This post summarizes the status of finance and procurement bills that MACo took a position on during the 2015 Regular Session.
Energy Efficient Outdoor Lighting Fixtures: HB 336 would prohibit State funds from being used to install or replace a permanent outdoor luminaire unless specified energy efficient lighting requirements are met. These new onerous requirements would apply to public works contracts of $500,000 or more, or to those funded with 50% or more in State funds.
MACo opposed the bill objecting to its mandatory nature and stating that it would limit qualified bidders and place more onerous requirements on the counties, increasing the costs of local contracts funded partially with State dollars.
FINAL STATUS: The House Health and Government Operations Committee voted the bill unfavorable.
Contractor Occupational Safety and Health Plans: HB 404/ SB 279 would require a prospective bidder or offeror for a public works project over $100,000 to submit a public safety plan and an attestation that the plan meets certain requirements as part of the procurement process. The bill also requires the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) to develop a safety and health calculation worksheet and rating system, and enforce the bills’ many new requirements.
As these bills were nominally the product of a workgroup that MACo participated in during the interim, MACo supported the bills with amendments to address additional concerns. Amendments offered would have increased the threshold to $1 million to better target higher risk projects and lessen the effect on smaller contractors, removed a requirement that a safety plan be submitted to a procurement official as part of the selection process, clarified that the completion of the safety questionnaire and additional safety measures do not impede work on a project, and protected local jurisdictions from any deficiencies in safety plans or safety-related issues that may occur at a worksite.
A Senate Finance Committee workgroup was appointed to work through concerns and amendments offered on SB 279, and MACo’s amendments were accepted. However, members still had reservations. The House Economic Matters Committee did not assign HB 404 to a subcommittee.
FINAL STATUS: Both bills were voted unfavorable in their respective committees, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Economic Matters Committee.
Open Space Incentive Program: HB 1091/SB 134 would establish an Open Space Incentive Program which would provide counties an annual payment of $250,000 for each unit of open space attributed to State forests, State parks, and wildlife management areas. One unit of open space is the equivalent of 10,000 acres. The payments that counties currently receive from a portion of revenues generated from State forests and parks are eliminated.
MACo supported the bill as it would serve an as incentive to counties to preserve their State forests, parks and wildlife management areas and provide a consistent revenue stream to offset losses in property tax revenues and fund the public services provided in these areas. A program has existed to provide some level of payment to counties with State forest and park lands through revenues derived from these areas, including net revenues from concession operations, but these payments have been reduced significantly over the past several years to balance the State’s budget.
As introduced, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2015 again reduced these payments by a projected $2.5 million. However, budget actions would restore these payments in FY 2017 contingent upon the passage of SB 134. To address the bills large fiscal note, SB 134 was then amended to apply only to Allegany and Garrett Counties. These two counties would receive funding through this new program, and other counties would continue to receive payments through the existing program beginning in FY 2017. If SB 134 did not pass, $2.5 million in funds would be restored through the existing program.
FINAL STATUS: SB 134 passed the Senate, but the House Rules Committee did not act on the bill to assign it to a standing policy committee. HB 1091 was heard by the House Environment and Transportation Committee, but no further action was taken. Since SB 134 did not pass, the $2.5 million in funds counties would have received through the existing park revenue sharing program will be restored.