The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s advocacy on IT/cybersecurity issues in the 2023 General Assembly.
Information technology is a growing area of importance for MACo as county governments rely on increasingly sophisticated computer systems for a widening scope of operations – including public safety applications, open government portals, billing functions, and emergency alert systems. As information technology evolves, cybersecurity and data privacy are top of mind for county governments.
In addition to the swearing-in of a new governor, the 445th legislative session kicked off with more relaxed health and safety measures compared to the turbulence of the last few years. This enabled MACo’s policy team to dynamically engage with private-sector stakeholders, legislators, and representatives across all levels of government. Under these more conventional circumstances, MACo’s advocacy led to a plethora of favorable outcomes for its members.
MACo supported SB 868/HB 1065 – State and Local Cybersecurity – Revisions. This bill sought to bolster the partnership between the State and local governments to safeguard critical infrastructure and defend against increasingly complex malicious cyber threats. This bill would have resources for the Maryland Department of Emergency Management to provide technical assistance, coordinate resources, and help improve local government cybersecurity and preparedness.
In addition, the bill required the Maryland Department of Information Technology to develop and maintain a statewide cybersecurity strategy and develop guidance on consistent cybersecurity strategies for local governments and school systems. Furthermore, the bill clarified that the State is responsible for the costs of implementing the statewide cybersecurity strategy − without the need to operate a chargeback model for cybersecurity services provided to local governments. Finally, the bill also expressly prohibited the State from imposing a fine, restricting funding, or penalizing a local government for information in mandated cybersecurity incident reports.
Unfortunately, the House and Senate bills were withdrawn before their public hearings. Ultimately, the bill did not advance in the 2023 session.
MACo opposed HB 551/SB 547 – Office of Statewide Broadband – Study of Broadband Expansion Incentives. As introduced, this bill created a subtraction modification for qualified broadband grants and a sales tax exemption for specified network equipment used to provide internet service or deploy broadband. Changes to income tax deductions (called subtraction modifications) alter the taxable income base and deplete county revenues without any local input. MACo opposes state-mandated reductions in local revenue sources, but county governments welcome flexible and optional tools to serve and react to local needs and community priorities.
The bill was amended to strike the tax incentives and instead requires the Office of Statewide Broadband (OSB) within the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to study and make recommendations regarding (1) how the State can incentivize broadband service providers to expand broadband infrastructure to communities that are unserved or underserved, including through either regulatory or financial incentives; (2) how the State can ensure that federal broadband infrastructure grants are deployed to best serve the needs of Marylanders; and (3) how other states have encouraged private investment in broadband networks and how the State might implement similar measures.
The bill passed the General Assembly and awaits the governor’s signature.