The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of public information and ethics in the 2022 General Assembly.
County governments gather and maintain public information as part of their various functions. Compliance with the Maryland Public Information Act and maintenance of a high level of ethics in all government practices are priorities throughout the administrative agencies and legislative bodies of Maryland’s county governments. Through its advocacy and professional education in the areas of public information and ethics, MACo urges a balance between public safety, government efficiency, and public information demands and works with the State’s Office of Attorney General and Ethics Commission on behalf of counties
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.
MACo opposed legislation that would eliminate the current flexibility governing local ethics laws, and mandate local governments to mirror state law and require the registration of certain entities as lobbyists. HB 59 Ethics – Local Governments – Registration of Lobbyists failed in the General Assembly.
Public Information and Open Meetings Acts
MACo supported legislation, a MACo initiative in previous years, to establish guidelines for the release of body camera footage, balancing the interests of police accountability, privacy and safety for victims, and government resources. SB 31 Public Information Act – Inspection of Records from Body-Worn Digital Recording Devices failed in the General Assembly.
MACo supported legislation with amendments to compel certain government bodies, including counties, to provide electronic copies of minutes, provided a copy is not available online, within two business days of a request. As later amended, and in keeping with MACo’s proposed amendment language, the legislation would not require the release of minutes until they are approved. HB 246 Open Meetings Act – Notices, Closed Sessions, and Minutes – Retention Periods, Online Posting, and Public Inspection passed in the General Assembly.
MACo took no position as amended on legislation that would establish the Task Force to Study Public Information Act Requests Made to Law Enforcement. Prior to being amended, MACo had opposed the legislation as it would have prohibited counties from charging a fee for the search and preparation of the first 500 pages of certain records concerning administrative or criminal investigations of misconduct by a police officer. SB 777 Task Force to Study Public Information Act Requests Made to Law Enforcement – Establishment passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.