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Conduit Street Podcast: SCOTUS Sounds Off, Early Voting Boom, Riveting Races, & More!

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss the surge in early voting numbers in this year’s primary election, explore the role of county governments in state and local elections, examine the impacts of three major Supreme Court decisions, review MACo’s Legislative Initiatives process, and look ahead to the 2018 MACo Summer Conference.

*Note: We’ll be back next week with a special edition of the Conduit Street Podcast to breakdown the results of the primary election.

Listen here:

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: SCOTUS Opens Door To State Taxation of Internet, “Remote” Sales

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: SCOTUS Sides With Lower Court In Maryland “Gerrymandering” Case, But Questions Remain

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Early Voting Numbers Up 53% from 2014

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Soliciting 2019 Legislative Initiative Proposals

Northeast Counties Focus Next Call on Human Trafficking Issues

The National Association of Counties shares a presentation on human trafficking by the Department of Homeland Security on the monthly northeast counties conference call.

Join this month’s call for county leaders from Maryland and other states in the northeast region of the US for a focused update on human trafficking and what counties can to to stop it.

Screenshot 2018-06-21 13.13.44
Department of Homeland Security Video on Human Trafficking

Details

NACo Northeast Regional Conference Call

AGENDA

 Welcome and Introductions

  • Christian Leinbach– Chairman, Berks County Commissioners (PA) / NACo Northeast US Representative

Roll Call by State – Each state will be called and Elected County Officials will be given the opportunity to state their name and county. States: DC, DE, ME, MA, MD, NH, NJ, NY, PA, WV.

 General Legislative/NACo Update – Arthur Scott, Ass. Legislative Director/Political Outreach Manager

Screenshot 2018-06-21 13.19.39.png
Infographic from the Department of Homeland Security

Blue Campaign(Human Trafficking in the USA) Presentation – Mick McKeown, Executive Director HSAC/Campaign Dept. of Homeland Security

  • What is Human Trafficking?
  • What is DHS doing about it?
  • What can counties do about this?

For background, here is a link to NACo 2014 Study of Human Sex Trafficking in America

For more information, contact Robin Eilenberg at MACo.

SCOTUS Opens Door To State Taxation of Internet, “Remote” Sales

In a widely anticipated decision, the US Supreme Court has struck down a longstanding rule preventing states from imposing their sales taxes on sellers who do not have a physical presence in that state.

Today’s decision in the case South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. represents a stark turnaround from longstanding federal policy precluding state enforcement of sales taxes on sellers without a “nexus” (typically a physical presence such as a retail location) within that state. The decision, long sought by state and local governments, could promote far broader application of sales taxes, and remove a lingering tax inequity between local and remote sales.

Maryland does not authorize broad-based local sales taxes (like many other states do), so the local effects for county governments are likely to be far lesser than elsewhere. However, the potential effects on the state fiscal posture are significant. As the state grapples with a forecasted structural deficit, and anticipates substantial new education spending commitments, a broadened application of sales tax collection responsibilities by non-Maryland retailers could play a role in state fiscal planning.

Like in many states, Maryland’s sales tax is technically written as a “Sales and Use Tax,” meaning it obliges tax payment not only on taxable purchases within the state, but also on taxable items purchased elsewhere but brought into Maryland for use. The enforcement of those provisions, especially upon individuals, is understandably troublesome. Some Marylanders may receive notification from the Office of the Comptroller indicating a tax obligation after purchasing out-of-state furniture, for example, independent of whether the retailer collected sales tax. Taxpayers are able, and indeed obligated, to directly remit the “use tax” on such purchases. But implementation on smaller cross-border sales is administratively impossible. Efficient sales tax administration inherently relies on the seller’s willingness to calculate, collect, and remit the taxes due.

A more complex matter arises with online retailers, whose physical presence may be very limited geographically to one site, but who solicit and conduct business in Maryland and other states with similar tax laws. For decades, under previous court holdings, states could not impose any collection/remittance obligation onto such retailers, unless there was a physical tie to the collecting state. In today’s Wayfair ruling, the courts overturned that principle, and seemingly opened the doors for states, through legislation and/or administration, to seek broader application and collection of existing taxes.

In a joint statement, numerous local government organizations comments on the ruling:

State and local organizations applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision recognizing that the 1992 Quill ruling put Main Street retailers at a competitive disadvantage to remote sellers and the efforts by states to simplify the sales tax collection process and giving those states remote sales tax collection authority. For 26 years Congress has failed to act and through the efforts of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the federal government has finally recognized the changing nature of commerce and state efforts to simplify the collection process.

For more background on the Wayfair case:

The SCOTOSblog site with links to arguments, filings, and other resources

The NACo coverage of April oral arguments on the Wayfair case

Treasurer of Maryland to Address County Elected Officials

A veteran of the General Assembly and the only woman serving in a state constitutional office, Treasurer Nancy Kopp will address female county leaders at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference Women of MACo Luncheon.

Kopp_Nancy_2018

Nancy Kopp is Maryland’s 23rd State Treasurer, having been elected in 2002, and re-elected to successive full four-year terms in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015.

Treasurer Kopp will join the Summer MACo Conference as the special guest speaker at the Women of MACo luncheon, where she will offer remarks about her career to Maryland female county government officials.

Treasurer Kopp chairs many state finance committees, including the Capital Debt Affordability Committee and the Commission on State Debt, and provides leadership on fiscal issues facing the state. One of these more visible leadership roles includes Treasurer Kopp’s position on the Board of Public Works, which oversees a substantial portion of the procurement contracts of the State, with the Governor and the Comptroller of the State.  The Treasurer is also the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension Systems. Roughly half of Maryland’s counties participate in the State Pension System.

Treasurer Kopp represented the Bethesda, Maryland area in the Maryland House of Delegates for 27 years prior to her election as Treasurer. As a Delegate, Treasurer Kopp chaired the Joint Committee on Spending Affordability, as well as the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and Economic Development. She also served on the Capital Budget Subcommittee, Subcommittee on Pensions, and Joint Committee on Budget and Audits, and, at various times, as Deputy Majority Leader and Speaker Pro Tem. During her legislative career, Treasurer Kopp was also an active member of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, serving as its President from 1996-1997, and was named by her colleagues as the most effective woman legislator and one of the ten most effective members of the House of Delegates.

The Women of MACo luncheon will be held on Friday, August 17, 2018  at noon. The luncheon is open to conference attendees.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Baltimore City Awarded $380,000 for Stormwater Mitigation Projects

A Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) press release (2018-06-20) announced that Baltimore City has been awarded $380,000 in general obligation bond proceeds for the construction of two stormwater management projects: (1) the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation at Jones Falls/Patapsco River; and (2) the Parks and People Foundation at Baltimore Harbor. The bond proceeds were unanimously approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works. From the press release:

“Working with local communities and partners, the department identifies and prioritizes projects aimed at accelerating Chesapeake Bay restoration in the most cost-effective and efficient manner, enhancing water quality while reducing overall costs,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “We are leveraging existing state funds for the completion of these two Baltimore City projects, which were selected due to their strong local support and impact on the bay.”

The two projects are:

Druid Heights Community Development Corporation
Jones Falls/Patapsco River
$200,000
As part of a larger neighborhood and revitalization effort, funding will convert a 3,600-square foot vacant lot into an environmental enhancement that will include three stormwater bioretention areas, pervious surfacing and the planting of 10 trees.

Parks and People Foundation
Baltimore Harbor
$180,000
As part of a larger park revitalization project, funding will install four stormwater bioretention areas, 5,000-square feet of pervious surface, remediate 11,500-square feet of soil and the planting of 20 trees.

Funding for the two projects would come through the department’s Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund as well as the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Community Legacy Program, Project C.O.R.E. (Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise), Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative and Keep Maryland Beautiful.

Useful Links

Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund Web Page

Sustainable Communities Web Page

Project CORE Web Page

Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative Web Page

Keep Maryland Beautiful Web Page

Earth, Wind, Fire, WATER – All Together at #MACoCon

Juiced up about Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio? We are, too. Interestingly, Maryland’s rich water wealth helps drive our renewable energy advancements – both by providing resources necessary for offshore wind, and also by providing an opportunity to use energy generation to keep that water clean.

Get plugged in about the latest in offshore wind and animal waste-to-energy at the this year’s MACo Summer Conference, “Water, Water Everywhere,” August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

Title: Earth, Wind, Fire, WATER: Powering Your County’s Future

wind-energy-2029621_1280Description: Water plays a remarkable role in advancing our state’s progress in renewable energy generation. The “big fans” of offshore wind certainly know this well. Interestingly, renewable energy options can also help keep the Bay clean, in return.  Over the past three years, the State of Maryland has funded nearly $5 million dollars to encourage technology that provides alternative strategies for managing animal manure on Maryland farms. Animal Waste-to-Energy specific technologies generate energy from animal manure – and keep that, um…stuff…out of the Chesapeake Bay. Join renewable energy experts for this exploration into the interplay between water and clean energy generation.

Speakers:

  • Jeffrey Grybowski, Chief Executive Officer, Deepwater Wind
  • John Fiastro, Director of Government Affairs and Communications, Maryland Energy Administration

Date/Time: Thursday, August 16, 2018; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

The MACo Summer Conference will be held The conference’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Maryland Local Governments Receive $700,000 in Climate Resilience Grants

A Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) press release (2018-06-19) announced the award of $700,000 in Climate Resilience Grants to local governments. The competitive grants help local governments perform risk assessments, prepare for, and recover from flooding and other severe weather events. County recipients included Anne Arundel, Cecil, Somerset, Talbot, and Worcester. From the press release:

“We have already witnessed the devastating effects that severe rain and storms can cause in our communities,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “This program aims to help our local partners become better prepared and more resilient so they are able to recover from and respond to climate-related challenges, risks and threats, be it flooding or sea level rise.”

Maryland communities awarded grant funding this year include:

Anne Arundel County – Funding for the West River United Methodist Center to address erosion, sea level rise and stormwater pollution by a living shoreline and regenerative stormwater conveyance systems in the West River.

Cecil County – To develop a countywide green infrastructure network and plan using state planning tools and public input.

City of Annapolis – Assistance to the city in its application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System and public outreach on risk reduction to flooding.

City of Annapolis – To assist St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the development of a living shoreline along Spa Creek that works in tandem with on-site stormwater practices to address water quality and quantity.

City of Laurel – Assistance to the city in its application to Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System and public outreach on risk reduction to flooding.

Somerset County – To conduct an assessment of drainage ditches in two areas of Deal Island, which will also identify mitigation needed to alleviate localized flooding.

Talbot County – To develop communication strategies around flooding risk and impacts, what community members should do during a flood, and how flooding impacts may change in the future

Town of Berlin – To develop a Resilience Element for the Comprehensive Plan, including public engagement, and addressing short and long term climate impacts.

Town of Charlestown – To develop a system wide inventory of the town’s stormwater drainage system with a prioritized list of improvements. Evaluate the town’s floodplain management regulations.

Town of Deale Beach – Assistance to the Deale Beach Citizens Association in the design of a living shoreline and to address storm impacts and wave energy.

Town of Hebron – To support the development of a study and resulting stormwater management plan to mitigate flooding issues.

Town of Oxford – To design green infrastructure practices that address coastal storm impacts, tidal flooding, and stormwater runoff on public and private properties.

Worcester County – To design a natural shoreline stabilization and marsh restoration project along Isle of Wight Bay to address recurrent community flooding and sea level rise.

Worcester County – To develop a wetland restoration and natural shoreline stabilization project on Tizzard Island in Chincoteague Bay.

Grants will be used to identify and prioritize vulnerable communities, incorporate climate change data and information into existing plans and policies, and develop nature-based or natural solutions to control flooding.

Useful Links

DNR Funding Opportunities Web Page (including Resilience Grants)

Bay “Dead Zone” Predicted to be Larger Than Normal Due to Heavy Spring Rains

Star Democrat article (2018-06-20) reported that University of Maryland and University of Michigan scientists are predicting a larger-than-average hypoxic (low oxygen) and anoxic (no oxygen) dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay this year. The article noted that the main cause is the heavier than normal spring rainfall. The primary cause of these dead zones is excess nutrient pollution, such as from wastewater, stormwater runoff, or agricultural runoff, that causes algae blooms which then die and leech oxygen from the water as they decompose. Various climate factors, such as rainfall, can also influence the intensity and size of these dead zones.

Despite the larger than normal prediction for this year, Bay restoration efforts are having a positive long-term effect on the dead zones. From the article:

“Despite the forecast, bottom dissolved oxygen concentrations in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay mainstem have continued to increase since 2014, and last year we recorded the second-smallest hypoxic volume ever,” said Bruce Michael, director of the Resource Assessment Service at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “The bay is rebounding and responding, as seen by record submerged aquatic vegetation totals. Our strategic investments and sacrifices aimed at reducing nutrients and sediment are working, but more can still be done throughout the watershed.”

A Chesapeake Biological Laboratory news release (2018-06-18) provides further information:

This year, the anoxic portion of the hypoxic zone is predicted to be 0.43 cubic miles (1.78 cubic kilometers) in early summer and 0.41 cubic miles (1.7 cubic kilometers) in late summer.

“The Chesapeake Bay’s response to reductions in nutrient pollution may be gradual, involve lags, and be interrupted by the weather,” said report co-author Jeremy Testa of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. “The forecast illustrates these challenges well.”

Measurements of the Chesapeake Bay’s dead zone go back to 1950, and the 30-year mean maximum dead zone volume is 1.74 cubic miles.

To learn more about the overall health of the Bay and the current and future direction of restoration efforts, attend the “Clear Water: The State of the Bay” general session at the upcoming 2018 MACo Summer Conference in Ocean City, Maryland. The Conference runs from August 15-18.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Where’s My Bus? There’s An App for That

Transit riders should have access to instant GPS data on their buses’ locations in the near future.

navigation-2049643_1920The Maryland Transit Association (MTA) has partnered with Transit, a mobile app that provides real-time transit information, trip planning, navigation services, and moreThe app will provide locations for every CityLink, LocalLink and Express BusLink bus in the BaltimoreLink fleet. The app is free and available on both Apple and Android devices.

According to MTA, the State entered into a $1.043 million contract last January with Swiftly, Inc., a San Francisco-based computer software firm, to install Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking in each of MTA’s 753 local buses, to coordinate with the Transit app.

From MTA’s press release:

Passengers will be able to use the app to view each bus in real time and will have a greater choice in determining which bus to take and when to expect its arrival. Riders can also select the GO feature to enable voice alerts and push notifications for their selected route.  Real-time bus tracking information is also available by calling the MDOT MTA Transit Information Call Center at 410.539.5000 and via text messaging by texting the stop number to MTAMD (68263).

 

Ellicott City Making Progress in Wake of Devastating Flooding

A large portion of Ellicott City’s Main Street was reopened to the public on Tuesday, just three weeks after devastating flooding ravaged the city.

According to a press release:

Effective Tuesday, June 19, Main Street will be reopened to two-way traffic west of Old Columbia Pike and east of Maryland Avenue. Vehicles traveling west on Frederick Road from Baltimore County will now be able to cross the Patapsco River Bridge and turn left onto Maryland Avenue to access St. Paul Street and College Avenue. New Cut Road will remain closed to thru traffic because of flood damage.

“Our public works crews have done a remarkable job repairing the necessary infrastructure to allow us to safely reduce our ‘no access’ footprint on Main Street,” said Kittleman. “I truly appreciate the cooperation and patience of the residents, businesses and property owners while this recovery work was completed.”

“By opening this portion of Main Street and these parking lots, we’re helping the businesses and residents who are ready to return,” said Councilmember Jon Weinstein, who represents Ellicott City. “I would remind anyone traveling down Main Street, especially through West End, to use extreme caution and reduce speeds because of the clean-up and recovery work that is continuing.”

On May 28, more than eight inches of rain fell in Ellicott City, triggering deadly flash flooding across the city.

Recent events have reminded not only emergency managers, but all of us, that devastating weather events can strike at any time – and that comprehensive planning is essential for a quick and efficient response. From ruptured water mains to natural floods, no county is immune from water-related emergencies. At this year’s annual MACo Summer Conference, learn how Maryland counties are collaborating with industry professionals to ensure that comprehensive crisis management plans are in place to address these emergencies quickly and efficiently.

Batten Down the Hatches! Weathering a Water Crisis

Description

No county is immune from water-related emergencies. From ruptured water mains to natural floods, counties must work with local water agencies to ensure that comprehensive crisis management plans are in place to address emergencies quickly and efficiently. Using real-life experiences and case studies, this session will cover various aspects of crisis management, including preparing and rehearsing a crisis response plan, creating and maintaining communications with media and residents, and a discussion of best practices from industry professionals and leaders in local government.

Speakers

  • Mark R. Weaver, Esq., Communications Counsel, Inc.
  • Ellen Coren, President & CEO, Chesapeake Public Strategies
  • David McDonough, WSSC Division Manager, Police and Homeland Security
  • Art Shapiro, Bureau of Utilities Chief, Howard County Department of Public Works

Moderator: The Honorable Allan Kittleman, County Executive, Howard County

Date & Time: Thursday, August 16, 2018; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: