when it moved from a gas tax to a wholesale sales gas tax. By taxing a percentage of wholesale, legislative leaders would not need to make controversial votes (like the Maryland General Assembly’s move last year to increase the gas tax) in order to help transportation funding keep up with inflation.
Congressman John Dulaney discussed legislation he is sponsoring, The Partnership to Build America Act, which would create a private infrastructure bank financed by corporations buying government bonds in exchange for tax-free repatriated funds.

Delaney’s bipartisan bill has been one of his signature legislative priorities since being elected in 2012. He is proposing to forgo the traditional route of relying on Congress to gather funding and instead utilize low-interest bonds purchased by U.S. corporations. It also seeks to bring home some of the $2 trillion U.S. corporations have earned overseas, giving them credits as incentives to purchase bonds that would be used to build infrastructure.

“There’s no question that every company would be willing to pay something to bring their money back” if there was some incentive, Delaney said.

Other speakers spoke about reducing congestion and improving infrastructure. Speakers also spoke to the need to stimulate economic growth.

An overview of the comments made during the event can be found on the GBC’s website.

 


Maryland’s Debt Affordability Committee Adopts FY 2016 Recommendations

October 1, 2014

Maryland’s Debt Affordability Committee voted today on recommended debt levels for FY 2016 to guide the Governor and General Assembly in their budget decisions this coming year.

The Capital Debt Affordability Committee (CDAC) chaired by State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, approved a recommendation during its meeting on October 1 to follow the planning assumptions used in its 2013 report, which increases the State’s bond authorization by $75 million to $1.170 billion for FY 2016. The 2013 report also proposes increasing the State’s bond authorization by $75 million in each of the next four fiscal years, through FY2019.  However, this year, the Committee only approved an increase in the bond authorization for FY 2016.  The vote to approve the recommendation was 4-1.

The materials and draft recommendations distributed at the meeting include an affordability analysis as well as multi-year projections for debt service and debt outstanding, plotted against the 8% and 4% benchmarks. CDAC’s recommendation for an additional $75 million bond authorization, maintains the State’s debt affordability ratios within the CDAC benchmarks of 4% debt outstanding to personal income and 8% debt service to revenues.

The Capital Debt Affordability Committee, created pursuant to Section 8-104, et seq., of the State Finance and Procurement Article, is required to submit to the Governor and the General Assembly each year an estimate of the maximum amount of new general obligation debt that prudently may be authorized for the next fiscal year. The October 1 recommendation will be forwarded on to the Governor and General Assembly for their consideration.

For more information, see the Capital Debt Affordability Commitee and our previous posts on Conduit Street, CDAC Releases Report Recommending FY15 State Debt Level, and Capital Debt Affordability Committee Approves Recommendation to Increase the State’s Bond Authorization


Baltimore City Council Considers Providing Tax Credit For Urban Farmers

October 1, 2014

As reported by the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is lending her support to legislation sponsored by Baltimore City Council Member William “Pete” Welch to provide a tax credit for urban farmers.

In legislation pending in a City Council committee, Welch is seeking a 90 percent break on property taxes for urban farmers who grow and sell at least $5,000 of fruit and vegetables a year. The credits, which must be approved by the city’s Office of Sustainability, are good for five years, but can be renewed for a total of 10 years, according to the bill.

Welch has said he hopes the legislation will help eliminate the city’s so-called food deserts in which some neighborhoods have no access to healthy food nearby.

The Mayor held a press conference today in support of the legislation, which will heard in committee when the Council convenes this evening.

Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said the new bill is needed because several urban farms in Baltimore are smaller than five acres and therefore do not qualify for a state-authorized tax break.


MACo Adopts 2015 Legislative Initiatives

October 1, 2014

At its October 1 meeting, the MACo Legislative Committee formally adopted the proposed initiatives for the 2015 session, a work product of the Association’s Initiatives Subcommittee.  The Initiatives Subcommittee met through the summer to refine and focus a list of 25 initiatives into no more than four, as required by the Association’s bylaws. With the upcoming election in November and potential changes in local elected officials serving on the Legislative Committee, the Legislative Committee will discuss and approve the initiatives again in January.

The 2015 Initiatives are a very proactive agenda which will span across all budget and policy committees of the General Assembly.  MACo will continue to advocate for local transportation funding and seek greater cooperation and investment in our schools. MACo has also responded to county concerns in other policy areas, adopting initiatives to address the growing drug problem confronting each county and build an efficient and effective pretrial system.

The items adopted as legislative initiatives are as follows:

Local Transportation Funding Restoration – With the recent expansion of transportation revenues, it is time for local governments to again play a more significant role in the State’s transportation funding plan. Many new State projects, including transit, have been added into the Consolidated Transportation Plan, while local governments have continued to struggle to maintain and preserve their roadways. MACo believes all avenues should be explored to restore local funding – the use of federal resources, the reallocation of funds should projects be delayed, and the reallocation of state highway user revenues back to local governments over time. MACo urges State policymakers to take the necessary steps to restore HUR and local roadway infrastructure.

Cooperation and Investment in Education – Counties have concerns that strict school funding laws may deter county investment of additional funding above required minimums and stem cooperation between county governments and school boards. Reducing funding disincentives may encourage county support for innovative pilot programs, and more fairly recognize short-term needs or investments as outside perpetual mandates. A smarter system for budget submissions to the State could mesh with county and school board budget processes, giving them a meaningful opportunity to consider reducing overall costs through joint administration of programs and other collaborations.

Broad Tools to Tackle the Drug Crisis – Drug-related deaths and crises continue to rise in epidemic proportions. Counties in all regions need support and coordination among state and local agencies, with appropriate local flexibility, to bridge remaining gaps. A customized approach is required as the diverse agents will require different forms of assistance. First responders will benefit from additional training and equipment. Public health providers will benefit from support to retain and expand treatment and preventative services. Citizens will benefit from increased access to life-saving medications and innovative policies to protect their individual and collective well-being. MACo advocates for comprehensive legislation and budget initiatives to address the growing drug problem confronting each county and the unique needs of their communities by providing broader and better tools.

Efficient and Effective Pretrial Functions – Counties urge the state to adopt effective measures to improve pretrial services in District Courts. A one-time $10 million earmarked to provide court-mandated counsel offers nothing more than a temporary effort. District Courts are seeing process backups, local jails face housing challenges, and counties anxiously await the unknown mid-year cost burden. An effective and efficient pretrial system requires investment in properly trained staff, improved communication technology, better tools for risk assessment, and assurances that the State will back up this new commitment. Counties urge the State to deliver a plan to resolve this vexing issue without overloading local jails with longer term pretrial holdings, or unfunded mandates to support programs or employees totally outside their control.


Secretary of Labor Touts Maryland Community College Job-training Program

September 30, 2014

(Work in Progress), the US Department of Labor’s blog recently published a story on job-driven training in our country’s community colleges by US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.  Perez writes about a federal grant program called TAACCCT and shares a story of a student he met at Anne Arundel Community College enrolled in a TAACCCT-supported program.  He writes,

Today, I joined Vice President Biden at the White House for the announcement of the fourth round of TAACCCT grants — 71 of them in all, worth a total of more than $450 million. That comes on top of the nearly $1.5 billion awarded in the first three rounds. With today’s announcement, roughly 700 colleges nationwide have received TAACCCT funding since 2011. . .

Joining us at the White House today was Gary Pollard, a former Army medic who is starting a $60,000-a-year job thanks to cyber technology instruction he received through TAACCCT-supported programs at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) in Maryland. Last year when I visited the college, I met both Gary and Ginny Quillen, a woman who’s faced considerable challenges in her life. Ginny was abused as a child; she was involved with drugs and served time. But through hard work and resilience, she’s overcome the adversity. And with the Information Assurance and Security certificate she earned at AACC, today she makes $52,000 a year in a job she loves and a field she’s passionate about.

According to the blog’s data, Maryland has received $14,957,899 TAACCCT funding for its Cyber-Technology Pathways Across Maryland (CPAM) Consortium, a statewide effort, consisting of 14 of Maryland’s 16 Community Colleges. The program’s strategies include:

  1. Build a statewide Career Pathways System that is accessible and easy to navigate,
  2. Develop a statewide system of requirements, processes and services for the target population and help participants build skills in the industry and future career path in cyber-security,
  3. Build a connected statewide information and communication system to assist participants in making informed choices and provide data driven analysis to continuous improvement and longer-term planning,
  4. Employ technology to strengthen quality programming across the state, and
  5. Build strategic partnerships that engage employers, leverage resources, expertise and networks to meet participants’ needs for support and respond to employers’ changing skill needs over time.

For more information, see the full blog post from (Work in Progress).


2014 Governor’s Grants Conference – Early Bird Rate Ends October 10

September 30, 2014

Stay on top of your game! Attend the preeminent grants conference of the year! This will be a whole day of intensive training and networking with top federal officials, state grants experts and StateStat analysts who look at your programs.

Thursday, November 13, 2014
8:00 AM to 4:00 PM EST

The Inn and Conference Center at UMUC
3501 University Blvd., East
Adelphi, MD 20783

You will be guided through the comprehensive Federal Grants Reform changes that you are expected to know and implement as they take effect on December 26, 2014. At lunch you’ll hear from Hudson Hollister, the nation’s ‘rock-star’ leader of the OPEN DATA movement.  Anyone who even “touches a federal grant” needs to be at this important conference.  Bring your team, bring your partners! Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits will be provided.

Take advantage of the early bird rate!  Early bird rate applies until October 10, 2014.  Register now!

Click here for the Governor’s Grants Conference agenda and to register.


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