MACo’s Queen Anne’s Visit Touches Public Safety and Fiscal Issues

The MyEasternShoreMD coverage of MACo’s recent visit to the County Commissioners’ public meeting reviews the range of topics where MACo advocates for county interests, ranging from the state budget and fiscal situation to public safety reforms from the 2016 legislative session. MACo President John Barr and Executive Director Michael Sanderson joined the Commissioners at their May 10 meeting.

From the website’s article comes some framing the the public safety issues counties faced this year:

Sanderson said it was a “big year” for public safety issues in Annapolis, working with the wardens, chiefs of police and sheriffs throughout the state. Sanderson said the Justice Reinvestment Act (House Bill 1312 and Senate Bill 1005) was submitted to reduce the prison population and to redirect funding into more efficient treatment, diversion and supervised released programs. Non-violent drug offenders, Sanderson said for example, would potentially be candidates.

Though MACo supported both bills, amendments were added to make sure local jurisdictions weren’t hit with unintended consequences of its passage. “If you don’t do this right, that turns into the state saves money and the counties end up with a sandbag of costs and responsibilities in the local jail,” he said. “We think we’ve got Maryland on track to be reasonable and fair on this front and to advance the cause of justice as well.”

Sanderson said representing the counties of Maryland and fighting against unfunded mandates is a major topic for the organization. Though MACo has a “high strike rate” of amending down or defeating unfunded proposals or mandates taking away local authority, Sanderson said it is important “to be that voice at the table” to say, if the legislature passes a bill, here are the unintended consequences for the county governments.

Other public safety issues Sanderson touched on included the law enforcement issues in Baltimore last year regarding the riots in the city, as well as law enforcement department’s nationwide, and how to discipline officers properly, the processes for that, as well as the equipment being used during an arrest.

Sanderson said MACo was concerned, having worked with chiefs and sheriffs throughout the state closely, because “we didn’t want to see a one-size fits all solution that was born in Baltimore but gets applied in Queen Anne’s and in Garrett and Wicomico County where the circumstances might be very different.”

Sanderson said what came out of the legislature will help with accountability without swamping counties with new regulations and costs.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties