County Issues Watch – Week of March 21-25

The General Assembly’s session continues in “high gear” with three weeks remaining. Here we will detail issues of interest to the county community that are likely to unfold (or begin unfolding) during the week of March 21-25, 2011.

Budget, Round Two

The Senate now takes up its budget proposals, in a similar manner to the House action last week. Subcommittees of the Budget and Taxation Committee will hold decision meetings on Monday, and the full committee will meet on Thursday to receive the subcommittee recommendations. After doing so, the committee will take up “full committee” items, many of which will involve changes to the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act.

Most of the major county fiscal issues — continued cuts to local roadway funding, a number of proposed cost shifts, and possible a shift of teacher pension costs — will be front and center as the Committee reveals its fiscal plan for FY 2012 and beyond.

As the Senate is working toward its own proposal, the House Appropriations Committee will be reporting to the floor of the House, with debate on the full range of issues from the Budget Bill itself and the BRFA being discussed by the full body. While major changes are not likely on the floor of the House, the floor often takes an extended period to review and consider amendments and alternatives, making this week a crowded calendar for the House floor.

Maintenance of Effort – Apparently No Hurry on “Emergency Bill”

SB 53 and HB 44, the two bills MACo has supported to reform the waiver process for Maintenance of Effort, remain apparently stalled in their committees. Both bills had public hearings weeks ago (February 2 in the Senate, February 9 in the House), but neither has been taken up for attention in a subcommittee, nor brought up for a final committee vote. With the bills introduced as “Emergency Bills” (meaning they would take effect immediately upon being signed into law), MACo had hoped for prompt action to reform the waiver process for FY 2012 budgets. However, with no new legislation in effect, the State Board of Education’s April 1 deadline for waiver requests remains, and the standards and timing under current law will apparently remain in effect for this year’s requests.

Deadlines Approaching for Bill Passage

The “Committee Reporting Courtesy Date” of March 22 is not a firm rule of either chamber, but it provides a reasonable measure to ensure that most proposals that the House and Senate Committees seek to pass. Legislation that remains “bottled up” in its original committee for long after this date has a reduced chance of completing its advancement through the General Assembly.

Keep reading the Conduit Street blog for developing news on county issues as the session progresses.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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