Shortcut image2015 Legislative Issues: MACo Initiatives | Bill Tracking |
MACo Testimony | Issue Papers | Committee Schedule

Hot Topics: Highway User Revenue | Pretrial | County Budgets | Education | Land Use | Transportation

Important Documents/Links: MD General AssemblyMACo Testimony Summary | Budgets & Tax Rates | Salary Survey | Local Finances | Spending Affordability

FY2016 Budget: County Effects | Fiscal Briefing | Budget HighlightsBudget Books Online | Budget Bill | BRFA Bill | Hearings | MACo Coverage | Capital Budget

2015 Summer Conference Session: Today and Tomorrow – An Update From the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission

Hear an update on the work of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission at the 2015 MACo Summer Conference, including its past work on Reinvest Maryland, its current work on Smart Growth indicators, and its pending work on the nature of priority funding areas and rural growth issues.


The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission continues to study and make recommendations regarding Smart Growth policy for the State and local governments. Last year the Commission unveiled its Reinvest Maryland policy recommendations for Infill, Revitalization, and Redevelopment. This year the Commission is working on Smart Growth indicators, rural growth issues, and other land use topics that directly affect county governments. Panelists will provide an update on the current activities of the Commission, highlight potential future areas of study, and solicit county feedback on the Commission’s goals and work.


  • Jon Laria, Partner, Ballard Spahr LLP and Chair, Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission
  • The Honorable Mary Ann Lisanti, Maryland Delegate and Vice Chair, Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission
  • Greg Bowen, Planner, Land Stewardship Solutions, LLC and Member, Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission
  • Leslie Knapp, Jr., Legal and Policy Counsel, MACo and Member, Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission

Moderator: The Honorable Stephen Lafferty, Maryland Delegate (invited)

Date & Time: Friday, August 14, 2015; 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

For a schedule of educational sessions at MACo’s Summer Conference, please view the Registration Brochure.

Questions? Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White.

New Budget Simulator Allows Residents to Craft a Balanced Budget

A new online budget simulator has allowed residents of Hartford, Connecticut to take a more active role in sharing their budget priorities with municipal officials and in understanding government spending. Working with Hartford 2000, a coalition of neighborhood revitalization zone communities, the city of Harford holds a People’s budget workshop annually. This year, it was made much more interactive through a simulator that allows residents to set funding levels in the budget and determine how to pay for them.

As reported by American City and County,

This year Hartford and Hartford 2000 made it easy for residents to understand and weigh in on local spending with the adoption of Balancing Act, an online budget simulator from Denver-based Engaged Public. The simulator lets users try their hand at balancing local budgets.

The product’s web-based software provides  an interface that allows residents to see where local money comes from and where it is spent, and to move those dollars around to reflect their own priorities.

Like elected officials, users must come up with a budget that is balanced. If a user increases funding for the parks and recreation department, for example, they then must either decrease funding for another program, or raise taxes so that the budget is balanced.

Learn more about Balancing Act here.

Climate Change Commission Hosting Series of Public Listening Sessions on Greenhouse Gas Plan

The Maryland Commission on Climate Change is hosting a series of public listening sessions throughout Maryland to seek feedback on how to proceed with Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan.  The Plan proposes a series of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 25% from their 2006 levels by 2020.

The Commission will host a five listening sessions throughout the state:

Public Comment Hearings on the MDE GGRA Plan Report

Meeting #1: Tuesday, July 14, 6pm – 8pm
Where: Patterson Park Branch Library, 158 N. Linwood Ave, Baltimore, MD (map)
Meeting #2: Thursday, July 16, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Where: The Eastern Shore Higher Education Center at Chesapeake Community College, 1000 College Cir, Wye Mills, MD 21679 (map)
Meeting #3: Tuesday, July 28, 6:00pm – 8:30pm

Where: UMCES Appalachian Laboratory, 301 Midlothian Rd, Frostburg, MD 21532 – IVN room (map)
Meeting #4: Tuesday, August 4, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Where: All Saints Episcopal Parish Hall, Oakley Rd, Avenue, MD 20609 (map)
Meeting #5: Thursday, August 6, 6:00pm – 8:30pm

Where: Prince George’s County Department of Environment Resources headquarters building, 1801 McCormick Drive, Largo, MD 20774 (map)

New State Assessment and Taxation Director Named

Governor Hogan has named Sean Powell as the new Director of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT). Mr. Powell has served as the supervisor of assessments for St. Mary’s County since 2003.

In an article in the Daily Record (subscription is required to view), the Governor quoted as saying he is “confident Sean Powell will further advance SDAT’s mission of promoting fairness in taxation for Maryland property owners.” The Governor also states that SDAT will “continue to explore programs that provide property tax relief and business services.”

MACo has worked closely with SDAT over the past several years and was instrumental in the creation of a Property Assessment Workgroup (AWG) to examine issues related to the assessment process for real and personal property, tax credits, and tax exemptions. Budget narrative adopted during the 2015 session directs SDAT to establish a State and Local Advisory Council to discuss issues of mutual interest with local governments and provide guidance on the implementation of recommendations from the AWG.

MACo believes the Advisory Council would improve communication amongst state and local partners and provide a forum to discuss business process changes, the leveraging of technology with state and local partners to improve the assessment process, and other matters raised by the partners. Local government looks forward to working with SDAT on these important matters.

Schools Determine Which Student Assessments to Implement

School boards across the state are deciding how to implement a state law passed in 2013 that requires all 11th graders be tested for college readiness in English language arts, literacy and mathematics, according to the Maryland Reporter.

The State Board has granted some flexibility regarding which tests may be used for the assessments, as described,

They face a choice of whether to add two Common Core-aligned tests to assess college and career readiness, or use scores from one of several already established college entrance exams like the SAT. It’s also possible students who take a college placement exam could be exempt from taking PARCC in school systems who elect to use it.

For more information, read the whole story from the Maryland Reporter and our previous posts on Conduit Street: State Gives School Boards Flexibility In Administering Student AssessmentsOpinion Piece Predicts Maryland Governor Will Continue Common CoreState Board Approves 2-Year Delay in Using the New Student Assessment as Graduation Requirement.

Charles County Approves Instituting Transfer Tax

Following a public hearing earlier this week, Charles County Commissioners, in a 3 – 2  vote, approved instituting a transfer tax in the county to assist with balancing the fiscal 2016 budget. Up until this week, Charles County was one of six jurisdictions that had not exercised its authority to impose a transfer tax. Eighteen counties, including Baltimore City, currently levy the tax.

As reported by the Southern Maryland Newpapers Online,

Many of the speakers against the tax were Realtors or those who have had experience in the real estate business, and those comments echoed that the tax would be a new burden on an already overly taxed state at the least and a “catastrophe” at the worst.

Those in support of the tax thanked the commissioners for supporting education. A portion of the tax will be pledged to fully fund the operating costs of St. Charles High School and its incoming fourth class.

The transfer tax will take effect August 8 and include an exemption for first-time homebuyers up to the first $50,000 of a home purchase.

Radio Commentary on Redistricting Case and Maryland Effects

As the US Supreme Court has weighed in on two cases regarding an independent redistricting commission from Arizona (upholding its creation, but agreeing to hear a separate case regarding its work), WYPR’s “Inside Maryland Politics” reviews how this might alter Maryland’s own debate over district designs.

Click here to listen to the WYPR analysis (using an mp3-cpmpatible audio player).

Read the analysis of the recent Arizona case on the SCOTUSblog website.

Montgomery Officials Consider Budget Cuts Following Revenue Hit

Montgomery County officials have been instructed to prepare spending reduction plans for their agencies following lower than expected revenues and a Supreme Court decision that will result in significant tax refunds. A reported by the Washington Post,

In a memo released late Friday afternoon, the chief administrative officer, Timothy L. Firestine, ordered department heads to prepare 2 percent reductions in spending for the fiscal year that begins Wednesday. The “savings plan,” as Firestine called it, would shave about $25 million from the $5 billion operating budget, county officials estimated.

Firestine said the reductions would be submitted to the County Council for action before the summer recess that begins after its July 28 session.

The cuts are necessary, Firestine said, in part because the county’s most recent distribution of income tax revenue from the state fell $21.4 million short of projections. In addition, costs associated with last month’s Supreme Court decision in Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v. Wynne may run higher than estimated.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that Maryland’s income tax system, specifically the application of the local income tax, is unconstitutional and must be altered to grant more credits for Maryland residents’ out-of-state income. At issue in the case, Maryland State Comptroller of the Treasury v. Brian Wynne, was whether the failure to allow a credit against the county income tax violates the commerce clause because it discriminates against interstate commerce.

Montgomery officials said early estimates showed the county losing $10 million in fiscal 2016. But new projections put the cost of refunds at closer to $15 million. Losses for fiscal 2017, originally estimated at $55 million, might be closer to $76 million, Firestine said.

National Association of Counties Launches New Branding & Website

naco 2015The National Association of Counties (NACo) has launched a new and has completely overhauled its branding.

According to NACo’s blog article,

But this new site isn’t just eye candy–it’s easier to navigate and find exactly what you’re looking for. It takes a topic-centered approach to the information architecture. If you’re interested in a particular subject, our goal is to make it easy for you to find everything we have on the subject (as well as convenient links to related information). A “persistent” navigation bar always stays on the screen so you’ll never have to scroll back up to the top to get to other parts of the site.

naco before and after
Before (left) & After (right)

Speaking of the navigation bar, if what you’re looking for doesn’t jump out, try the unique search function, At first glance it looks like your average search box, but when you click on it, you get a full-screen “Explore” feature that includes links to key areas of the site (as well as a sophisticated search engine that works as you’d expect it to).

We’ve also enhanced the user experience. A simple ‘filter bar’ appears throughout the site to let you quickly identify the type and topic of information you’re looking for, right there in the page. Results can be toggled between list and grid views, depending on your viewing preference.

To find out more about NACo’s new website and brand, visit NACo’s blog or

Get to Know Frederick County Council Member Jessica Fitzwater

Jesssica Fitzwater photoJessica Fitzwater
Frederick County, Council Member, District 4

A lifelong resident of Maryland, Jessica Fitzwater has been actively involved in her community. She has been a leader in the Student Government Association at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and has served on several local boards of directors, including the Frederick Symphony Orchestra, the Frederick County Teachers Association, and the Frederick Arts Council. She believes in the importance of public service and considers herself a teacher activist. Fitzwater is a full-time music teacher at Oakdale Elementary School and just completed her tenth year of teaching. Advocating for education led her to follow other local issues. This activism, coupled with her experience as an inaugural member of the Emerge Maryland program, led Fitzwater to run for local office.

Fitzwater is a hard worker who inspires others to reach their potential. She feels very honored to work with students at such a young age, and to share with them one of their first experiences with music. Going to high school or community concerts to see her former students perform is truly exciting and a rewarding experience. Fitzwater plays the violin in the Frederick Symphony Orchestra but would like to learn to play the mandolin. She enjoys folk and bluegrass music and also enjoy spending time with her husband Gerald, their two cats, Oscar and Millie and their dog, Georgie.

Frederick County District 4 is shown in purple
Frederick County District 4 is shown in purple

Running a successful campaign was a very memorable life experience for Fitzwater. She said, “running and successful campaign and gaining the trust of the voters in my district last November was truly memorable. All of the hours spent knocking on doors, fundraising, attending community meetings – it all paid off! I met some amazing people along the way and I am working very hard to live up to their expectations. I take public service very seriously and having this opportunity to serve is very exciting for me.”

Fitzwater’s motto comes from Teddy Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”