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Kent Center Receives $5,000 Award to Benefit Adults Needing Special Care

MACo leadership visits Kent Center to deliver $5,000 award check, sponsored by MD-DC-DE Beverage Association.

As part of MACo’s 2017 Summer Conference, the county exhibit booths competed to win a $5,000 award for a charity of their choice. The competition was sponsored by the MD-DC-DE Beverage Association and focused on economic development, county service innovation, and the work of the charities each county represented. The 800+ attendees who participated chose Kent County IT as the winning booth, with Kent Center being the recipient of the $5,000 award.

Group Shot
MACo Representatives Present Kent Center with $5,000 Award

On October 16, MACo President Jerry Walker (Council Vice Chair, Anne Arundel County) and Immediate Past President John Barr (Commissioner, Washington County), visited Kent Center in Chestertown, MD, to tour the facility and present the award. They were joined by Kent County Administrator Shelley Heller, Kent County IT Project Manager April Bitter, and MACo Member Services Director Virginia White.

Kent Center is the primary provider in Kent and northern Queen Anne’s Counties of daytime, vocational, CSLA, respite, supported employment, and/or residential services for 70 adults. Kent Center’s services are tailored to meet the specific needs of each person they serve, with a team of program coordinators and professionals who focus on enhancing their lives in multi-faceted ways. President Walker and Past President Barr took a tour of the Kent Center facility, meeting the clients and learning about the services provided.

As part of their programming, Kent Center runs a diverse business services program, including a mailing center, assembly and packaging services, confidential shredding, banquet hall rental, and the Kent House Kitchen. The Kitchen serves a daily boxed lunch menu and “cafe to go” meals prepared by their clients and led by Executive Chef Chris Bove.

Kent Center Executive Director Karine Ireland invited all of the participants of the program to be present so they could accept the award together, with special thanks to two of the program participants who traveled to Ocean City to help talk about Kent Center in the Kent County booth. Ms. Ireland noted that the award money would be used to help Kent Center buy new buses and vans to transport their clients and connect them with services and opportunities to make their dreams come true!

MACo and Kent Center thank the MD-DE-DC Beverage Association for their generous sponsorship of this award!

Finance Committee Holds Briefing On Controversial Collective Bargaining Bill

A panel of representing several Maryland community colleges voiced their objections over proposed legislation that would mandate a one-size-fits-all form of collective bargaining during a briefing held by the Senate Finance Committee. The briefing focused on failed legislation (SB 652/HB 871) from the 2017 General Assembly Session.

At the briefing, MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally explained that the move to collective bargaining outlined in this bill could create potentially unsustainable costs for counties, who provide substantial funding for community colleges throughout Maryland – especially since the legislation does not envision any added State support. Bernie Sadusky, Executive Director, Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC) told the Committee that the State has not been living up to its funding obligations, and that the added costs of collective bargaining would fall on counties and/or students, in the form of higher tuition rates.

State Senator Stephen Hershey expressed frustration with the proposal, telling fellow Committee Members that his constituent counties would be unable to afford the added costs resulting from mandated collective bargaining. Senator Hershey also addressed the lack of State funding for community colleges, he asked:

How can we pass a bill when we have no idea how to pay for it?

MACo opposed the 2017 legislation.

Representatives from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Maryland/DC American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO), and Communication Workers of America (CWA) testified in support of the legislation.

Useful Links

HB 871/SB 652 of 2017

Previous Conduit Street Coverage

State Can Step Back From School Construction Reviews, Says Subcommittee

The Process Process, Procedure, and Educational Specifications Subcommittee discussed recommendations to the Knott Commission regarding areas where the state’s process can be scaled back to streamline school construction in Maryland.

At today’s meeting of the process subcommittee of the Knott Commission on 21st Century School Facilities, the subcommittee discussed and voted on several recommendations to reduce the state’s role in school construction reviews. These recommendations are aimed a reducing duplicative reviews by different branches of state government, and to expedite the school construction process.

MACo advocates for streamlining school construction processes. County governments share responsibility for financing K-12 school construction with the State, whose funding depends on statutory formulas and regulations. MACo advocates efforts to promote the smartest and most effective funding for modern schools, and urges State policymakers to retain the State’s strong commitment to this top funding priority.

In the presentation of the possible areas for recommendations, Alex Szachnowicz, Chief Operating Officer Anne Arundel County School System asked the Commissioners to consider whether the current processes are adding value to the school construction program.

“A truism in the construction field is the old adage, ‘time is money.’ ” –Alex Szachnowicz, Chief Operating Officer Anne Arundel County School System

On the following areas of potential consensus, the Subcommittee made the following votes:

  • Should we keep Department of General Services (DGS) review for design development for systemic updates (such as replacing a failing boiler in an existing school)?
    • MAJORITY OF SUBCOMMITTEE RECOMMENDS TO ELIMINATE
  • Should we keep DGS review for design development for major construction projects? For these projects, design development is currently reviewed by the Maryland State Department of Education first, then they move to DGS. Design development plans represent about 50-60% of the design for a project.
    • MAJORITY OF SUBCOMMITTEE RECOMMENDS TO ELIMINATE
  • Should we keep DGS review for construction documents for systemics? The construction documents represent 100% of the design for a project.
    • MAJORITY OF SUBCOMMITTEE RECOMMENDS TO ELIMINATE
  • Should we keep DGS  review for construction documents for major projects?
    • MAJORITY OF SUBCOMMITTEE RECOMMENDS TO ELIMINATE
  • Should we keep DGS review for change orders for systemics?
    • MAJORITY OF SUBCOMMITTEE RECOMMENDS TO ELIMINATE
  • Should we keep DGS review for change orders for major projects?
    • MAJORITY OF SUBCOMMITTEE RECOMMENDS TO ELIMINATE

Additional areas for potential change were discussed by the subcommittee, and in some cases the subcommittee decided to ask for additional information from the state government before voting.

On November 14th, the subcommittee will present its recommendations to the full Knott Commission.

Documents may be posted on the Knott Commission webpage following the meeting.

Baltimore County Names Gail Watts as Director of Corrections

The Baltimore County Council has confirmed Gail Watts to serve as the new director of the county’s Department of Corrections.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Members of the Baltimore County Council were full of praise as they confirmed Gail Watts as the county’s new director of corrections.

The council voted 6-0 on Monday to support Watts’ promotion to the top job, replacing Deborah Richardson, who retired.

Gail Watts, Director, Baltimore County Department of Corrections (photo courtesy of Baltimore County Government)
Gail Watts, Director, Baltimore County Department of Corrections (photo courtesy of Baltimore County Government)

As reported in the article, Watts was nominated by County Executive Kamenetz to serve as director following the retirement of her predecessor Deborah Richardson. According to a county press release:

“Gail Watts is a natural leader who balances strong operational discipline with a compassionate people-centered approach that inspires her staff to excel, while at the same time ensuring that the people incarcerated at our detention center have the opportunity to turn their lives around through education, mental health and substance abuse treatment and vocational training,” Kamenetz said. He noted that when Watts was named BCDC employee of the year in 2008, the vote among all department staff was unanimous.

Watts is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the County Detention Center, including programs, security, building operations, budget and finance, staff training and support service contracts. She oversaw the Department’s transition to direct supervision and was instrumental in overhauling the facility’s mental health unit. She started in the Department in September 1990 as a Correctional Officer and served in various positions of increasing responsibility in which she managed work release and home detention programs, staff training, inmate employment, staffing and policy analysis, staff disciplinary procedures, regulatory compliance, and more.

For more information:

Baltimore County Council confirms new corrections director (The Baltimore Sun)

Kamenetz Nominates Gail Watts Director of Baltimore County Department of Corrections (Baltimore County Government)

City Council Member Pushes for Restaurant Health Inspection Transparency

In an attempt to increase transparency over the health inspection reports for the more than 5,700 restaurants in Baltimore City, Council Member Brandon Scott has introduced a bill requiring the establishments to post their most recent inspection results on the outside of their restaurants.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The bill is the latest attempt in what’s been a four-year effort by Scott to let Baltimore customers know more about the cleanliness of the restaurants in which they eat. Unlike previous failed attempts, this version of the bill does not contain a letter grading system.

“This is about being transparent about the health of the citizens of Baltimore,” Scott said, citing restaurant grades in New York and elsewhere.

The article notes that the bill is raising concern restaurant owners who have opposed Scott’s prior legislative attempts to require them to post letter grades of their inspection reports. The current bill takes a different approach to transparency by requiring the full report to be posted. Council Member Scott has also introduced a bill requiring restaurants to offer healthy drink options with kids’ meals.

While his previous inspection transparency bills failed, he was successfully in passing a bill in 2015 that required restaurants that were forced to close due to health code violations to post signs noting why they are closed. Additionally the Baltimore City Health Department has launched an online database providing consumers with information regarding restaurant health inspections.

To learn more:

Baltimore councilman seeks to require restaurants to post health inspection results (The Baltimore Sun)

 

The Costs of Luring Amazon

building-2762319_1920It seems like everyone is talking about luring Amazon’s second headquarters to their jurisdiction, and the State is no exception. With Amazon’s deadline for proposals coming this week, Douglass Mayer, spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, has said that Maryland will propose “the biggest incentive offer in the State’s history by a mile,” reports The Baltimore Business Journal

From that coverage:

Already, the state has invested more than $50 million in tax incentives for two Amazon distribution centers in Baltimore and Cecil County. Another package totaling at least $16.2 million is awaiting a deal under negotiation in Baltimore County at the former Sparrows Point steel mill site.

In total, Amazon has netted $1.24 billion in taxpayer backed incentives across the U.S., a special report by the Business Journals highlighted this week.

Mayer said Hogan had sanctioned the pie-in-the-sky tax break package as part of the ongoing push for HQ2 and monitors the developing bids daily. The historic incentive package no doubt will blast past the $317 million offered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to move its headquarters to Prince George’s County last year.

Amazon’s deadline for proposals fors its estimated $5.5 billion investment and 50,000 jobs is this Thursday, October 19. Prince George’s, Howard and Baltimore City have all indicated their intentions to place bids.

More on the competition for Amazon:

UMD System Waives Tuition Rule For Amazon Employees

Baltimore submits city as a contender for Amazon’s 2nd HQ search

Governor To Seek Hometown Heroes Tax Break Expansion

Last Friday at the Western Correctional Institution in Allegany County, Governor Larry Hogan announced that he plans to seek legislation this upcoming session to expand the Hometown Heroes state and local income tax breaks to retired correctional officers. He also said he wants to expand the tax break to cover all pension income, not just the first $15,000 – a move that could cost counties significant amounts in local income tax revenues.

Last session the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 597/House Bill 100, referred to colloquially as the “Hometown Heroes Act” and substantially similar to the Governor’s Senate Bill 322/House Bill 388 of that name. The Act provides for a subtraction modification for the first $15,000 of retirement income for individuals at least 55 years of age who are retired law enforcement officers or fire, rescue, or emergency services personnel. MACo opposed this legislation on the grounds that it would cause local revenues to decrease by $2.5 million in FY 2018 and by $2.8 million in FY 2022. After many years of consideration by the legislature, the bill passed this year and the Governor signed it – making the tax deduction available for the 2017 tax year.  Bill Information | MACo Coverage

From the Governor’s press release:

The 2017 legislation exempted retired law enforcement and fire, rescue, and emergency response personnel from state income taxes on a portion of their retirement income. The Hometown Heroes Act of 2018 will expand the previous law to include correctional officers who perform some of the most difficult jobs in the public safety sector. In addition, the bill will exempt all retirement income received from these occupations from state income taxes.

The Washington Post covers the story.

School Bus Stop Arm Violations Down From Last Year

A new Maryland Department of Education-sponsored survey shows that Maryland motorists are paying more attention to school bus stop arms.

According to a press release:

Stop arms swing out from a bus and lights flash whenever it is making an on-roadway student pick-up. A total of 3,384 violations of school bus stop arms were recorded on a single day last spring. That represents nearly a 1,000 violation decrease compared to the number recorded in 2016 and well below the 7,011 recorded when the survey began in 2011.

Governor Larry Hogan issued a proclamation declaring School Bus Safety week from October 16-20. The new survey results are being released as that observance is about to begin.

MSDE coordinated the survey in April along with school transportation directors in all 24 school systems. It is considered a snapshot of illegal activity on the roads. Eighty percent of Maryland school bus drivers took part in the survey.

School systems, bus drivers, and law enforcement have been raising awareness about stop arm violations for the past seven years.

Large systems with more buses and bus routes noted the most violators. Baltimore County tallied the most – 767, followed closely by 661 witnessed by Montgomery County school bus drivers. Both systems found significant decreases in comparison to last year.

The MSDE survey this past spring was undertaken at the behest of a number of members of the Maryland General Assembly, which has been monitoring school bus safety. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services is coordinating surveys of this type in all 50 States.

Read the full press release for more information.

Conduit Street Podcast, Episode #3 – Education Funding In Maryland

The first major review of education funding in more than ten years is nearing completion. The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission.

Many of the Thornton Commission’s recommendations were incorporated into the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002, a plan intended to increase statewide education funding by $1.1 billion over five years.

One element of the Bridge to Excellence Act was a second review of the State’s education funding. The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education is that second review.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss education funding in Maryland.

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

Listen here:

Kirwan Commission Stays True To Form

The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting today in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the Commission is charged with reviewing and assessing current education financing formulas and accountability measures.

It was widely anticipated that today’s meeting would focus on education funding, especially because some Commissioners recently expressed concerns over how little time has been spent analyzing proposed funding changes. Instead, staying true to form, the Commission spent the day listening to testimony on broad policy initiatives.

Robert Slavin, Director, Center for Research and Reform in Education, Johns Hopkins University, testified on the importance of intensive, individual programs, such as one-on-one tutoring, for students struggling to achieve proficiency standards. While the Commission seemed to agree on a philosophical level, some Commissioners said the approach was cost prohibitive.

Career and technical education (CTE) continued to be a hot topic of discussion. Commissioners agreed that Maryland’s CTE standard is less rigorous than the standard in top performing systems.

In addition to providing more rigorous CTE programs, the Commission recommends that Maryland implement a communication plan to dispel the notion that CTE programs are only meant for students who do not excel in traditional academic subjects. This communication plan will also inform students and parents that enrolling in a CTE program in no way precludes the ability to attend college.

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, representing MACo on the Commission, praised efforts to expand CTE programs in Maryland. According to Councilmember Rice:

CTE programs have been very successful in counties, and with a small state investment, these programs can continue to grow. Expanding CTE should rise to the top of our recommendations. A lot of the the recommendations we’re talking about are very expensive, this one isn’t. It’s a no brainer.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh, representing the Maryland House of Delegates on the Commission, expressed frustration with the lack of input from the business community on how to best expand CTE programs, she stated:

The business community worked side by side with the Thornton Commission, but now no one is here on behalf of the business community. We need a renewed dialouge with the business community.

The Commission also heard panel testimony from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE), the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland (PSSAM), and the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), among others.

MABE’s presentation included an emphasis on the importance of local boards of education having authority over local education spending. MSEA outlined their top three priorities:

  1. Increased salaries for teachers.
  2. Increased staffing for schools.
  3. Addressing poverty

The Commission’s next meeting will focus on the analysis from Augenblick, Palaich & Associates (APA) and the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). Dr. Kirwan has asked representatives from APA and NCEE to attend the meeting to discuss the methodology for costing out their proposed recommendations.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission. MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation.

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 25, 2017; 9:30 am-5:00 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

Click here to view today’s meeting materials.

For more information, contact Kevin Kinnally at MACo.