The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of finance and procurement policy in the 2021 General Assembly.
This year the Maryland General Assembly conducted a legislative session unlike any other due to the enduring COVID-19 pandemic. The unique circumstances surrounding the 442nd legislative session, including necessary health and safety measures, posed a challenge for lawmakers and advocates alike. Despite the unusual circumstances, MACo’s advocacy still led to more positive outcomes for its members.
For more information on Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic visit MACo’s COVID-19 resource page.
The State will restore $10.2 million in veto-driven cuts to the Disparity Grant program – which promotes fiscal equity by providing noncategorical state aid to less affluent counties with proven local income tax effort. As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo, along with several counties and the Eastern Shore Delegation, called on the State to restore the cuts, which would have affected six Disparity Grant counties — Caroline, Dorchester, Prince George’s Somerset, Washington, and Wicomico.
The disparity grant is designed to promote equity across jurisdictions to overcome disparate tax bases. The program serves to ensure that counties, who rely on local income taxes for substantial revenue, are able to generate sufficient yield to fund schools, public health, public safety, roadway maintenance, and community services. Counties have made difficult tax rate decisions based on the state law governing these grants – to undermine them would be especially untoward amidst the pandemic.
Board of Revenue Estimates
MACo supported legislation that would boost the capacity of the Board of Revenue Estimates (BRE) to provide counties with comprehensive timely, and accurate data on state and local revenues, fiscal analyses, and economic trends. Counites rely on data from the BRE to craft budgets and make informed policy decisions. Board of Revenue Estimates and Bureau of Revenue Estimates – Organization and Operations passed both the chambers and awaits the Governor’s signature.
Bay Restoration Fund
MACo supported legislation that would allow counties the option to create grants and loans to address septic system pollution. With this bill, counties can borrow money and incur indebtedness through the issuance and sale of notes in anticipation of the receipt to the county’s allocation of funds under the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF). Counties may use the proceeds to assist homeowners with costs related to upgrading septic and on-site disposal systems. Bay Restoration Fund – County Authority to Incur Indebtedness passed both chambers and awaits the Governor’s signature.
Small Business Development
MACo supported legislation that would have created a grant program to help counties, nonprofits, and other eligible applicants establish or expand makerspaces. A makerspace provides the space and means for community members to design, prototype, and manufacture items using tools that would otherwise be inaccessible or unaffordable, such as 3-D printers, digital fabrication machines, and computer-aided design software. Counties believe the establishment of a Makerspace Initiative Pilot Program to provide matching funds to local governments, nonprofits, and other eligible applicants to set up makerspaces would spark local economic development and promote diverse and vibrant business communities. The bill passed the Senate but did not advance out of the House.
MACo opposed legislation that would reduce the timeframe under which county procurement offices have to remit payment to vendors from 30 days to 15 days. The policy shift would have had a considerable impact on county procurement operations and require significant expenditures, possibly diverting much needed resources away from other essential local government services. State and Local Procurement – Payment Practices did not advance out of committee in either chamber.
Procurement Using State Funds
MACo opposed legislation that would have redefined terms in the state finance and procurement article to include county procurement divisions. This would have subjected county procurement contracts that leverage state money to state regulations and processes, causing counties to adopt two separate procurement procedures. Procurement – Transparency and Application to County Contracts passed the House and did not advance in the Senate. The Senate Committee amended portions of the bill into a separate bill, Procurement – MBE Program Compliance Review and Oversight, which ultimately failed in conference committee.
MACo raised concerns with a bill that, while well-intentioned, would have placed unnecessary and administratively burdensome requirements on the local 9-1-1 procurement process that would delay the implementation of critical public safety enhancements. MACo sought amendments to require a study of 9-1-1 procurement policies and procedures. The bill did not advance from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.