An overview of MACo’s advocacy on information technology issues in the 2021 General Assembly.
Information technology is a growing area of importance for MACo as county governments rely on computer systems of increasing sophistication for a widening scope of operations – including public safety applications, open government portals, billing functions, and emergency alert systems used during major natural and man-made emergencies. As county use of information technology evolves, cybersecurity and protection of resident data rise in importance.
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.
During the legislative session, MACo supported three bills that would help to increase broadband access across Maryland as a part a MACo legislative initiative. A critical piece of legislation to this initiative was HB 1328 / SB 824 Economic Development – Broadband Providers – Joint Trenching and Fee ( Building Out Broadband Act of 2021), which establishes a “dig once” policy that encourages underground fiber deployment in conjunction with road construction projects. This bill passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
- HB 1328/SB 824 Economic Development – Broadband Providers – Joint Trenching and Fee ( Building Out Broadband Act of 2021)
- HB 97/ SB 66 Department of Housing and Community Development – Office of Statewide Broadband – Established (Digital Connectivity Act of 2021)
- HB 43 Department of Information Technology – Office of Broadband and Joint Committee on Broadband
Broadband access is a public health issue, and one that is being recognized more often as a social determinant of health. The Abell Foundation’s “Disconnected in Maryland” report shows that more than 500,000 Maryland households do not currently subscribe to wireline broadband services. MACo and county governments stand ready to work with state policymakers to bridge the divide and provide residents the access they deserve.
MACo members voted to support legislation that would require the Secretary of the Department of Information Technology, in consultation with the Attorney General, to develop and promote guidance on consistent cybersecurity strategies for counties, municipal corporations, school systems, and all other governmental entities. This bill takes an important step in strengthening the relationship between the Maryland Department of Information Technology and local government information technology officials, without a state-mandated change that would preclude local input. State Government – Department of Information Technology – Cybersecurity passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
MACo opposed legislation that would require all State and local government employees to complete a State developed Cybersecurity Training Certification, which precluded local input. While well-intentioned this bill would have overridden local autonomy on how best to implement cybersecurity training programs, which had the potential to be costly and burdensome for local governments. Department of Information Technology – State and Local Government Employees and Contractors – Cybersecurity Training did not advance in the 2021 General Assembly following its public hearings.
For more on information technology legislation tracked by MACo during the 2021 legislation session, click here.