Opening Up To The Open Meetings Act

MACo Summer Conference attendees opened up on Wednesday, August 16 to one of the most important meetings at the conference: the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance’s Open Meetings course.  John S. Mathias, County Attorney, Frederick County delivered the course, and the Honorable Chris Trumbauer, Council Member, Anne Arundel County served as moderator (and simultaneously earned his final credits for the Academy of Excellence’s accreditation!)

During the 2017 Session, the Maryland General Assembly passed and Governor Larry Hogan signed into law new Open Meetings Act training requirements for public bodies (HB 880 / SB 450). Public bodies have until October 1, 2017, to comply with the new training requirements. Click here for everything you need to know about that. This session fullfilled the training requirement for many; the session enjoyed a packed room of public body members and other interested attendees.

Coming To #MACoCon? Avoid US 50 Salisbury Bypass!

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration today (MDOT SHA) closed the eastbound US 50/US 13 Salisbury Bypass at the US 50 Business (Salisbury Boulevard) split due to pavement damage and drainage erosion just prior to US 13 Business. The right lane was already closed at the same location for a pipe repair. The westbound Salisbury Bypass is open and not impacted by the closure.
“Significant rainfall last weekend created additional erosion under the road. For the safety of the traveling public, we closed both lanes, began immediate repairs and are detouring traffic,” said MDOT SHA District Engineer Jay Meredith.
Motorists are being detoured on US 50 Business through the City of Salisbury, which served as the gateway to beach resorts before completion of the Salisbury Bypass. MDOT SHA is retiming traffic signals on US 50 business to provide additional ‘green’ time to through motorists. Drivers planning to travel to the beach resorts are strongly urged to plan additional travel time. Overhead message signs will alert motorists to the detour.

Sen. Hershey Supports County “Right To Work” Option

State Senator and MACo friend Stephen Hershey indicated plans to introduce legislation during the 2018 session to give counties the option to become “right to work” counties, enabling them to opt to prohibit employers and unions from compelling union membership.

Senator Hershey sees the legislation as an economic development initiative. He makes the case that employers are more likely to bring manufacturing jobs to right-to-work locations, since those manufacturing employees are less likely to unionize than workers in non right-to-work locations. 

From the Cecil Whig:

Essentially, by prohibiting unions from compelling membership, the law enables employees to choose not to join the union and pay union dues. Without the mandate that employees join their respective union — if one exists — the union loses funds and membership, therefore losing political weight during collective bargaining.

Maryland is not a right-to-work state, meaning that companies and unions can compel union membership. The idea behind compulsory membership is to eliminate “free riders” — those who benefit from the union without paying union dues.

This legislation, which is still being drafted, would give local jurisdictions the ability to say whether they are a right-to-work county or possibly even a right-to-work municipality.

Read the full article here.

Baltimore Invests $1.6 Billion In Sewer Infrastructure Upgrades

Baltimore plans to  invest $1.6 billion over the next 13 years to improve the city’s sewer system. The city’s Board of Estimates on Wednesday approved a new consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice, resetting the city’s effort to reduce waste running through the system to the Inner Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.

From the Baltimore Business Journal:

Phase I, which is scheduled to be completed by Jan. 1, 2021, will include upgrades and repairs to the Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant, which is supposed to reduce the amount of sewage that leaks out into the Back River near Essex. Phase II, scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31, 2030, includes upgrades to the city’s hydraulic systems in the sewers to ensure that it can operate at capacity.

Currently, the sewage system is over capacity, which can lead to runoff in the Inner Harbor and the Jones Falls, and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay. Blue Water Baltimore, a local advocacy group working to cleaning up the city’s waterways, estimated that 12 million gallons of sewage were discharged into the Jones Falls and Inner Harbor during a storm in February.

BWI Leadership: Baltimore Workers Can’t Get Here 

Getting Baltimoreans to the BWI Airport to work has been “a major challenge,” Maryland Aviation Administrator Ricky Smith told The Baltimore SunAl Hutchinson, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, weighed in on the issue. From The Sun’s coverage:

[He] called the airport a “gem and an economic engine” for the state that is a gateway through which many city visitors arrive.

“We want as many of our residents who are looking for work to be able to get to work,” he said. “I’m glad to hear there’s a conversation being had to close that gap.”

“If we can provide a transportation option, it’s definitely worth studying,” he said.

BWI is the 22nd busiest U.S. airport, with an average of 70,000 passengers per day and 90 domestic and international destinations, according to Smith. 

Greater College Park P3: Greater Than Sum Of Its Parts

One could consider Maryland a breeding ground for public private partnerships, or P3s. County P3s abound from economic development projects and broadband deployment to stormwater management and green infrastructure investment.

Just look at what Prince George’s County, the City of College Park, the State of Maryland, University of Maryland, and private developers have underway in Greater College Park: over 30 projects and $2 billion in public and private investment, including a hotel, four new academic buildings, and a public-private research hub. By capitalizing on public investment in education and research and private sector innovation, the Discovery District has become greater than the sum of its parts.

Check out this video:

Find out how this impressive partnership came to fruition from Margave Strategies CEO, former Howard County Executive and MACo Past President Ken Ulman at the MACo Summer Conference session, Perfecting the Potential of Public Private Partnerships.

MACo’s Summer Conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

New Look Vacation, Old Look Taxation

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Will Burns, Airbnb Policy Director speaks at the MACo Summer Conference session, The New Look Vacation: Opportunities & Responsibilities in the Sharing Economy.  Photo courtesy @CitoyenBurns.

The sharing economy is rapidly changing the way people work, play and travel. Online platforms like Airbnb and VRBO offer tourists and business travelers alike entirely new ways to experience Maryland counties, providing opportunities to experience the greatest they have to offer from entirely new vantage points.

This remodeling of tourism also offers county residents new avenues to earn income and provide services for profit – begging the need for local governments to reexamine whether their methods of tax collection remain as equitable as they were when hospitality depended upon the brick and mortar, multi-unit hotel or motel. After all, if it acts like a hotel, shouldn’t we tax it like one?

At the MACo Summer Conference session, The New Look Vacation: Opportunities & Responsibilities in the Sharing Economy, representatives of the traditional lodging industry, Airbnb and county government all address how counties can apply hotel taxes equitably without undermining the sharing economy’s economic development and tourism potential. Hear perspectives from Airbnb Policy Director Will Burns, Maryland Hotel and Lodging Association President and CEO Amy Rohrer, and Montgomery County Chief of Treasury Michael Coveyou on how to best balance innovative new opportunity with basic principles of tax equity.

The New Look Vacation: Opportunities & Responsibilities in the Sharing Economy

The sharing economy is revolutionizing the tourism industry – and also disrupting how counties regulate and tax it. With a multitude of services from accommodations to transportation now booked online with everyday providers just trying to earn an extra buck, the way we tax and regulate the tourism industry must treat all providers equitably while also ensuring the safety of our residents. Join this session to learn more about the challenges, potential solutions, and county responsibilities in the sharing economy.

Speakers:

  • Will Burns, Midwest Policy Director, Airbnb
  • Amy Rohrer, President & CEO, MD Hotel and Lodging Association
  • Michael Coveyou, Chief, Division of Treasury, Montgomery County Department of Finance

Moderator: The Honorable Jason Buckel, Maryland House of Delegates

Date/Time: Friday, August 18, 2017; 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm

MACo’s Summer Conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

 

States Striving To Shore Up Rainy Day Funds

Most states have not replenished their rainy day funds to where they were before the Great Recession, reports the Pew Charitable Trusts. Only 18 states ended fiscal 2016 with enough funds in their rainy day reserves and general fund ending balances to cover more days’ worth of operating costs than before the economic downturn. (Maryland was not one of them.)

However, for the first time since the downtown, more than half of the states ended fiscal 2016 with larger rainy day funds as a share of operating costs than before the recession.

Maryland finished fiscal 2016 with about 19 days’ worth of operating costs in its rainy day fund. Rainy day funds equaled $832 million, which amounts to about 5.2 percent of spending. Our state finished fiscal 2007 with 37 days’ worth of operating costs, with $1.4 billion, or 10.1 percent of spending – but that was a particularly strong year. From fiscal 2002 to fiscal 2005, the fund covered 17-18 days’ worth of operating costs, and amounted to 4.6-5 percent of spending. Visualize the data here.

 

From Pew’s analysis of data provided by the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO):

Reserves in rainy day funds—also called budget stabilization funds—were the largest component of states’ financial cushions in fiscal 2016, accounting for nearly $2 of every $3 of total balances. The importance of rainy day funds in helping to gird against budget uncertainties has grown since the recession. Slow and uneven tax revenue growth has limited most states’ ability to match their large ending balances in the year before the downturn. Rainy day funds typically provide a stable cushion from year to year, while ending balances are more volatile and harder to predict.

New Jersey and Nevada have no money saved, according to the report.

Download the data to see individual state trends. Visit Pew’s interactive resource Fiscal 50: State Trends and Analysis to sort and analyze data for other indicators of state fiscal health.

Driving To #MACoCon? Traffic Alert!

Driving to the MACo Summer Conference next week? Great – we’ll see you there!

The State Highway Administration (SHA) wants you to avoid eastbound US 50/US 13 (Salisbury Bypass) at Northwood Drive – take US 50 Business (Salisbury Boulevard) as an alternate route, instead. SHA has closed the right lane of the Bypass at this location due to significant pavement damage caused by a collapsed concrete culvert under the road. SHA is assessing the damage and developing a repair plan, but expects the work to take until fall.

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According to SHA:

Due to the culvert damage, a void in the road was created between the damaged section of pipe and the pavement.  Crews will repair the culvert, fill the void and repair the concrete pavement. This involves cutting out the damaged concrete, pouring new concrete and allowing it to strengthen.  During this process, drivers may not see crews working in the lane closures.

The MACo summer conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year’s theme is “You’re Hired!”.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Local Governments Spur Maryland Job Growth

In June 2017, Maryland’s local governments added 2,100 jobs – a big difference from the other states in the Mid-Atlantic region. Those states – Delaware, DC, Pennsylvania, and Virginia –  lost 6,200 local government jobs.

For the second straight month, Maryland’s unemployment fell by a tenth of a percent, reports Daraius Irani, Ph.D., Vice President, Division of Innovation and Applied Research and Chief Economist, Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI), of Towson University. Maryland’s unemployment rate is 4.1 percent, while the rest of the Mid-Atlantic region maintains a constant rate of 4.6 percent.

According to Dr. Irani:

Maryland’s job growth was robust, with job losses only occurring in three industries:

  1. Manufacturing which lost 600 jobs,
  2. Trade, Transportation, and Utilities which lost 400 jobs, and
  3. Leisure and Hospitality which lost 100 jobs.

Job losses in Manufacturing are not especially surprising. …. The increase in automation has been changing employment in the industry for some time, and it doesn’t seem like the job losses are quite finished. …

Other strong sectors of growth for Maryland include Health Care and Social Assistance, which added 5,600 jobs last month. This dwarfs the total increase in neighboring states, who combined to only add 1,000 jobs in the sector in June. The healthcare industry has been one of Maryland’s employment bedrocks, and this does not look likely to change in the short term. However, this does mean that changes in the sector as a result of the ongoing debate over the ACA and AHCA could have large ripple effects in Maryland’s economy.

With job growth in Maryland booming – particularly for local governments – it is no wonder that this year’s theme for the MACo summer conference next week in Ocean City is “You’re Hired!”

Learn about how automation is changing county employment at the MACo summer conference session, Will Your Next County Employee be…a Robot?

Listen to public health experts discuss potential impacts of ACA and AHCA on Maryland counties at the session, ABCs of the ACA, AHCA, BCRA, and Health Care in Maryland.

And, see Dr. Irani himself, on the panel, Parks & Recreation: A Healthy (and Wealthy) Investment.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: