This post summarizes the status of various public safety and corrections bills that MACo either considered or took a position on.
Use of Automatic Sprinkler Systems: As introduced, HB 366 /SB 602 would have prohibited local governments from adopting local building standards that weakened fire and life safety provisions contained in the Maryland Building Performance Standards. MACo opposed the bill, citing its traditional opposition to legislation that would broadly restrict a county government’s authority to amend its building code and the potential cost impact on rural housing. FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 366 and SB 602 with identical amendments. As amended, the bill prohibits a local government from weakening sprinkler system requirements in the Standards for townhouses and one- and two-family dwellings. The restriction would not apply to certain projects until January 1, 2016, or to building permits for property not served by electricity.
Local States of Emergency: HB 437 / SB 88 would extend the time period from 7 days to 30 days that an executive officer of a political subdivision may declare a local state of emergency without approval by the local governing body. MACo supported the bill, arguing that the change provided a county with greater flexibility to address a large-scale or persistent disaster or emergency. FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 437 and SB 88.
Time Limit for State Inmates Sentenced to Local Jails: HB 528 /SB 398 would prohibit a judge from sentencing an inmate to a local correctional facility for more than 12 months. The bill was an initiative by the Maryland Correctional Administrators Association (MCAA) and MACo to highlight a recent reduction to a longstanding reimbursement formula for State prisoners sentenced to local jails. MACo supported the bill while recognizing the bill could not pass do to the signficant fiscal cost to the State. FINAL STATUS: The House gave HB 528 an unfavorable report. The Senate gave SB 398 an unfavorable report.
Use of Telephone Commissions For Inmate Welfare Funds: HB 1147 / SB 910 would require a local jail that has an inmate welfare fund to adopt regulations that require a portion of the profits derived from inmate telephone calls go into the fund to be used for telephone calls between an inmate and his or her child. The use of the funds must be based on the financial need of the inmate. MACo opposed the bill, arguing that counties handled telephone charges and inmate welfare funds differently and that the bill attempted to apply a “one-size-fits-all” requirement. FINAL STATUS: HB 1147 was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor. The Senate took no action on SB 910.
Balcony Inspections: SB 196 would have required a political subdivision to conduct an inspection of a balcony for a multifamily dwelling (apartments, hotels, vacation-time shares, etc.) at least once every 5 years to ensure the balcony meets applicable building code and safety standards. MACo opposed the bill as introduced, citing the cost and implementation challenges for certain counties. FINAL STATUS: MACo dropped its opposition to the bill after the sponsor agreed to amendments that addressed MACo’s concerns. The amendments allowed a county to conduct the inspection, or require the property owner hire an inspector who would then certify to the county the results of the inspection. The amendments were added to the bill but the Senate voted down SB 196 on the floor.
Building Exterior Inspections: SB 862 would require local governments and the Department of Housing and Community Development and local governments to adopt maintenance and safety inspection standards for certain building exteriors. Local governments must enforce the standards and perform the inspections. MACo opposed the bill, citing the new costs and administrative burdens for counties. FINAL STATUS: The Senate gave SB 862 an unfavorable report.
Speed Camera and Red Light Late Fees: SB 1101 is emergency legislation introduced in response to a recent letter circulated by the District Court questioning whether local governments have the authority to set their own late fees for speed camera and red light camera violations or whether there must be a single uniform late fee for the entire state. The bill would require the Court to set a uniform late fee, in consultation with local governments. The bill also referenced parking violation late fees. MACo supported the bill on the premise that local late fees are well-established and a necessary means of ensuring compliance with speed and red light camera penalties. FINAL STATUS: Given the late introduction of the bill, MACo decided to work with municipal corporations and the District Court over the interim to resolve the issue. The Senate took no action on SB 1101.