On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss the looming “crossover” deadline, review the latest on the State’s fiscal plan, break down MACo’s Legislative Initiative to modernize the Maryland Public Information Act, and look ahead as the dust begins to settle on the 2018 session. MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.
As the unofficial deadline for passing legislation out of its original chamber approaches, both the Senate and House are awash with lengthy agendas and long floor sessions. The “crossover” date is Monday, and bills passed out after that date will be forced to go to the Rules Committee of the second chamber, a procedural hurdle impeding their chances of final passage.
State Fiscal Plan
The Senate passed SB 185, the Budget Bill, and SB 187, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2018 (“BRFA”) – both with good news for Maryland counties.
As proposed by the Governor, the budget included shifting nearly all costs of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT)’s assessment and directorial functions to counties, forevermore. The Senate struck this language from the BRFA.
The Governor’s original proposal also included flat funding local health departments at the previous year’s levels. The Senate cut that language, too– instead increasing the funding according to the formula in existing law.
The Senate has also approved all funds included in the original budget for local roads funding: $178.1 million in highway user revenues, in addition to $53.7 million in additional local transportation grants. This includes a full $27.8 million to 23 counties, which is $15 million more than the Senate approved last year.
The applicable House Appropriations subcommittees have also recommended retaining all local roads funding in the budget, scrapping any language to shift additional SDAT costs to counties, and increasing local health department funding. The full committee considers the budget bills on Friday.
Modernizing the Public Information Act
Maryland’s Public Information Act creates a balanced framework for guaranteeing public access to open information, while protecting sensitive and private material. The rapid ascension of new technologies has strained the implementation and effect of these laws – potentially chilling their otherwise beneficial use. Maryland should clarify and reframe its Public Information Act to better accommodate citizen electronic engagement, personal surveillance footage from first responders and other county officials, and the release of sensitive personal information.
SB 788 – Public Information Act – Revisions, a 2018 Legislative Initiative, received a favorable report from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and the full Senate may vote on the bill this week. The bill’s cross-file, HB 1638, was heard in the House Health and Government Operations Committee on March 7. The Committee has not taken action on the bill.