The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of school construction in the 2023 General Assembly.
County Governments partner with the State of Maryland to fund school construction projects throughout Maryland. K-12 school renovation and construction projects make up a substantial portion of any county’s capital budget, and the needs of Maryland students are consistently a high priority.
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 from all divisions of government. Under these more conventional circumstances, MACo’s advocacy led to a plethora of favorable outcomes for its members.
MACo opposed SB 355/HB 900 – Occupational Safety and Health – Public Buildings – Indoor Air Quality. The bill would have required the Commissioner of Labor and Industry to adopt a comprehensive indoor air quality standard for public buildings, and requires the Commissioner to establish an advisory committee to make recommendations regarding the development of these new air quality standards. While counties did not take issue with the merits of the bill, the prescribed methods would have imposed a potentially staggering financial burden on counties. Moreover, the specific dictates of of the bill would have been redundant given the routine procedures that counties already work assiduously to follow. The billdid not pass in the 2023 session.
School Construction and School Capital Improvement Projects
MACo supported HB 383/SB 109 – Interagency Commission on School Construction – Systemic Renovation Projects – Eligibility, which would have expanded eligibility for State support under the Supplemental Public School Construction Financing Fund. Currently, only projects that cost $400,000 or greater are eligible; the bill would have lowered eligibility to $100,000. The bill did not pass in the 2023 session.
MACo opposed SB 95 – Counties – Construction of Sidewalks and Crosswalks – Safe Alternative Routes to Public Schools, which would have obligated county boards of education to conduct an annual study that identifies safe alternative routes public school students may use to travel to school on foot. The bill further stipulated that county governments must construct the sidewalks and crosswalks required to address whatever safety concerns might be raised in these studies. While counties did not object to the intent of the legislation, it would have the adverse effect of imposing a costly, unfunded mandate on county governments if they are to comply with its provisions – as evidenced by the bill’s weighty fiscal note. The bill did not pass in the 2023 session.
MACo supported SB 628 – School-Based Health Centers – Services, Infrastructure, and Funding, which would have required the Maryland Department of Health to develop a comprehensive school-based health center funding formula for cost-sharing capital expenses between state and local government. In doing so, the bill would have supported counties in their efforts to establish and expand access to these important facilities. At present, counties receive little help from the State when creating new school-based health centers. SB 686 would have represented an important investment in ensuring more students across the State have ready access to health services. The bill did not pass in the 2023 session.