MACo’s Legislative Committee voted at their September 12, 2018 meeting to adopt the Association’s four priorities for the 2019 Session. These issues — Continuing State Commitment to Education; Re-Prioritizing Public Health; Repeal “Implied” Preemption Doctrine; and Next Generation 9-1-1 Implementation — cover a broad range of important county concerns that MACo will proactively advocate for in front of the General Assembly.
Each year MACo adopts a slate of top legislative initiatives, typically representing the wide swath of services counties deliver to Maryland residents. The Initiatives Subcommittee meets through the summer to refine and focus a list of dozens of proposed initiatives into no more than four as required by the Association’s bylaws. The slate is then presented to the Legislative Committee for adoption. With the upcoming election in November and potential changes in local elected officials serving on the Legislative Committee, the 2019 Legislative Committee will also discuss and vote to approve the initiatives again in January.
Continuing State Commitment to Education
Maryland’s commitment to Pre-K – 12 education must continue to meet the needs of a diverse student body, and to prepare Maryland’s children for a global economy.
The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education will recommend major shifts in the relative role of state and local funding in each of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions. At the same time, the 21st Century School Facilities Commission and its legislative outcomes recommended an increased annual State contribution for capital projects, and required ongoing study of school construction project funding and priorities.
MACo advocates for a partnership approach to meeting the education and facility needs of Maryland’s students that fairly balances state responsibilities with local obligations, and seeks equitable and efficient solutions to meet current expenses and future goals.
Re-prioritizing Public Health
Local Health Departments are the state’s frontline for public health services and education. Over the years, dramatic and lasting funding reductions as well as threatened cost shifts have endangered their capacity to provide these crucial services in our communities and have forced them to do more with dramatically fewer resources.
These cuts have been exacerbated by the opioid epidemic that continues to plague the state. The deadliness of the opioids that have permeated our communities makes it even more critical that local health departments and associated treatment services – beds, facilities, providers – are available to meet our residents’ needs on-demand.
MACo advocates to prioritize public health in the face of the opioid epidemic and crises to come by reviving local health department funding and targeting drug treatment funding to address demand where it is needed most.
Repeal “Implied Preemption” Court Doctrine
Maryland courts have adopted an inconsistent but growing theory of State preemption over local actions – finding that counties may be preempted even without any State law explicitly stating so. This principle was used years ago to invalidate multiple local tobacco regulations, and more recently on local pesticide oversight, and energy facility siting.
Legislation should specify that preemption should not take place in the courts by mere interpretation, but in the open and accessible lawmaking process, where all stakeholders may be heard on the merits of their arguments.
Next Generation 9-1-1 Implementation
It is time for Maryland to move to the Next Generation of 9-1-1 (NG911) service. Maryland’s current 9-1-1 Call Centers need additional support to accurately and expeditiously handle an increasing number of cell phone-based calls for emergency service. In addition, local call centers in Maryland are seeking to offer potential service enhancements for cell phone users, including video and text messaging, and improved location tracking accuracy.
Updating state laws, and the 9-1-1 financing system, to provide the flexibility and resources needed for this important step is a public safety priority affecting every part of Maryland.