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Appeals Court Strikes Down Drone Regulation Law

An appeals court on Friday struck down a Federal Aviation Administration rule that required owners of drones used for recreation to register their craft.

The ruling was a victory for hobbyists and a setback for the FAA, which cited safety concerns as it tried to tighten regulation of the fast-growing army of drone operators.

Some pilots of commercial airliners have reported close calls with drones flying near airports.

Popular Mechanics reports,

About 760,000 hobbyists have registered more than 1.6 million drones since 2015, and sales have skyrocketed. The FAA estimates that hobbyists will buy 2.3 million drones this year and 13 million by the end of 2020. Commercial operators from photographers to oil pipeline and cellphone tower owners were forecast to buy another 10 million through 2020.

The FAA decided in 2015 to require hobbyists to register their drones, or model aircraft. Violators could be sentenced to prison.

The registration requirement was challenged by John A. Taylor, a drone hobbyist in the Washington, D.C., area.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with Taylor, saying that a law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2012 barred the FAA from imposing new regulations on model aircraft.

The three-judge panel said that safety was obviously important and making hobbyists register “may well help further that goal to some degree,” but it was up to Congress to repeal the ban on FAA rules for model aircraft.

A spokesman for the FAA said the agency was reviewing the decision.

The ruling demonstrated the schism in the drone world. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, whose members include big commercial drone operators and manufacturers, expressed disappointment with the court’s ruling. The group’s president, Brian Wynne, said registration “helps create a culture of safety that deters careless and reckless behavior.” He vowed to seek a legislative fix in Congress.

Some model aircraft enthusiasts had complained that the registration requirement was too burdensome.

“On balance this is probably a good thing,” said Vic Moss, a commercial photographer and drone operator in Colorado. “The FAA definitely overstepped their boundaries with the registration, and the fact that they called it an emergency action didn’t help them look good.”

Moss was worried, however, that the issue was so contentious that the FAA might successfully lobby Congress for clear authority to regulate hobbyists.

Registration cost $5 and had to be renewed every three years. It required owners to mark aircraft with an identification number and imposed civil and criminal penalties on those who did not comply.

Taylor also challenged FAA restrictions on where drones can operate in the Washington area. The court said that appeal was filed too late.

Legislation enacted in 2015 made Maryland one of only three states to grant the state government exclusive power to regulate drone usage, preempting municipalities and counties from enacting their own ordinances. MACo opposed this legislation as a preemption of county authority, and was able to secure an amendment to assess the need for new laws or local tools after three years of industry maturation.

MACo, along with the Maryland State Police, are among the stakeholders charged with evaluating any safety or security problems arising from drone use as the industry expands in the years ahead. The stakeholder group will report its findings to the governor in 2018.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Drones Must be Registered Under New Federal Rule

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: General Assembly Passes Drone Bill With Study Amendment

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: To Detect, Deter, & Stop Unsafe Drone Use

Garrett’s Budget Shows Modest Growth

Garrett County’s budget proposal includes modest growth to an operating budget of $74.9 million.  

Garrett County’s fiscal year 2018 budget includes a slight increase in the county’s operating budget, and $2.7 million increase in capital funding from the fiscal year 2017 budget.

As described by the County government’s mission statement,
The mission of Garrett County Government is to provide our citizens the highest quality service in a timely, efficient, and courteous manner. . . To totally achieve this goal, this government must be operated in an open and accessible atmosphere, be based on comprehensive and strategic long-term and short-term planning, and have an appropriate managerial organization of fiscal responsibility.

Total General Fund Operating Budget

  • $74,875,707, an increase of $449,987 or 0.6%, from the FY17 general fund operating budget

Education Funding

  • At maintenance of effort


  • No changes to taxes

Government Employee Salaries

  • 1% increase to scale

For more information, see Garrett County’s Budget Office.

Too Good to Miss: #MACoCon Session Descriptions Now Available

MACo’s highly anticipated “You’re Hired!” Summer Conference Registration Brochure is now available – with the full schedule and session descriptions.


SC17 Brochure Cover - final

You’re Hired!

August 16-19, 2017
Roland Powell Convention Center
Ocean City, MD

The theme –  “You’re Hired!” – will focus on Maryland’s wealth of opportunities in industries such as technology, the military, clean energy, the environment, agriculture, and education. Counties play a vital role in creating, maintaining, and growing the jobs in our state. Conference sessions will discuss trending data, best practices, and partnership opportunities to help counties attract and benefit from new jobs and keep our economy on an upward climb.


#MACoCon Fast Facts:

  • Estimated 2,000+ participants: local government officials, county staff decision-makers, legislators, business representatives, and exhibitors
  • 30+ educational sessions
  • 250 exhibiting companies
  • Wednesday Tech Expo will give attendees the chance to explore Biotech and Virtual Reality and what these technologies mean for Maryland counties
  • Splash Dash 5K and Fun Run/Walk offers a fun and healthy networking activity while giving your county the chance to win $5,000 for a charity of its choice!
  • Participants will learn about:
    • Technological advances to help them solve common government issues
    • Cyber-related trends to notice and threats they should avoid
    • Strategic partners available at all levels of government and the private sector, so that Maryland’s counties can be leaders on the digital frontier of local governance

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:


Back by Popular Demand: Tech Expo Makes #MACoCon Wednesday a MUST

MD Tech CouncilMACo and the Maryland Tech Council are proud to present the Tech Expo on Wednesday of Summer Conference for intense hands-on training in new and developing technologies.

MACo’s 2017 Summer Conference will focus on counties as employers and as employer magnets, drivers of the economy. As always, the conference will feature 4 days of  educational sessions along with meetings, briefings, and a 2-day tradeshow of 220+ exhibiting companies. View the registration brochure.

To add to the learning opportunities, MACo is planning a Tech Expo for Wednesday, August 16. Partnering with the Maryland Tech Council, MACo is proud to bring our attendees two Deep Dive sessions focusing on Biotech and Virtual Reality. Participants will learn what’s next for county governments on the technology frontier. The sessions will be very in-depth and interactive.

robotTechnology vendors will be highlighted through a special 50-booth one-day table-top exhibit show on Wednesday. Vendors will participate in a fast-paced IGNITE! Switch Pitch session where county officials will have the opportunity to name a technology need or challenge and have the vendors respond with possible solutions they can provide.

More information will be available soon, but the Deep Dive sessions are developing quickly:

BIOTECH BAIT: Can Maryland Net a Boom in Biotechnology?
Maryland counties have a big stake in a potential boom of the biotechnology industry – if Maryland lands it. What is the county role in making Maryland an international hub for biotech? In this session, industry leaders share what they are looking for when they scope new locations, and what they need to grow in the land of crabs and corn.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017 | 12:45 pm – 1:45 pm

Headsets On: Get Ready for Virtual Reality and the Social Shake-Up
Virtual reality is one of the hottest and most mysterious types of tech. Virtual reality’s tempting serum, poured over snowballing social media use, could turn the way that government interfaces with the public into one heck of a snow cone. VR applications for county governments already include tourism, economic development, and information science, with more to come. Join this session to hear more about the opportunities presented by virtual reality and its integration with county services.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017 | 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

You don’t want to miss this new and exciting offering – be sure you register for either a Wednesday-only or a Full Conference registration through our registration website.

There is no additional fee to participate in the Expo – it comes with your Wednesday or Full registration!

VENDORS: Interested in being showcased in this special Wednesday-only table-top tradeshow? You’ll like the price. View the Tech Expo Brochure.
Register online as a vendor or contact Leslie today – spaces are limited!

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Annapolis Struggles to Balance Growth With Traffic, Quality of Life Issues

A Capital Gazette article (2017-05-07) highlighted the ongoing challenges a developed area faces as it continues to plan and grow. The article focused on the city of Annapolis, and the struggle the municipality faces as it seeks to balance its existing quality of life against the need for further growth and development. According to the article, Annapolis is facing significant residential growth:

Based on the city’s most recent report, there are 689 proposed residential units in the development pipeline and city officials expect more growth as developers feel more confidence in the economy.

That number — listed in the April monthly report — doesn’t include retirement communities, which could bring another influx of 529 age-restricted units for retiring seniors or those that need health care. Those projects are listed on the report, but their unit counts aren’t listed as they are not traditional residential properties. That number also doesn’t include new developments near Annapolis, such as the 293-unit apartment complex behind the Double T Diner.

The article described the strains large developments can place on traffic and services while at the same time providing new tax revenue and a shield against rising property taxes. The article discussed the city’s recent push for requiring impact studies that take into account other approved developments, as well as the need for a comprehensive look at development:

This prevents developments from building in a vacuum, [Annapolis Chief of Comprehensive Planning Sally] Nash said. As for the comprehensive plan, it’s Nash’s job to ensure it is met when approving developments.

That can be a challenge when the comprehensive plan has conflicting goals, such as pushing for the city to have 50 percent tree canopy while also targeting areas, some of which have forested acres, as places for potential growth.

“It’s a balance,” Nash said. …

Some of the struggles with the slew of development is in large part due to older projects that have been moving through the development pipeline, said Mayor Mike Pantelides.

These new developments show that Annapolis is a desirable place to be, but there needs to be consideration on the size of the incoming projects, like Parkeside Preserve, which are too big, said Pantelides. …

“I’m certainly not happy with the way things are going,” Pantelides said. “These large, massive ones, at the end of the day it doesn’t benefit the residents of Annapolis.”

A greater focus needs to be placed on the potential for growth as well as projects that have already applied, said Alderman Ross Arnett, D-Ward 8. …

“One of the problems is that when planning looks at things, they only take on what has been applied for,” Arnett said. “They don’t take a comprehensive approach to looking at traffic.”

The article also discussed the City’s beginning of its Forest Drive Sector Study, which will take a long-term development approach to setting zoning around Forest Drive, Bay Ridge Road, Aris T. Allen Boulevard, and Eastport.


Post Op-Ed Supports Hogan’s Mid-West Power Plant Request to EPA

In a Washington Post op-ed (2017-05-12) environmental authors Richard Revesz and Jack Lienke supported Governor Larry Hogan’s request to  the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requiring certain coal plants in mid-western states to use their pollution-control technology during May through September.  As the op-ed notes, a significant amount of Maryland’s ozone pollution comes from out-of-state, with power plants being the main culprit. From the op-ed:

The problem isn’t that Maryland has failed to reduce ozone-forming emissions within its borders. The problem is that a great deal of Maryland’s ozone pollution — as much as 70 percent on some days — originates in other states. That’s why, last November, Maryland’s Department of the Environment formally petitioned the EPA to force 36 coal-fired power plant units in five upwind states — Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — to reduce their emissions of ozone-forming nitrogen oxides.

Maryland is legally entitled to this relief. The Clean Air Act explicitly requires states to ensure that no pollution sources in their jurisdiction “contribute significantly” to another state’s inability to meet federal air-quality standards. …

Furthermore, Maryland’s demands are far from burdensome. It doesn’t expect the power plants named in its petition to install expensive new pollution-control technology. The plants have the necessary equipment. Maryland just wants them to use it more often. Specifically, it wants the plants to operate emissions controls every day from May through September. Maryland knows that running controls this frequently is feasible; its own plants have been required to do so since 2015. …

[Even]Pruitt has conceded that, when a pollution problem crosses state lines, federal intervention is sometimes the only viable solution. In this case, coal plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are hurting the people of Maryland, and Maryland’s elected officials do not have the power to stop them. Scott Pruitt does. He should use it.

MACo’s Weekly County News & Notes…from Twitter

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:

Follow MACo
Follow Executive Director Michael Sanderson
Follow NACo
See Tweets on #mdpolitics

Lace Up Your Running Shoes to Win $5K for Charity at #MACoCon

MACo Summer Conference Splash Dashsplash dash image
5K and Fun Run/Walk

Thursday, August 17, 2017
6:30 am – 8:00 am
Ocean City Inlet to 17th St (and back)

LEAD SPONSOR: MD-DE-DC Beverage Association

Join MACo Summer Conference participants and others for a fun and healthy networking opportunity on Thursday, August 17. Run or walk as an individual or as part of a county team, but be sure you get out there and enjoy the boardwalk, some friendly competition, and the waters, sports drinks, and other soft drinks provided by the MD-DE-DC Beverage Association.


County teams will have the opportunity to race in competition to earn $5,000 for a charity in their county. Each county may select ONE TEAM of THREE racers. The team with the lowest average race time will win!

Prizes and medals will also be awarded to individual racers by age group.


  • MACo Member Individual Participant Race Fee: $20
  • MACo Member County Team Race Fee (covers 3 racers): $45
  • Early Registration Deadline (fees increase after this date): July 14, 2017
  • Online Registration:


What are you waiting for? Register today!


Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Washington County’s Budget Proposal Benefits from Improving Tax Base


Screenshot 2017-05-18 16.24.30As described by Washington County’s Commissioners,

The 2018 Washington County budget totals $315,651,550 which is $15,093,010 or 5.02% above the 2017 approved budget. The budget was balanced based on the following changes and objectives:

  1. Increase in property tax assessable base
  2. Increases in local income tax revenue
  3. Educational funding
  4. Public safety funding
  5. Infrastructure and personnel

There were several issues which the County faced regarding the 2018 budgets. Main issues involved public safety, education, economic development initiatives, and infrastructure funding. In addition, the County is required to fund increases as a result of Federal and State mandates enacted over local governments. Reductions in Highway User revenue shares have also impacted the County’s road maintenance program. Emergency services have been and will continue to be a major issue facing the County in regards to service levels and funding. Even with these difficult and complex issues, the County still presents a budget that provides existing and new service levels with no increase in the property tax or income tax rates which have been held at the same rate for eighteen years.

Here is a snapshot of the proposed budget:

Total Operating General Fund Budget

  • $221.8 million, 4.75% more than the 2017 budget

Education Funding

  • Funded at the required maintenance of effort amount


  • No change in tax rates

Government Employee Salaries

  •  5% employee COLA (cost of living adjustment), which is offset by retirement savings turnover

For more information, see the Citizen’s Guide to the Budget.

Talbot Proposal Overrides Property Tax Cap to Fund Education


As described by Talbot County, in the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget,

In order to fund expenses for the public school system, the Talbot County Council has proposed to override the voter imposed Property Tax Revenue Cap. This is authorized by State law in order to fund Education expenses only. This budget proposes to override the tax cap by $1,171,900, the increased amount over last year’s funding, which correlates to an increase of 1.59¢ in the Real Property Tax rate.

The county would still maintain two of the lowest tax rates (property and income) in the state, according to the budget presentation.

Screenshot 2017-05-18 16.03.01
Talbot County highlights it proposed property tax increase.

Here is a snapshot of the proposed budget:

Total General Fund Budget

  • $83.5 million, 5.18% increase from FY2017

Education Funding

  • Funds $1.1 million for education in non-recurring expenses in addition to the required maintenance of effort amount


  • Proposes to override property tax revenue cap with an increase of 1.59 cents in the real property tax rate to fund education

Government Employee Salaries

  • Provides step increase for full time county employees

For more information, see:

FY 2018 Proposed Budget Summary

FY 2018 Budget Introduction PowerPoint

FY 20018 Proposed Budget Workbook