This post summarizes the status of Transportation and Public Works bills that MACo took a position on or considered during the 2016 General Assembly Session.
Transportation Network Provider Law is Clarified: HB 3/SB 54 is an emergency bill that clarifies the new state law that passed last session regulating for-hire transportation providers such as Uber and Lyft. During implementation of this legislation, the Comptroller’s Office found the language authorizing the fee to be confusing and requested that it, along with some of the other provisions, be clarified. A small group, including MACo, the Maryland Municipal League (MML), Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, and committee staff met during the interim to develop language to clarify the imposition of the fee and the “right of first refusal” process for local governments. MACo supported this consensus legislation.
Final Status: HB 3 (Chapter 28/SB 54 (Chapter 16) passed the General Assembly and has taken effect.
Water Service Shut Off Protection Act Fails: HB 742 would have established an onerous process to be followed by a provider of water and sewer system services before the service could be turned off for non-payment. The requirements included multiple notices to be sent and at least two visits to the residence to post notices. In addition, the bill stipulated a number of conditions for which the county would be prohibited from turning off the service, such as a resident living in the home being over the age of 62 or under the age of 6, or certain medical conditions. Additional staff time would be necessary to deliver notices and a process would need to be put in place to verify that residents meet the conditions specified in the bill. These new requirements would place a substantial financial and administrative burden on county governments to comply. MACo opposed the bill expressing concerns with the onerous nature of the process and the effect on all payers of these services should water and sewer bills go unpaid for prolonged periods of time.
Final Status: HB 742 was voted unfavorable by the House Environment and Transportation Committee.
Cost Sharing for the Relocation of Water and Sewer Lines: HB 854 would require the State Highway Administration (SHA) to notify a local jurisdiction of the costs associated with relocating a water or sewer line due to a federal project and investigate funding sources to help the local jurisdiction meet its share of the cost. The bill also authorizes a payment plan to be developed to assist with paying the cost. MACo supported the legislation citing that local jurisdictions incur additional expenses to provide services such as law enforcement, emergency management, and local infrastructure. These are ongoing and material costs, even when the federal project is welcome. With counties bearing the brunt of these ongoing costs, assistance from SHA to investigate funding sources and the establishment of a payment plan to assist local jurisdictions with paying these costs seems reasonable.
Final Status: HB 854 passed the General Assembly and is being reviewed for the Governor’s signature.
New Transportation Scorecard Will Take Effect: HB 1013/SB 908 would subject major state transportation projects to a detailed scoring system during their consideration for inclusion in the state’s Consolidated Transportation Plan. MACo opposed the bill expressing concern that its detailed provisions could marginalize local input, overlook regional or demographic variations in transportation needs, and under-value safety as a driving factor in project approval. Both the House and Senate accepted substantial amendments to the bill, many of which were drafted to address county concerns. The House amendments made several changes to the bill, including directing the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to develop the final “percentage” weightings in the various components of the scoring system and adding an additional scoring component, “Local Priorities and Planning.” The Senate amendments exempted safety projects and those in the Appalachian Development Highway System from the scoring process. Senate amendments also ensured the bill would not affect the county priority letter process and MDOT’s visit to each county to discuss transportation priorities.
Final Status: HB 1013 passed the General Assembly and was vetoed by the Governor. The General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto the last week of the session. The bill takes effect July 1, 2016.
Prohibition on Transit Audio Recordings Defeated: SB 199 would have established several new restrictions on the use of audio recording devices on state and local public transit. The bill would have required that recording devices be located no more than 5 feet from the vehicle operator and activated by the operator or automatically only in the event of an incident involving public safety that requires documentation. The bill would have also established criteria for the retention, access, and dissemination of the audio recording. MACo opposed the legislation as it places unnecessary burdens on local transit systems and would require some jurisdictions to retrofit audio systems already installed on buses. MACo believes counties have proper protocols in place for addressing the issues raised in SB 199 and that they strike the right balance for a public transit system and serve to keep the systems safe for the public ridership.
Final Status: SB 199 passed the Senate and had a hearing before the House Environment and Transportation Committee. No further action was taken on the bill.
Policy on Sound Barriers: SB 752 would have required the State Highway Administration (SHA), in collaboration with county governments, to develop and adopt by regulation a policy concerning sound barriers along highways in the state. MACo supported the bill as this collaborative approach would provide for greater community input and allow local jurisdictions to work jointly with the Administration to address noise concerns from shared constituents.
Final Status: SB 752 passed the Senate and had a hearing before the House Environment and Transportation Committee. No further action was taken on the bill.