2016 End of Session Wrap-Up: School Construction

MACo successfully advocated for strong State school construction funding, and against costly school construction regulations and mandates.

This post summarizes the status of public school construction legislation that MACo supported, opposed, or supported with amendments in the 2016 General Assembly Session.

checkGeneral Assembly approves $280M for FY 2017 capital improvement program  for school construction. The State’s Capital Budget provides a $280 million allocation to the capital improvement program (CIP) for school construction in 2017. This funding is similar to the amount provided last year. MACo has advocated for the State’s continued strong investment in school construction.

checkThe budget includes an additional $20 million for the Capital Grant Program for Local School Systems with Significant Enrollment Growth or Relocatable Classrooms. The General Assembly’s budget will increase from $20.0 million to $40.0 million the amount for a special capital grant program for to counties with full-time equivalent enrollment growth that exceeds 150% of the statewide average over the past five years or who have an average of at least 300 relocatable classrooms over the past five years. Read more in $20M More for School Construction Program.

checkState to issue $4.7M in federal bonds for school construction. HB 463 / SB 379  authorizes the Board of Public Works to issue $4,680,000 in Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs) by December 31, 2016, and grant the money to the Interagency Committee on School Construction and the Maryland State Department of Education. This legislation is a necessary step for the State’s participation in this federal school construction funding program. For more information see MACo’s testimony on SB 379 FINAL STATUS: SB 379 was passed by the General Assembly and will be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Orange_question.svgThe Operating Budget redirects $6.1M for Aging Schools Program. Aging Schools Program funding is widely seen as the most flexible and effective to target small-scale maintenance of older school buildings. The Aging Schools Program funding was redirected from the Governor’s reserve fund allocation and some stakeholders have concerns that the Governor, who has some discretion on this item, may not fund it. MACo advocates for full funding of this portion of the budget. For more information, read MACo’s letter to the Governor and Aging School Funding Tacked to Budget Reserves.

checkNo expansion of prevailing wage for school construction. HB 721 / SB 711 – Prevailing Wage Rates Reform Act of 2016 expands prevailing wage laws applicable to school construction projects in Maryland and other public works projects. Prevailing wage laws, expanded through Chapter 282 of 2014 to include more school construction projects, are leading to increased costs in school construction. MACo opposed this legislation, citing that cost increases in school construction reduce the state and local ability to keep pace with education needs and to provide safe and healthy learning environments for Maryland’s school children. Fore more information see MACo’s testimonyFINAL STATUS: HB 721 received an unfavorable report from its committee and SB 711 was not voted by its committee.

checkNo new apprenticeship requirements for school construction. HB 108 / SB 457 – Capital Budget – Construction Projects – Apprenticeship Requirements would have created apprenticeship requirements for any project that receives $100,000 or more in the state capital budget. MACo opposed this legislation, citing that the bill would create new and potentially costly regulation of school construction, an industry that has already been legislated by additional prevailing wage and apprenticeship laws. For more information, see MACo’s testimonyFINAL STATUS: HB 108 / SB 457 received unfavorable committee reports from their committees.

checkState to study digital infrastructure in schools. SB 1041 – Education – Physical and Digital Infrastructure in the Public Schools – Assessment as introduced, would require the Maryland State Department of Education to develop and adopt infrastructure standards that support the use of digital devices on a ratio of one device to one student, and would mandate local school systems to meet that standard by 2019. MACo supported this bill with amendments amid concerns that, without a comprehensive needs assessment of the current state of infrastructure, it is difficult to determine the realistic costs of reaching a goal of supporting one portable digital device per student by 2019. For more information see MACo’s testimonyFINAL STATUS: The Senate passed a version of bill amended to address MACo’s concerns and it received a favorable report from Ways and Means, but did not make it through the full House of Delegates.

2000px-Symbol_thumbs_down.svgPrevailing wage law to persist with no school construction waiver option. HB 23 Procurement – Prevailing Wage Law – Waiver From Provisions would have created a limited waiver process from the State’s prevailing wage requirements to allow for needed school construction projects to move forward if prevailing wage would have increased the cost of a school construction project by 10% or more. MACo has supported and will continue to support legislation that allows counties to support growing student populations by investing in education infrastructure. For more information see MACo’s testimonyFINAL STATUS: HB 23 received an unfavorable report from the House Economic Matters Committee.