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FY2018 Budget/Fiscal Links: County Effects | Fiscal Briefing | Two Year Charts | Overview of State Aid | County Revenue Outlook | Local Government Finances & Demographics

 

Under Veto Threat, Senate Advances Bill to Limit School Reforms

Under a veto threat from Governor Larry Hogan, the Maryland Senate passed a bill Tuesday to limit how the state defines and takes over struggling schools.

The House and Senate would need to work out the differences in their versions before sending the bill to Governor Hogan, who has vowed to veto it. Both chambers, however, passed the bill with enough votes to override a veto.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

Advocates pressed for the legislation as a way to prevent the governor and state school board from enacting controversial reforms Hogan recommended as Maryland seeks to meet new federal requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Among the most hotly contested issues were whether the General Assembly should forbid the state school board from putting all failing schools into a single “reform” district, turning those struggling public schools into charters or granting their students vouchers to attend private schools.

In addition to saying the bill thwarts the executive branch’s authority, Hogan said it jeopardizes nearly $250 million in federal aid for the state’s poorest schools, a scenario first raised by the nonpartisan legislative analysts that advise the General Assembly.

Supporters of the bill say they believe the plan would be compliant with the federal law and the funds wouldn’t be at risk.

They say they must act now, before the Maryland State Board of Education adopts policies that lawmakers dislike in advance of a September deadline to comply with federal law. Top advocates say they’re setting broad policy and leaving details to the school board, likening the measure to “guard rails” that would take the most controversial options for helping struggling schools off the table.

The lengthy and complicated legislation defines how much the state should rely on testing when determining if schools are failing. It also rules out letting private operators take over public schools at the state’s direction.

Under the federal education law, which replaced No Child Left Behind, the state must identify the Maryland’s most persistently struggling schools, including the bottom 5 percent of schools with high poverty rates known as Title I schools and high schools that don’t graduate at least two-thirds of their students.

Hogan said in a statement that hamstringing state education experts, as he says the state legislation would do for political reasons, is a “moral outrage” that is “designed to hide the failures of school leaders and administrators who have been operating these schools for years at the expense of the very children they claim to be serving.

“Every child in Maryland deserves a great education, regardless of which neighborhood they happen to grow up in, but this legislation would make that nearly impossible,” Hogan said.

Republicans attempted to filibuster debate in the Senate, with the Minority Leader J.B. Jennings attempting to read more than 380 pages of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Democrats used their super-majority to vote to limit debate after more than an hour of discussion.

Useful Links

The Baltimore Sun Article

House Bill 978 / Senate Bill 871

Coordinated Efforts Enforce Against Human Trafficking

An article in Stateline, a publication of Pew Charitable Trusts, highlights the ways that truckers and hotel workers can help tip off police to possible cases of human trafficking. For more information see How Truckers, Hotel Workers Can Fight Sex Trafficking, from Pew Charitable Trusts.

 

This year’s General Assembly is considering legislation to require the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to expand its curriculum to include special training on the criminal laws concerning human trafficking, including services and support available to victims and the rights and appropriate treatment of victims. SB 220 has passed the Senate unanimously and is now in the House of Delegates.

According to analysis by the Department of Legislative Services,

The various local government agencies that conduct police entrance-level training and in-service training may need to modify existing training programs to meet the bill’s requirements. Some local governments can modify their training programs with existing resources, while others may incur some additional minimal costs.

At MACo’s Winter Conference last December, the Women of MACo hosted a speaker on human trafficking and how local laws can help stop human trafficking.

Learn more about the events and offerings at MACo’s Summer Conference:

Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Awards – Nominations Due April 10, 2017

It’s not too late to nominate exemplary individuals, organizations, exhibits, program, and products that contribute significantly to the community by interpreting, promoting, preserving, researching and/or supporting the Lower Eastern Shore historical legacy with a Heritage Award. Nominations are due April 10.

Categories Include:

  • The Heritage Award
  • The Legacy Award
  • Best New Heritage Initiative
  • Heritage Interpretation
  • Heritage Interpreter of the Year
  • Heritage Tourism Program or Event
  • Tee O’Connor Heritage Professional Award

The award winners will be guests of LESHC and recognized with a special award in a ceremony at the LESHC Annual Luncheon Meeting May 3, 2017 at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.

Click here for nomination guidelines and form. Email nominations to: info@lowershoreheritage.org.

DNR, U.S. Navy Partner with St. Mary’s County to Develop New Waterfront Park

The Board of Public Works (BPW) recently unanimously approved a program open space acquisition on 163 acres in St. Mary’s County to provide for the development of both active and passive recreational opportunities, and important water access to the Patuxent River.

According to DNR’s press release,

The property, known as the Snow Hill Farm, will be owned and managed by St. Mary’s County.

“This partnership among local, state and national entities translates to an extraordinary opportunity to help develop a new waterfront park in Southern Maryland,” Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “The property will provide expansive and extensive shoreline and beach areas, a protected cove, a motorized boat launch and plenty of open space for more passive recreational pursuits. It will be ideal for canoeing, fishing, hiking, kayaking, picnicking and more.”

The Program Open Space acquisition was leveraged with funding from the Department of Natural Resources, St. Mary’s County and the U.S. Navy. The $1.5 million acquisition is being shared among the partners with the Navy contributing $383,553 through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program in exchange for a conservation easement on the property.

Program Open Space is a nationally-recognized program that symbolizes Maryland’s long term commitment to conserving the state’s natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities for citizens and visitors alike. Since 1969, the program has provided funding for acquisition of 378,731 acres for open space.

Operating Budget Finalized: $8.8m in New Highway User, SDAT Cost Shift Dead

The General Assembly is passing House Bill 150, the Budget Bill and the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2017 (BRFA) in what could be record time this session – this morning, both chambers approved the Conference Committee report, when the Conference Committee was only just appointed last Friday. Of importance to counties:

SDAT Cost Shift Officially Dead 

Both the Senate and House budget subcommittees voted to reject the Governor’s proposal to make counties responsible for nearly all operating costs for the assessment and directorial functions of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) – 70 percent in fiscal 2018, and 90 percent for every year thereafter. The Conference Committee did not overturn those decisions, taking this cost shift officially off the table for good.

Highway User: More Than Last Year, But Less Than Proposed

The Conference Committee adopted the Senate’s position to reduce the Governor’s proposal to provide transportation capital grants to counties. Counties’ share was reduced from $27.4 million to $12.8 million.  This includes $4 million of capital grants which counties have received since fiscal 2016. Baltimore City’s share was maintained at $5.5 million, and municipalities’ share remains at $20.1 million. Bottom line: 23 counties will receive $8.8 million in additional local transportation aid from last year.

In addition, for FY18 only, “highway user revenues distributed to Baltimore City may be used to pay or finance students’ costs of discounted Maryland Transit Administration fares for eligible public school students in Baltimore City.”

FY18 Transportation Grants
Transportation grants are in addition to the formulaic highway user revenue distributions.

New Statutory Language Restricts Local Transportation Aid

In response to concerns expressed by the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) regarding the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT)’s programming of local transportation aid, the Conference Committee adopted BRFA language prohibiting MDOT from programming capital transportation grants to local governments in the Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) beyond the budget request year.  The new language is intended to address concerns expressed by DLS that the Governor’s “capital grants” are titled incorrectly and programmed inappropriately in out years. It states:

Except as authorized by law, the Consolidated Transportation Program may not include capital transportation grants to counties or municipal corporations for any period beyond the budget request year ….

For the period beyond the budget request year, the financial forecast:

  1. Shall maximize the use of funds for the capital program; and
  2. Except as authorized by law, may not withhold or reserve funds for capital transportation grants to counties or municipal corporations.

Disparity Grants Restored, Then Cut $2.4 Million

The Governor’s budget funded disparity grants at fiscal 2017 levels. The Conference Committee rejected that flat funding provision, but also reduced the minimum grant amount from 67.5% to 63.75% of the disparity grant calculation provided in fiscal 2018 only. This reduces the total disparity grant amounts under the statutory formula for fiscal 2018 by $2.4 million.

The Conference Committee also adopted the Senate’s proposal to restrict funding for disparity grants for jurisdictions receiving an increase until the Maryland State Department of Education certifies that each jurisdiction has increased local spending on public schools above the Maintenance of Effort (MOE). The Conference Committee specified, however, that increased allocations to public schools under this language will not increase MOE requirements in fiscal 2019. The report language is available here.

Relieved From Mandate Relief 

Both chambers agreed to strike the Governor’s “mandate relief” proposal, which would have capped the growth of most formulaic appropriations at projected general fund revenue growth, less 1.0%.

MACo will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Conference Committee Summary Report

Conference Committee Full Report: Budget Bill

Cecil County Executive McCarthy Streamlines Land Use and Development Services

Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy recently announced that services delivered in three different departments will be combined and housed under one new department, to be called the Department of Land Use and Development Services.

According to the county press release,

In accordance with this reorganization and consolidation, services provided by Planning & Zoning, Permits & Inspections and the plans review function of the Department of Public Works will all be combined as divisions within the new Department of Land Use and Development Services.

Dr. McCarthy states, “This reorganization will result in greater efficiency with the plans review and permitting processes by bringing all employees that administer this function together in one place.”

Currently, depending upon the type and approval phase of a construction project, constituents must conduct business in three different county offices.  Feedback provided by developers and construction companies strongly suggest that this consolidation and reorganization will streamline and simplify the development process, and be generally well received.

There are efficiencies realized through this new organization resulting in a reduction of one current position and the reclassification of some existing positions.  It is expected that further efficiencies resulting in increased savings will occur as this new organization plan is evaluated.  It is expected that the Department of Land Use and Developmental Services will be fully operational on or about May 1, 2017.

Looking for a Big Exhibitor Opportunity? Exhibit with MACo!

MACo’s Summer Conference Exhibitor Registration is Now Open!

EXHIBITOR BROCHURE  | ONLINE EXHIBITOR REGISTRATION

The 2017 MACo Summer Conference offers the potential to bring exhibitors big results. County governments are searching for vendors offering virtually every business function and service found in Maryland. From logistics to printing, finance to office administration, training to trash removal – county governments are looking for YOU! Or your competitors.

Needless to say, if you want to do business with Maryland’s counties, you should exhibit at the MACo Summer Conference. For more details and to fill out the application form, download our MACo 2017 Summer Conference Exhibitor Brochure or register online here.

Interested in a FREE premium booth in the entrance aisle? Contact Kaley at 410.269.0043 or kschultze@mdcounties.org to find out how to get one! (HURRY – only a few left!)

The theme of this year’s Summer Conference – “You’re Hired!” – will focus on Maryland’s new jobs growth and the wealth of opportunities in industries such as technology, manufacturing, 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.

Benefits of being a MACo Summer Conference Exhibitor:

  • Exhibitor description and contact information displayed on MACo’s conference mobile app and website!
  • Create a 30-second video clip to be displayed as part of our online Virtual Exhibitor Showcase. The Showcase is available for viewing to everyone—conference participants and others—and goes online one month prior to conference to help participants get acquainted with your company’s services
  • Each booth will receive a list of conference attendees and their contact information
  • Exhibitors may participate in all MACo conference sessions at no additional charge
  • Table draping for your booth is included!
  • Each booth receives 2 tickets for Thursday and Friday lunches, Thursday afternoon Ice Cream and Fruit Break, and for the Thursday evening Taste of Maryland Reception
  • Additional tickets for the social events are available to exhibitors at the County Member rate (our lowest rate!)
  • Exhibitors may sign up for the Golf Tournament (additional fee and registration required)

Nearly 2,000 people are estimated to attend this conference, including: County Executives, Council Members, and Commissioners; county staff from all county departments; business representatives; Senators and Delegates; Congressmen; State and Federal officials and staff; basically, anyone who has anything to do with local government in Maryland!

Don’t miss this opportunity to show what your company can do for Maryland’s counties!

Read more about our Summer Conference exhibit halls in the brochure.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Sanctuary Cities, Maryland Could Lose Federal Justice Grant Dollars

The Attorney General announces that sanctuary cities could lose federal Department of Justice funding, with a specific mention of legislation pending in Maryland.

The Attorney General released a statement today, available on the Department of Justice website. In part, he states,

DUIs, assaults, burglaries, drug crimes, gang crimes, rapes, crimes against children and murders.  Countless Americans would be alive today – and countless loved ones would not be grieving today – if the policies of these sanctuary jurisdictions were ended.

Not only do these policies endanger the lives of every American; just last May, the Department of Justice Inspector General found that these policies also violate federal law.

The President has rightly said that this disregard for the law must end.  In his executive order, he stated that it is the policy of the executive branch to ensure that states and cities comply with all federal laws, including our immigration laws.

The order also states that “the Attorney General and the Secretary [of Homeland Security] . . . shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply” with the law “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.”

According to The Hill, state and local governments seeking Justice Department grants must certify they are not “sanctuary cities.”

Sessions also called on Maryland to scrap any movement toward becoming a sanctuary state. Legislation is making its way through the state legislature.

“That would be such a mistake,” he said.

“I would plead with the people of Maryland to understand this makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime, that it’s not good policy.”

The Maryland bill in question, HB 1362, set explicit parameters limiting state and local agencies and officials from cooperating with federal immigration efforts. As introduced the bill broadly prohibited government agents from assisting federal agents, releasing information, and responding to notifications so long as those actions were taken for immigration enforcement purposes.

HB 1362 passed out of the House with amendments that significantly curtailed a number of provisions within the bill. As amended the bill prohibits government participation in federal immigration efforts unless there is a judicial warrant. The bill now sits within the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee which has not yet taken any action on it or its crossfile SB 835. Governor Hogan has stated he would veto the bill. MACo opposed HB 1362 as its stringent limitations would create logistical and public safety challenges that have far-reaching and significant consequences for local governments.

For more information, see Sessions says grants to be withheld from sanctuary cities from The Hill, Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks Announcing Sanctuary Jurisdictions from the Department of Justice, and Revised immigration Trust Act moves forward in House from The Baltimore Sun.

Montgomery County Council Responds to Email Address Publication

As reported by the Washington Post, last week “more than 200,000 email addresses of people receiving newsletters and other information from the county government were made public on the county’s website.”

The County Council responded by asking their attorney to remove from public view many of the email addresses, and one council member has drafted an amendment to the 2012 Open Government Law that required the disclosure, according to the Post.

For more information, see Too much transparency? Montgomery balks at publishing residents’ email addresses (limited free views available) from the Washington Post.

House Passes “Public Integrity Act” Unanimously

A Baltimore Sun article (2017-03-24) reported that the Maryland House of Delegates unanimously passed legislation (HB 879) on March 24 that would tighten conflict of interest, lobbying, and public ethics laws for state legislative and executive branch officials. The legislation follows the formal reprimand of Delegate Dan Morhaim for failing to disclose that he had a contingent employment agreement with a medical cannabis company while advocating on medical cannabis issues before the Maryland General Assembly.

The legislation would explicitly prohibit such conduct, limit the ability of legislative and certain executive officials to lobby immediately after leaving office, require greater disclosure about income generated by spouses, and create an independent citizen ethics advisory board. From the article:

Gov. Larry Hogan sought an even more sweeping rewrite of the rules that would have subjected legislators’ conduct to oversight by an executive branch commission [HB 438/SB 253]. The attorney general’s office advised that such a move would probably violate the state constitution by breaching the separation between different branches of government.

Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan, said the bill as passed represented a compromise that the Republican governor’s office was happy to see moving forward.

“We see this as a definite step forward and a move in the right direction after some very high-profile indictments and public ethical lapses that will help restore the trust the public deserves to have in their institutions of government,” he said.

Alexandra Hughes, House Speaker Michael E. Busch’s chief of staff, said Busch was pleased that he and the governor could combine ideas to produce “one of the strongest ethics bills in years.”

“This legislation will provide greater transparency to the public and tighten conflict of interest laws for greater public confidence in elected officials in the executive and legislative branches,” she said.

The bill’s cross-file, SB 683, was heard by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 3 and no further action has been taken on the bill since the hearing.

Useful Links

HB 879 / SB 683 of 2017

HB 438 / SB 253 of 2017