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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

Montgomery Situation Highlights Tension Between Transparency & Privacy

A Washington Post article (2017-03-26) highlighted the challenges counties and all levels of government face when deciding how to balance the mutually exclusive but worthwhile goals of transparency and privacy. The article focused on the decision of the Montgomery County Council to request  that more than 200,000 email addresses of people receiving County newsletters be removed from the County’s open government portal, DataMontgomery. The Council adopted legislation in 2012 that created the portal and requires a large amount of county data to be made available online. From the article:

A five-member majority of council members — [Hans Reimer (D-At Large)], Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), Sidney Katz (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg), Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty) and Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) — ordered their attorney to pull back from public view more than 90,000 of the email addresses published on DataMontgomery , the portal created under Riemer’s [2012 open government] bill. The bill required publication on the portal of any information released through a Maryland Public Information Act request. …

“This is like a treasure trove for marketers,” agreed Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), who was not one of the five. Publication of the addresses, he said, could have created a “chilling effect” that would prevent many of the county’s 1 million residents from interacting with local government.

Pulling the email addresses violated the 2012 law, which is similar to new open-government statutes in other states and localities. Riemer said the decision was forced by “exigent circumstances” and argued that the public interest served by mass distribution of the addresses was outweighed by privacy concerns.

The article noted that Reimer was preparing an amendment to the 2012 open government law that would exclude email disclosures. The article contained the opinion of Future of Privacy Forum Vice President for Policy John Verdi, who stated that balancing transparency and privacy was an increasingly common challenge for governments.

“Everybody agrees that transparent government is a good thing,” said Verdi, a former Obama administration official who worked on privacy issues. “You have data that is purely government data, and data appropriately excluded by public information laws. Then you get the gray area in the middle, where an increasingly important question being asked is about the right balance between openness and privacy.”

Verdi said Montgomery’s experience “highlights government’s responsibility to provide notice to folks that information they submit might be made public.”

The article also provided further background on the Public Information Act request that led to the disclosure of the email addresses. The initial request was made by MocoVoters, a grass-roots group focused on voter turnout and development issues. Since receiving the email addresses, MoCoVoters has decided not to use them but instead build its membership through social media.

Useful Links

DataMontgomery Website

Future of Privacy Forum Website

Governor Larry Hogan to Release Second Supplemental Budget

Governor Larry Hogan announced Sunday that the administration has reached an agreement with state leaders and is proposing over $23 million dollars of state funding for Baltimore City Public Schools, with another $5 million for several other counties.

According to a press release,

Governor Larry Hogan today announced that his administration has reached an agreement with leaders in the Maryland General Assembly and Baltimore City to provide additional state funding to Baltimore City Public Schools, contingent upon new fiscal accountability requirements for the school system.

The governor will submit a second supplemental budget, which will include $28.2 million in additional funding for K-12 public schools in Allegany ($793,000), Calvert ($240,000), Carroll ($1.6 million), Cecil ($190,000), Garrett ($456,000), Harford ($356,000), Kent ($215,000), Queen Anne’s ($22,000), Somerset ($455,000), and Talbot ($133,000) Counties, and Baltimore City ($23.7 million). The supplemental budget will be submitted to the legislature on Monday, March 27.

The release of funds for Baltimore City public schools is contingent on the passage of legislation requiring greater fiscal accountability, including a comprehensive audit of the city school system performed by an independent accountant in consultation with the Maryland Department of Budget and Management. These accountability requirements are the direct result of extensive discussions and negotiations by the Hogan administration, the legislature, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh, and Baltimore City School Superintendent Dr. Sonja Santelises.

Governor Hogan submitted his first supplemental budget on March 24, which provided additional funding to combat the state’s heroin epidemic, support education and economic development initiatives, and address public safety needs.

The second supplemental budget provides a temporary remedy to address “cliff effect” funding decreases due to declining enrollment and/or rising property values. MACo supports HB  684 / SB 1024 – State Grants for Education Aid, which would provide additional grant funding for counties facing decreased state education funding.

Useful Links

Governor’s Press Release

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Why Do Five Jurisdictions Lose $45M In Education Funds?

MACo Testimony on HB 684

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Hogan Proposes Supplemental Budget: Funds Included For Police, Colleges

Pugh Vetoes $15 Minimum Wage Bill

Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoed legislation Friday that would have raised the minimum wage in Baltimore to $15 by 2022, leaving the measure’s future in question.

The Baltimore City Council — which next meets on April 3 — would need 12 of its 15 members to vote to overturn the veto. On Friday, the 12-member coalition that originally backed the higher wage began to disband.

From The Baltimore Sun,

Councilman Edward Reisinger of South Baltimore said although he voted to pass the bill, he would not support a veto override. Over the next seven years, the Pugh administration estimated the bill would cost the city $116 million, including the expense of paying city workers a higher minimum wage.

Reisinger said the cost is especially concerning given the city’s outstanding fiscal challenges: a $20 million deficit, a $130 million schools budget shortfall and new spending obligations associated with the U.S. Department of Justice’s police consent decree.

“The mayor has some very persuasive arguments,” Reisinger said. “Baltimore City doesn’t have a money tree.”

Pugh also was concerned that requiring employers in the city to pay a higher minimum wage could send them fleeing to surrounding jurisdictions. That would worsen unemployment in the city and make it harder for low-skilled workers and ex-offenders to get jobs, she said.

She emphasized that Baltimore’s minimum wage is increasing along side the rate statewide. The rate in Maryland will rise to $9.25 on July 1 and $10.10 a year later.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the city that we follow the state,” Pugh said.

The City Council voted 11-3 to pass the minimum wage bill Monday. Councilman Brandon Scott also supported the measure but didn’t cast a vote because he was traveling overseas.

The pro-business Greater Baltimore Committee’s president, Don Fry, praised Pugh’s decision. The measure “threatened jobs, made Baltimore an island surrounded by counties with lower business costs and hit the city budget with millions of dollars in higher labor costs it simply cannot afford.”

“The decision was no doubt a difficult one for the mayor,” Fry said in a statement. “But this shows real leadership as she stayed true to the priority that Baltimore must remain competitive for growth and jobs.”

Advocates pushing for the higher wage decried Pugh’s action as a broken promise.

“We are deeply upset that Mayor Pugh has broken her campaign pledge by vetoing this legislation, which promises to give tens of thousands of workers higher wages and the opportunity to lead self-sufficient lives,” said Ricarra Jones, chairwoman of the Fight for $15 Baltimore Coalition, in a statement.

“As a state senator, Mayor Pugh was a strong supporter of a livable minimum wage and explicitly promised to sign the Baltimore wage bill as mayor. Today, she has made clear that promises are made to be broken. The voters will remember her turn-around.”

Jones noted that during last year’s campaign, Pugh said she would support a $15 minimum wage bill as mayor on a union questionnaire.

“Yes, I would. I am aware of the current initiative to raise the minimum wage in the City Council to $15 per hour and when it reaches my desk I will sign it,” Pugh wrote.

Asked Friday about her response to the questionnaire, Pugh said she has been faced with significant unanticipated expenses since taking office in December, including the schools budget deficit.

“I don’t think they make you swear on the Bible,” Pugh said. “They ask you if you would support it, and I do support it. But you ask me as a chief executive officer of this city what I would do as it relates to the conditions of the city currently, and where we are economically, I have a right and responsibility to respond on behalf of all of the citizens of this city.”

Pugh noted that legislation to increase the minimum wage statewide is before the General Assembly.

“While it may not take place this year or next year, I will follow the lead of the state,” she said.

Read the full article for more information.

March 31 Deadline for “One Time” School Spending Designation Approaching

As counties and school boards start building their FY 2018 budgets, a state deadline for one-time cost approvals approaches. A MACo guide helps county officials navigate the process.
State funding laws intended to encourage education spending, may discourage it by complicating the structure of funding and requiring certain submissions on a timeline that mishmashes with county budget processes.

State “maintenance of effort” laws require a county to provide the same amount of education funding or more on a per-pupil basis each year. Maintenance of effort can discourage additional investment, especially during a faltering economic recovery, when future revenues are uncertain.

A legal provision called nonrecurring costs, however, allow county governments provide one-time school funding for one-time education costs without triggering perpetual mandates.

The hitch is: the deadline for submitting nonrecurring costs is this month – before many counties even begin budget negotiations.

Perhaps as a result of this process, on average fewer than eight counties per year take advantage of this education budgeting tool.

Not all education costs are annually recurring per-student costs. One-time education expenses might include costs to:

  • build new computer laboratories;
  • make technology enhancements;
  • start-up new instructional programs; or
  • purchase books for a school library

The mechanism for appropriately excluding these one-time education costs from the maintenance of effort calculation requires special approval. A county must submit an application to exclude certain costs to the State Board for their approval before March 31 of each year.Screenshot 2016-01-18 17.22.16

Data from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) in 2014 revealed that on average fewer than eight counties per year take advantage of this budgeting tool. Learning this, MACo developed Non-Recurring Costs For County School Budgeting: A County Official’s Guide to the Process and Laws Behind the System.

In the Guide, MACo aims to improve the accessibility and use of the nonrecurring cost exclusion, covering:

  • How does a county apply to have nonrecurring costs approved?
  • What categories of costs can be considered as nonrecurring?
  • When does the school board need to agree with the request?
  • What requests have been approved and denied in recent years?

All the submission forms, statutes, regulations, and guideline documents relevant to this process are provided in appendices to the Guide.

For more information, read Non-Recurring Costs For County School Budgeting: A County Official’s Guide to the Process and Laws Behind the System.

Registration Now Open: Maryland Land Conservation Conference – June 8

Registration is now open for the 2017 Maryland Land Conservation Conference that will be held June 8 at Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center in Reisterstown, MD. This year’s conference theme is Thinking Broadly & Engaging Community – Strengthening Land Trusts for the Next Century and will feature diverse workshops and presentations that address the challenges and opportunities facing Maryland’s conservation community.

Early bird registration is $70 through Noon on April 17th. Click here to register.

The conference provides opportunity for land trusts, conservancies, local and state government agencies, heritage organizations, members of the agricultural community and other partners to network and exchange new ideas about the future of land conservation in the region. Registration includes continental breakfast, lunch, refreshments and educational sessions.

A copy of the preliminary conference program will be available soon.

Join MET for a full day of educational workshops, innovative discussions and peer-to-peer networking. For registration questions or more information about the 2017 Maryland Land Conservation Conference, please contact Tracy at metoutreach.dnr@maryland.gov.