MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, provided testimony in support of Senate Bill 310, “Improving the State Procurement Oversight Structure,” before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 16, 2017.
This bills implements recommendations made by the Commission to Modernize State Procurement, including those concerning restructuring and reorganizing the Procurement Advisory Council into the Procurement Improvement Council. Most relevant to MACo, the bill charges the new Council with coordinating with local entities to maximize use of intergovernmental purchasing.
The Commission to Modernize State Procurement, created by Governor Larry Hogan in February and chaired by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, released its final Report last December including more than 200 pages and 57 recommendations for streamlining procurement efforts, expanding small and minority-owned business opportunities, promoting efficiency through automation and technology upgrades, and removing redundant and unnecessary procurement processes.
From MACo testimony:
MACo appreciates the extensive, hard work completed by the Commission to recommend nearly 60 improvements that allow the State to get the best deals, most efficiently, in the fairest and most transparent manner. MACo especially appreciates the Commission’s recommendations which also allow counties to reap benefits from improved coordination on procurement, including this recommendation to maximize cooperative purchasing arrangements.
Recommendations by the Commission of particular noteworthiness to local governments are available here.
Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.
According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)’s recently released 2017 Bridge Report, 6 percent of Maryland’s bridges are structurally deficient, and 20 percent are functionally obsolete. From the report:
- Of the 5,321 bridges in the state, 308, or 6%, are classified as structurally deficient. This means one or more of the key bridge elements, such as the deck, superstructure or substructure, is considered to be in “poor” or worse condition.
- 1,072 bridges, or 20%, are classified as functionally obsolete. This means the bridge does not meet design standards in line with current practice.
- 268 bridges are posted for load, which may restrict the size and weight of vehicles crossing the structure.
At the State Highway Administration (SHA)’s budget hearing on February 16, upon reviewing the Department of Legislative Services (DLS)’s analysis, Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chair Edward Kasemeyer asked Maryland Transportation Deputy Secretary Jim Ports about the report. WJZ-13 had just covered the story. How come ARTBA reported that 6 percent of bridges in Maryland were structurally deficient, when the DLS analysis reported that less than 3 percent of the bridges in the State Highway network met that classification? Deputy Secretary Ports clarified that SHA only maintains a little more than half of the bridges in Maryland: local governments maintain the rest.
In fact, according to the Maryland Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)’s 2011 Report Card for Maryland’s Infrastructure:
In Maryland, approximately 55 percent of bridges are on the state highway system, while the remaining 45 percent are owned by local and other jurisdictions … Only approximately 4.2 percent of the bridges on the state system are structurally deficient, a figure well below the national average of structurally deficient bridges (12.1 percent). Of the 359 structurally deficient bridges in the state, nearly 69 percent of them are owned and maintained by local municipalities.
After the decimation of highway user revenues to local governments in 2010, this percentage could only have gotten worse. It seems clear that local governments, and their bridges, could benefit from a Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland (LIFT 4 MD).
MACo submitted written testimony on legislation (HB 239/SB 291) that would impose mandatory collective bargaining on the Maryland Environmental Service (MES). HB 239 was heard by the Appropriations Committee on February 14, 2017, and SB 291 was heard by the Senate Finance Committee on February 16. HB 239 is sponsored by Delegate Patrick Young. SB 291 is sponsored by Senator James Rosapepe.
The bills would require MES to recognize and collectively bargain with an employee organization that is elected as an exclusive representative of MES employees. From MACo’s opposition testimony:
As noted on the MES website (www.menv.com), MES is a self-supporting fee-for-service agency that “provides services at competitive rates to government and private sector clients and works on projects including water and wastewater treatment, solid waste management, composting, recycling, dredged material management, hazardous materials cleanup, storm water services and renewable energy.” Maryland counties and municipalities are major MES clients and in FY 2016, MES did $54.4 million in business with local governments. This represented 34% of MES’ total income for that year.
As the bill’s fiscal note indicates, MES estimates it will likely have to charge an additional $1.5 to $4.1 million annually to local governments as a result of mandatory collective bargaining. This would undermine the unique role MES plays in assisting local governments to meet numerous federal and state environmental mandates.
The deputy director of the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs encouraged state and local officials to reach out: “Come in, meet with us, let us know what’s going on.”
The Trump administration’s intergovernmental affairs office wants to hear from state and local governments, an official from the office emphasized Thursday.
According to Route 50,
White House deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, Billy Kirkland, spoke during a meeting of secretaries of state from around the U.S. held in the nation’s capital. He said part of President Trump’s agenda “is going to be reaching out to you all individually and finding out what is important to each of your states, what is important to each of your offices.”
Kirkland did not offer new information on progress being made toward policy priorities Trump has identified—such as repealing the Affordable Care Act, changing the tax code and investing in infrastructure—which could have implications for states and localities.
He said the intergovernmental affairs team would not focus heavily on policy, that it would instead act as a liaison between state and local governments and White House policy officials.“If they’re not getting back to you,” he told the secretaries of state, “we’ll be the ones that run over there and either knock on the door gently, or start kicking the door in, to make sure that you’re all getting the information you need in a timely manner.”
The intergovernmental affairs office, Kirkland added, would be “kind of divided into two separate silos,” with one side working mostly with governors and other statewide elected officials and the other side geared more toward local government issues.
Kirkland made his remarks during a panel discussion held as part of the National Association of Secretaries of State winter conference. During the discussion, he shared his contact information, including his personal cell phone number, with the entire audience.
“Give us a call, shoot us an email,” he said. “When you’re in town, we want you all to come in and feel like we have an open-door policy. Come in, meet with us, let us know what’s going on.”
Read the full article for more information.
MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to legislation (HB 656/SB 472) that would mandatorily subject county properties to municipal stormwater charges before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 14, 2017, and the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 15. However, Knapp stressed in his oral testimony that MACo and affected counties were working with the Maryland Municipal League (MML) and their respective municipalities to arrive at a solution to the issue. HB 656 is sponsored by Delegate Kumar Barve. SB 472 is sponsored by Senator Ronald Young. The bill is a MML legislative priority.
HB 656/SB 472 provide that a municipality that has established a dedicated stormwater management fund and municipal stormwater charge under § 4-204 of the Environment Article that affects property owned by a municipality may also levy the charge against property located within the municipality that is owned by the State, a unit of State government, a county, a local school system, or an institution of higher education. From the MACo testimony on SB 472:
The core concept of a stormwater charge authorized under § 4-204 or a stormwater remediation fee established under § 4-202.1 of the Environment Article is to address runoff issues created by property owners and assist local governments in meeting their Phase I or Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit requirements. The fees are not intended to create redundancies or place “double burdens” on governments, education entities, or taxpayers. However, SB 472 does not acknowledge actual mitigation responsibility, county government parity, or the flexibility to enter into other forms of mitigation agreements.
Actual Mitigation Responsibility Not Acknowledged SB 472 mandates that governmental and educational property owners pay a municipal stormwater charge regardless of whether the municipality is actually responsible for the property under its MS4 permit. This requirement makes absolutely no sense if, for example, a county is responsible under its own MS4 permit for its own property, or school property, located in a municipality. In such a circumstance, imposing the municipal fee on the county’s property is both redundant and lacks a reasonable rationale – the county would be paying a fee to the municipality for mitigation work that would be performed by the county.
County property may also be subject to stormwater mitigation requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and applicable local TMDLs. Again, counties should not have to pay a fee for mitigation work for which they are already responsible.
Lack of Flexibility SB 472 mandates that a governmental or educational property owner pay a municipal stormwater charge regardless of local circumstances. Some counties have entered into alternative arrangements to mitigate their own properties or provide other assistance to municipalities. The bill would needlessly upend those agreements and impose a “one size fits all” solution in jurisdictions where there is no current problem.
Lack of Parity The bill purports to establish an “everyone should pay” requirement that is based on a principle of fairness. However, the bill’s provisions only affect governmental and school property located inside municipalities. Federal, State, school, and municipal property located within a county are not subject to the bill, creating an inherent unfairness. Neither does the bill reference county stormwater remediation fees established under § 4-202.1 of the Environment Article, which were also put into place as a means of MS4 assistance – something the bill allegedly seeks to address.
Knapp stated that if the three areas of concern noted in his testimony were addressed, MACo could drop its opposition to the bill. MML, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Takoma Park, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation supported the bill. The University of Maryland System testified that it would support the bill with amendments addressing MACo’s concerns.
In his third annual State of the County speech, Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman Thursday touted the county’s continued strong economic growth and pledged continued focus on many fronts including public health and safety, education and efficiency in government.
According to a Howard County press release,
Kittleman addressed an audience of nearly 500 at the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center, saying that, despite the flash flood that devastated Historic Ellicott City in July, the county remains strong due to an emphasis on fiscal responsibility and shared values.
“We, as a county, have been tried and tested. Yet we’ve weathered these challenges and have continued to make progress with our priorities,” he said. “After last year, our county has not only shown that we are resilient, but we have redefined the meaning of resilience.”
In the six months since the storm, Kittleman said 75 businesses have reopened, three new businesses have set up shop and nine more have committed to coming back to Main Street. “Residents have returned, traffic has returned and economic activity has returned,” Kittleman said.
Kittleman announced that Freshly, a gourmet meal delivery service, plans to invest $8 million in a location in the Route 1 corridor and will add 500 new jobs over the next several years.
Kittleman said he supports a much-needed detox and outpatient treatment center in the county, vowing to include the project in his Fiscal Year 2018 capital budget. Opioid overdoses and deaths are one of the greatest challenges currently facing the county, he said.
Saying that education “doesn’t start when students enter a school and doesn’t stop when they leave it,” Kittleman unveiled details of his Education 24/7 initiative. The county’s Local Children’s Board will implement a strategic, five-year plan to identify needs and gaps in resources, avoid duplication of services and ensure that money is most efficiently spent where most needed.
Other key successes and initiatives highlighted by Kittleman include:
- A transformation of the Columbia Gateway business park into an “innovation district,” where leading-edge companies will work with educational institutions and startups on new technologies and services.
- The launch of READY HoCo, a county-wide campaign led by the Office of Emergency Management, to help residents and businesses better prepare for natural disasters.
- A commitment of $10 million for road resurfacing to catch up on a $56 million, 10-year backlog.
- Early success with TRACKHoward, the county’s new performance management system, which already has netted $250,000 in savings through a more efficient, online procurement system.
- A package of legislation filed recently to assist county farmers with everyday operations and help restore their property rights.
- Progress with plans for a public-private partnership to replace the aging Circuit Court House with a new facility that will meet the county’s needs.
Kittleman said that many needed projects across the County had languished for years. He has been able to “fast forward” several projects as a result of bipartisan cooperation.
“This kind of collaboration is what makes us a stronger county. By working together, we know we can tackle our challenges more completely and effectively,” he said. “I know there is a lot of uncertainty right now about what’s happening at the federal level. But there should be no uncertainty here. Our values of inclusion and opportunity, understanding and responsibility, and collaboration and innovation will continue to drive our priorities as a county.”
To read the full text of Thursday’s State of the County address, go to https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Branches/County-Executive/State-of-the-County.
Maryland’s Board of Public Works reviews projects, contracts, and expenditure plans for state agencies – many of which have effect on county governments. It meets on alternating Wednesdays and the meetings are open to the public. The meeting will be held in Governor’s Reception Room on the 2nd floor of the State House in Annapolis.
The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 10 a.m. Material for the upcoming meeting is available online:
For “frequently asked questions” about the Board’s charge and meetings, visit the Board’s website.
Anne Arundel County Board of Education voted Wednesday to send a $1.17 billion operating budget to County Executive Steve Schuh. The request is $7.8 million more than Superintendent George Arlotto’s proposal because of a decision to increase employee salaries to make up for years of frozen salaries and offset potential increases in school staff’s health care payments.
As reported in the Capital Gazette,
In December, Arlotto asked for $1.16 billion to pay for a salary increase for school employees to close a gap in the school system’s health care fund and to hire more teachers and support staff.
The school board and county officials allocate money for compensation, and the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County and the school board negotiate salaries and benefits.
In the last few months, Arlotto has said the health care deficit is a priority. The budget earmarks $20.5 million to close the gap. Hammond is working on a long-term plan to balance the schools’ health care budget and will request that the state allow Schuh to provide a one-time money for the fund.
School staff said they’re short about $7 million to pay medical bills through the end of this fiscal year. Arlotto warned if the deficit doesn’t get fixed, school officials may have to resort to furloughs or layoffs.
School employee unions negotiate health care plans with the school board.
The president of the teachers union, Richard Benfer, said the board’s additional salary request will make negotiations over health care easier.
“It’s inevitable that we’ll have to pay more,” he said, citing the rising costs of health care.
Teachers union leaders have said they want to see more money for salaries if their medical payments goes up.
The budget also sets aside money to hire more psychologists, special education teachers, social workers and counselors.
The school board backed Arlotto’s proposal to hire five assistant principals for elementary schools — part of a plan to hire assistant principals for more than 30 elementary schools with vacancies.
The spending plan includes money to expand an elementary school program that gives teachers more planning time as well as $6.8 million to open an elementary school in Annapolis this fall.
They also kept the money for 93 more teachers to staff a school population that has 763 more students this year than the previous year.
There are approximately 81,000 students this year, compared to about 73,000 in 2006. The school system is expected to continue to grow. Students eligible for food assistance have about doubled in the last decade. The number of students receiving English language help has about tripled.
The board also passed the $240.6 million construction budget toward upgrades for Tyler Heights, Edgewater, Richard Henry Lee, Manor View, High Point, George Cromwell, Jessup and Arnold elementary schools, and Crofton High School.
County Executive Schuh will present his version of the operating and capital budgets in May.
Read the full article for more information.
The social media site Twitter has become a fast-moving setting for news, information, and advocacy on public affairs. We welcome followers of MACo’s own twitter feed for updates from the Conduit Street blog and other MACo hot topics, and often use Twitter to reach our own audience, and to hear from others following the same issues as county leaders.
Here are some tweets that caught our eye this week:
For more news and information:
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in consultation with numerous stakeholders including MACo, reached agreement on a set of amendments to allay local government and environmentalist concerns over SB 314 – the “Clean Water Commerce Act of 2017.” The bill was sponsored by the Administration of Governor Larry Hogan.
As introduced, SB 314 would allow MDE to use up to $10 million a year from the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) Wastewater Account to purchase nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient credits in support of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. MDE must adopt regulations regarding the use of BRF funds in conjunction with the Maryland Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
MACo was still in an oppose position at the hearing for SB 314 before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 14, 2017, but Knapp indicated that amendments provided to MACo by MDE the night before the hearing appeared to alleviate MACo’s concerns. MACo’s Legislative Committee formally moved to a support with amendments positions on February 15 after Secretary of the Environment Benjamin Grumbles spoke with the Committee about the bill’s proposed amendments. From the MACo testimony at the bill hearing:
MACo has been supportive of establishing a nutrient credit trading program in Maryland – giving the State, local governments, and other stakeholders another “tool in the toolbox” to help meet our Bay restoration goals. MACo also appreciates the desire to “jumpstart” such a market. However, the bill’s provisions are broad and ill-defined.
There are no limits placed on when and where MDE may purchase credits or what projects the credits apply to. There is also no prioritization of the use of the monies, meaning that a highly cost-effective county or municipal project may not get funded over the purchase of a nutrient credit that yields a more modest return.
Additionally, MACo and other affected stakeholders would have no role in helping to develop regulations that will affect what has been to date a reliable source of support for local Bay restoration goals. These are critical details that must be addressed in advance before MACo would be comfortable supporting such a proposal.
Amendments include: a 4-year sunset on the bill, a requirement that wastewater treatment plant upgrades retain a higher priority, a prohibition on using the $10 million to purchase agricultural nutrient credit trading credits, a requirement that the $10 million must be awarded based on cost-effectiveness as part of a competitive submission process, and a requirement that MDE consult with public and private stakeholders (including MACo) as it develops regulations to implement the bill. Several additional amendments relating to the total funding amount are also under consideration.
The Maryland Municipal League and Chesapeake Bay Foundation also supported the bill with the amendments. The Chesapeake Bay Commission and Clean Water Action testified in opposition to the bill but stated they were willing to consider the amendments.
The bill’s cross-file (HB 417) is scheduled for a hearing before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 22.