The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of emergency services in the 2022 General Assembly.
County governments lead the delivery of public safety services in Maryland – responsible for county fire, police, and emergency services. MACo’s advocacy in emergency services includes urging for much-needed state support for local public services such as 9-1-1 call centers, front-line county services, and natural disaster response. Additionally, MACo advocates for all first responders to have the flexibility, support, and technology necessary to provide for public safety.
The unique circumstances surrounding the 444th legislative session, including necessary health and safety measures, posed a challenge for lawmakers and advocates alike. Yet, despite the unusual circumstances, MACo’s advocacy still led to more positive outcomes for its members.
Emergency Services — Security, Employee Protections, and Next Generation 9-1-1
MACo supported SB 633 / HB 1105. This bill will help Maryland continue its ambitious and important move toward Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911), deliver these services equitably across the state, and generally strengthen the statutory framework that governs the state’s 9-1-1 system.
The bill streamlines the process for filling vacancies on the 9-1-1 Board, which is necessary to ensure proper expertise and oversight for the shift to NG911. In addition, the bill charges the State 9-1-1 Board with assisting local 9-1-1 centers in bolstering cybersecurity standards and developing a statewide implicit bias training program.
The bill also updates the 9-1-1 fee structure to grant counties the flexibility to impose a 9-1-1 fee sufficient to cover actual operational costs, with proper oversight from the 9-1-1 Board and Maryland Comptroller. In addition, the bill properly recognizes Maryland’s 9-1-1 specialists for their role in protecting the public health and well-being of shared constituents.
SB 633 – Public Safety – 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System – Alterations passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo supported SB 881. This bill establishes the Task Force to Study the Practice Known as “Swatting” to study the laws applicable to and make recommendations relating to legislative changes to prohibit the practice known as “swatting” and requires the Task Force to report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly on or before June 1, 2023. SB 881 – Criminal Law – False Statements – Emergency or Commission of Crime (Antiswatting Act of 2022) passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo supported HB 1052. This bill updates Maryland building standards to require modern, safer materials in replaced or repaired gas lines. In addition to promoting safer buildings generally, this change will protect first responders who may enter the building during a fire or structural crisis, compromising the integrity of these systems and elevating that safety risk. HB 1052 Public Safety – Gas Piping Systems – Construction Requirements (Flynn and Laird Act) passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo supported HB 437 / SB 57. This bill would have strengthened laws to protect 9-1-1 centers from malicious attacks and dangerous swatting incidents. HB 437 Criminal Law – False Statements – Public Safety Answering Points and Penalty passed the House but did not advance in the Senate.
MACo supported SB 83. Hackers are increasingly targeting state and local governments – including public safety agencies – with sophisticated cyberattacks that can jeopardize sensitive information and disrupt emergency services. By strengthening state laws to protect against growing and evolving cyber threats, SB 83 would have enhanced public safety communications in Maryland and our local communities. Criminal Law – Public Safety – Interference with a Public Safety Answering Point – Penalties did not advance in the 2022 session, but the topics the bill sought to address will be taken up by the Task Force established in SB 633 (listed at the beginning of this summary section).
MACo supported HB 1109 / SB 751. This bill would have properly classified 9-1-1 specialists as “first responders” and “emergency responders” in specified provisions of state law. Unfortunately, HB 1109 / SB 751 First Responders and Emergency Responders – Definition – 9-1-1 Dispatchers included did not advance in the 2022 session.
MACo supported HB 286, as it extends a critical initiative for local health departments to carry out targeted public health initiatives by authorizing paramedics to administer specified vaccines with proper training and oversight.HB 286 Emergency Medical Services – Paramedics – Immunization Administration – Effective Date passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
New Offices and Programs
MACo supported HB 706 / SB 630. This bill establishes the Office of Resilience in the Maryland Department of Emergency Management. The Office of Resilience will provide valuable assistance, guidance, and leadership to its local partners. By aligning these efforts, HB 706 strengthens and streamlines collaboration, communication, and coordination between the State and county governments in times of crisis. HB 706 / SB 630 – Maryland Department of Emergency Management – Office of Resilience passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo supported HB 1003 / SB 749 with amendments. This bill envisioned a statewide 3-1-1 system for non-emergency government services, resources, and information to streamline service delivery for Maryland residents, businesses, and visitors. While counties support a coordinated, stakeholder-driven approach to guide, design, and implement an interoperable 3-1-1 system, MACo urged amendments to guard against unintended costs for county governments. HB 1003 / SB 749 Public Safety – 3-1-1 Systems did not advance in the 2022 session.