MACo Announces 2020 Legislative Initiatives

Key_PrioritiesMACo to prioritize education funding, school construction, health crises, and implied preemption in the 2020 session. 

MACo’s Legislative Committee voted at their September 18, 2019 meeting to adopt the Association’s four priorities for the 2020 Maryland General Assembly Session. These issues cover a broad range of important county concerns that MACo will proactively advocate for in front of the General Assembly.

School Funding – Funding Fairness, County Role

The 2020 Session will feature a generational debate about school funding, outcomes, and expectations. Along with a new state commitment to education through broad formulas and targeted programs, the legislation will likely oblige new county resources toward these goals. MACo advocates for adequate, fair, and reasonable funding for all of Maryland’s students, and urges State policymakers to sustain a robust level of public education funding without unduly burdening county budgets or slighting other essential local services. Any newly-identified or authorized revenue sources developed with school funding in mind should support both the state and local efforts to meet education goals.

The State and counties should work as true partners in fairly supporting new goals for our public school systems.

Strong Progress for School Construction

The State’s commitment to school construction funding needs to remain strong – to best serve the modern needs of our schoolchildren, educators, and communities. State funding needs to recognize modern cost factors as we achieve new environmental and energy standards, satisfy heightened needs for technology, ensure student safety, fulfill community resource needs, and integrate evolving teaching methods. County governments share responsibility for financing K-12 school construction with the State, whose funding depends on statutory formulas and regulations. MACo advocates reviewing and updating the State’s school funding formulas and guidelines to promote the smartest and most effective funding for modern schools.

Counties urge State policymakers to retain the State’s strong commitment to this top funding priority.

Next Steps in the Drug and Mental Health Crises

Substance use disorders and mental illness remain two of the most pressing health issues for every county in Maryland. Local Health Departments are the “first responders” for public health emergencies, including these crises, but have been forced to do more with much less after significant state Core Funding cuts. As a result of this and similar budgetary issues, county jails have become de facto mental health institutions. It is critical that all types of behavioral health treatment and recovery services are available both in the community and the jail system to meet local needs on demand, and that comprehensive efforts continue to build upon the limited but encouraging progress that has been made.

MACo advocates for unwavering vigilance and State partnership in support of innovative and gap-filling behavioral health initiatives that improve access and availability of services, resources, facilities, and staff.

Repeal “Implied Preemption” Court Doctrine

Maryland courts have adopted, albeit inconsistently, a novel 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 restrictions and land use decisions for energy facilities.

Legislation should clarify, prospectively, that preemption should not take place in the courts, but in the open and accessible lawmaking process, where all stakeholders may be heard on the merits of their arguments.

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.

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