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Legislative Issues: MACo Initiatives | Bill Tracking | MACo Testimony | Issue Papers | Committee Schedule

Hot Topics: Highway User Revenues & (LIFT4MD) | Justice Reforms | County Budgets | Education | Land Use | Transportation | Next Generation 9-1-1 | Opioids | Pensions | OPEB & Retiree Health Care

Important Documents/Links: MD General Assembly | MACo Testimony Summary | Budgets & Tax Rates | Salary Survey | Local Finances | Spending Affordability

FY2019 Budget/Fiscal Links: County Effects | Fiscal Briefing | Two Year Charts | Overview of State Aid | County Revenue Outlook Local Government Finances & Demographics

MACo Summer Conference: Register | Sponsorships | Exhibits| #MACoCon | Hotel | More Info

MACo’s PIA Initiative Bill Clears Senate Committee

MACo’s legislative initiative to “Modernize the Public Information Act” passed its Senate Committee on Tuesday, March 13, clearing its first of several hurdles toward passage.

SB 788 passed the Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee without any “NO” votes, after the Committee spent time during its voting session discussing the bill’s application and effects. At the time of this writing, the bill sits on the floor of the Senate awaiting a second reader vote, and the addition of technical amendments.

MACo is working with multiple other stakeholders – representing law enforcement, victim’s rights groups, school systems, and others – in arguing that the bill provides needed balance to laws generally dictating that public records and documents be shared with the public. Other groups that frequently oppose measures that limit public distribution of such documents (the MD/DC/DE Press Association, and Common Cause of Maryland) have indicated their comfort with this bill’s balance, and did not raise such objections to the bill (into which they contributed very substantial input).

The bill faces opposition on the Senate floor and may be subject to multiple attempts to lessen its scope or effects via floor-offered amendments. Its elements regarding footage from body cameras and similar devices are the central target of this opposition. Some legislators have expressed concern that the bill retains too much direction to provide records of body camera footage. Others have been advised by a limited group of advocates that denying such records compromises accountability in troubling circumstances like police officer misconduct (although the bill explicitly does not change the law regarding such records).

Other bill provisions include tightened assurances that personal identification information such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth should not be released, and that passive subscribers to government newsletters and mailing lists should not have their personal information released under the PIA.

Follow the progress of MACo’s initiative bill through MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.

Early Bird Window Closing on MET 2018 Conservation Conference

In an email notice (2018-03-16) the Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) announced that early bird registration was closing soon for its 2018 Maryland Land Conservation Conference. The conference will be held on May 17 from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm in Linthicum, MD. From the notice:

If you haven’t registered yet, please remember that noon March 19 is the deadline to register with te early bird rate ($70). After that, the cost increases to $85. Online registration is open and space is limited. …

Hosted at the Maritime Conference Center in Linthicum, MD; we’ll feature diverse workshops and presentations that address the challenges and opportunities facing Maryland’s conservation community.

For more information, please contact Tracy Devine at

Useful Links

2018 Maryland Land Conservation Conference Webpage

Conference Registration Webpage

Preliminary Conference Agenda

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:

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

First MD State of the Coast Conference Registration is Open!

The Department of Natural Resources Invitation:

On behalf of Governor Larry Hogan, it is my privilege to invite you to Maryland’s first conference on healthy ecosystems, resilient communities and vibrant economies. Maryland’s inaugural State of the Coast Conference – Connecting People, Innovation and Opportunity – will take place May 21-23, at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in Cambridge.

The Maryland State of the Coast Conference is taking place May 21-23, 2018 in Cambridge, MD.

The conference is being hosted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES).

The conference will serve as a platform for coastal partners and constituencies to exchange ideas and network. Attendees include regional, local, and state agencies; academic institutions; non-governmental organizations’ and all those who help manage and protect Maryland’s coastal resources.

The State of the Coast will provide an overview of the status of Maryland’s coastal resources and resource management efforts with a focus on resilient communities, economies, and ecosystems.

Review the Agenda.

Register for the Conference.

Questions? Email

Investments Come In-House with Pensions Bill

Legislation to create an investment division within the State Retirement Agency has proceeded smoothly through the Maryland Senate. The change would bring Maryland’s System into line with many other state pension systems of similar size, and could save costs in the long term.

On Thursday, March 15, a bill to create an internal investment division within the State Retirement Agency passed the Maryland Senate on what is called “second reader.” After a quiet hearing in the House, the bill passed that chamber with only a few technical amendments, and all signs now indicate that the bill will pass the General Assembly this year.

Additional amendments were described on the floor of the Senate on Thursday by Senator Guy Guzzone, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Pensions. The Senate’s amendments would establish an objective criteria committee to assist the State Pension Board in setting compensation for the Chief Investment Officer and positions in the investment division created by the bill.

As described in the fiscal note on the bill, compensation and operating expenses of the investment division are subject to appropriation from the accumulation fund of each system and are not paid by participating employers. Administrative fees, including those paid by county governments who participate in the State system, will continue to be used to support other divisions of the State Retirement Agency.

This legislation marks a major change in the State Retirement Agency, and one that could be prudent financially, resulting in better returns for the System. As described by Senator Guzzone,

“What we are trying to do is help the division perform better in each asset class. So we are giving them some authority to hire and raise salaries, commensurate with the industry. Hopefully that will lead to some success in those areas.”

For more information, see: SB 899 State Retirement and Pension System – Investment Division

General Assembly Puts the Brakes on Speed Camera Legislation

The Maryland House of Delegates has reported unfavorably on two bills creating new restrictions or requirements for local speed camera programs (HB 1151 and HB 1365).

HB 1151 of 2018

HB 1151 was sponsored by Delegate Terri Hill and would require speed camera images to show linear distance traveled by a vehicle, expand a current annual calibration requirement, require a law enforcement officer who signed the citation or the technician who conducted the annual calibration to be present in court if a defendant requests it, and creates a rebuttable presumption regarding information requests.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to the bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 1, noting that most of the bill’s provisions have been previously considered and rejected by the General Assembly. From MACo’s testimony:

HB 1151 requires a speed camera image to show an accurate representation of the linear distance traveled by a motor vehicle between each time-stamped image. This requirement was considered and rejected during discussion of the 2014 legislation. More accurate speed camera technologies, such as the laserbased LIDAR systems, rely on continuous sampling over a distance and the photographs taken by the system are designed to show that the vehicle is in motion. The images cannot be utilized to accurately show linear distance traveled over time.

Similarly, the General Assembly has consistently rejected expanding the annual calibration requirement. The current calibration process typically takes several weeks as the camera is taken out of service; packaged and shipped to an independent laboratory; taken apart, inspected, and reassembled by the laboratory; and then shipped back to the local jurisdiction. This detailed process ensures the camera is functioning correctly and accurately.

The bill’s requirement that the law enforcement officer who signed the citation or the technician who performed the annual calibration check be present and testify at trial with just 10 days of written notice is impractical, costly, and in some cases, may be impossible to meet. This is particularly true regarding the laboratory technician, who is not under the direct control of the local jurisdiction and may be located a significant distance from the jurisdiction (or even in another state).

Finally, as the bill’s fiscal note indicates, the rebuttable presumption provision will encourage citation recipients to request additional information from the local government and go to trial in District Court in the hopes of having the citation voided due to the presumption. Current law already provides for the admission of relevant evidence, including the recorded images taken by the camera, the certificate of annual calibration, and the camera’s daily self-test and set-up logs. Furthermore, all local jurisdictions must have a speed camera “ombudsman” to answer questions. Any written questions received and the ombudsman’s response are available for public inspection. The bill’s provision is excessive and unnecessary.

Joining Knapp was Montgomery County Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit Manager Richard Hetherington. Representatives from Baltimore City, the Maryland Municipal League, and the Maryland Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs’ Associations also testified in opposition to the bill.

HB 1365 of 2018

HB 1365 was sponsored Delegate William Wivell and would have altered the operational hours of speed cameras in school zones, limited the cameras to the road adjacent to the school that has the most student traffic, required a real-time posting speed limit sign next to school zone signs, and limited speed camera vendors to 30% of the total revenues generated by the program.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to the bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 2. From MACo’s testimony:

HB 1365 would limit the use of a school zone speed camera from 1 hour before to 1 hour after instructional hours on days when school is in session. This Committee has considered and rejected limiting the hours of operation in such a manner. The current Monday through Friday, 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, operational time is consistent and easy-to-understand. The current rule incorporates the primary times when most school and after-school activities occur. HB 1365’s language would create a confusing patchwork, as different jurisdictions’ schools operate on different schedules and may be closed at different times for in-service or training days.

Current law provides for rational criteria as to where speed cameras can be located within a school zone: road segments where students are walking and bicycling to or from school or where they are being picked up or dropped off by school vehicles. However, this bill would narrowly and illogically restrict speed cameras to a highway that fronts the main entrance of the school or the entrance that experiences the greatest amount of student and bus traffic. The school itself may not be the location where speeding poses the greatest risk to students, which is why the current law covers areas where the students may be traveling to and from the school.

The bill also requires that if a local jurisdiction has a school zone speed camera program, each school zone sign must be next to a device that displays a real-time posting of the speed at which the driver is traveling. This is costly and unnecessary. Current law already requires specific signage that is compliant with State Highway Administration standards. Drivers are provided with reasonable notice to check their speed.

Joining Knapp was Montgomery County Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit Manager Richard Hetherington. Representatives from the Maryland Municipal League, and the Maryland Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs’ Associations also testified in opposition to the bill.

Useful Links

HB 1151 of 2018

MACo Testimony on HB 1151

Delegate Terri Hill Webpage

HB 1365 of 2018

MACo Testimony on HB 1365

Delegate William Wivell Webpage

BGE Brings Baltimore City Electric Buses

Image of Proterra 40′ Catalyst E2 Bus, provided by Proterra

Baltimore Gas and Electric, a MACo Gold Corporate Partner, will become the first Baltimore City company to have an electric bus vehicle fleet. It will also break national ground for becoming the first utility to incorporate electric shuttle buses into its fleet of vehicles.


The new buses, 40′ Proterra Catalyst® E2 Shuttles, will transport employees between BGE’s Baltimore headquarters and its Spring Garden’s campus. The first bus was unveiled March 15, with the second bus arriving in April.

BGE’s Press Release Shares its CEO’s thoughts about the project:

Zero-emissions electric buses address so many needs, from furthering our understanding of the electric vehicle technologies our customers are using, to reducing the demand on downtown parking, to minimizing our impact on the environment. We are always looking for better ways to serve our customers, and this clean, efficient and practical transportation solution is just another example of our commitment to identifying innovative new approaches.

– Calvin G. Butler, BGE CEO

Proterra shares the excitement in its Press Release about the partnership:

Utility support of innovative electric vehicle programs and grid transformation is critical as more consumers and transit providers opt for EVs, presenting both system wide opportunities and challenges along the way. We’re grateful to partner with BGE, a utility that is thinking big about the future of electrification, and supporting BGE through this technological transition as well as optimizing around an interconnected, distributed energy future.

Ryan Popple, Proterra CEO

Proterra’s buses have zero emissions, unlike other buses their size which use 11,000 gallons of diesel fuel and produce more than 480,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year. These buses achieve 22 MPGe while diesel buses average 3.86

The Maryland Public Service Commision is currently reviewing a proposal to install 24,000 chargers thus making Maryland the second largest electric vehicle fleet in the nation.

General Assembly Passes MACo 9-1-1 Initiative

The General Assembly today took a major step towards advancing Next Generation 9-1-1 in Maryland. Senate Bill 285, sponsored by Senator Cheryl Kagan, passed the Senate unanimously on February 20. Its cross-file, House Bill 634, sponsored by Delegate Michael Jackson, passed the House of Delegates unanimously on March 15. SB 285/ HB 634 is a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative.

Maryland citizens demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows. Maryland must accelerate its move toward Next Generation 9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers.

The bill establishes the Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland. The Commission will look at the strategic aspects of Next Generation 9-1-1 implementation in coordination with the Emergency Numbers Systems Board’s (ENSB) existing efforts, particularly ensuring that those areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB are addressed. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of Next Generation 9-1-1 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Initiative: Next Gen 9-1-1 Commission Would Guide MD Forward

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Washington Post Op-Ed: Bring 9-1-1 Into the 21st Century

Conduit Street Podcast: 9-1-1 Takes Center Stage, Huge Drop of Bills Introduced, Sick Leave Law Looms, and Senate Changes Afoot

MACo testimony on Senate Bill 285

School Facility Index Sets Some Goalposts on School Construction

Senate Bill 1183 would establish educational facilities sufficiency standards and a facility condition index and use the index to rank all of Maryland’s public schools. This can help accurately inform the State and counties about what school construction needs exist here in Maryland. However, the indexing of facilities through a ranking system are a concern because it would be difficult for the index to properly take into account all of the factors and priorities that go into local decision making with school construction.

MACo offered written testimony in support with amendments of HB 1495 to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on March 15, 2018.

From MACo Testimony:

Use of a statewide facility condition index to rank facilities, as described in this bill, could also influence State funding decisions. Funding decisions based on this sort of ranking threaten to override local insight into needs and priorities. Decisions based on such a ranking could also have the unintended consequence of penalizing those school boards and counties who best protect investments through positive maintenance practices.

SB 1183 will contribute to the understanding of statewide school construction needs through a statewide facility assessment. However, the bill’s requirement to develop a facility condition index and ranking may have negative consequences. As needs are assessed, the ability of local governments to guide school construction funding priorities must be preserved.”

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.


Conduit Street Podcast: “Crossover” Coming, Fiscal Follow-Up, Body Cameras Back-And-Forth, and More!

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss the looming “crossover” deadline, review the latest on the State’s fiscal plan, break down MACo’s Legislative Initiative to modernize the Maryland Public Information Act, and look ahead as the dust begins to settle on the 2018 session. MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

“Crossover” Deadline

As the unofficial deadline for passing legislation out of its original chamber approaches, both the Senate and House are awash with lengthy agendas and long floor sessions. The “crossover” date is Monday, and bills passed out after that date will be forced to go to the Rules Committee of the second chamber, a procedural hurdle impeding their chances of final passage.

State Fiscal Plan

The Senate passed SB 185, the Budget Bill, and SB 187, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2018 (“BRFA”) – both with good news for Maryland counties.

As proposed by the Governor, the budget included shifting nearly all costs of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT)’s assessment and directorial functions to counties, forevermore. The Senate struck this language from the BRFA.

The Governor’s original proposal also included flat funding local health departments at the previous year’s levels. The Senate cut that language, too– instead increasing the funding according to the formula in existing law.

The Senate has also approved all funds included in the original budget for local roads funding: $178.1 million in highway user revenues, in addition to $53.7 million in additional local transportation grants. This includes a full $27.8 million to 23 counties, which is $15 million more than the Senate approved last year.

The applicable House Appropriations subcommittees have also recommended retaining all local roads funding in the budget, scrapping any language to shift additional SDAT costs to counties, and increasing local health department funding. The full committee considers the budget bills on Friday.

Modernizing the Public Information Act

Maryland’s Public Information Act creates a balanced framework for guaranteeing public access to open information, while protecting sensitive and private material. The rapid ascension of new technologies has strained the implementation and effect of these laws – potentially chilling their otherwise beneficial use. Maryland should clarify and reframe its Public Information Act to better accommodate citizen electronic engagement, personal surveillance footage from first responders and other county officials, and the release of sensitive personal information.

SB 788 – Public Information Act – Revisions, a 2018 Legislative Initiative, received a favorable report from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and the full Senate may vote on the bill this week. The bill’s cross-file, HB 1638, was heard in the House Health and Government Operations Committee on March 7. The Committee has not taken action on the bill.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.