General Assembly Passes MACo 9-1-1 Initiative

The General Assembly today took a major step towards advancing Next Generation 9-1-1 in Maryland. Senate Bill 285, sponsored by Senator Cheryl Kagan, passed the Senate unanimously on February 20. Its cross-file, House Bill 634, sponsored by Delegate Michael Jackson, passed the House of Delegates unanimously on March 15. SB 285/ HB 634 is a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative.

Maryland citizens demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows. Maryland must accelerate its move toward Next Generation 9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers.

The bill establishes the Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland. The Commission will look at the strategic aspects of Next Generation 9-1-1 implementation in coordination with the Emergency Numbers Systems Board’s (ENSB) existing efforts, particularly ensuring that those areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB are addressed. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of Next Generation 9-1-1 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Initiative: Next Gen 9-1-1 Commission Would Guide MD Forward

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Washington Post Op-Ed: Bring 9-1-1 Into the 21st Century

Conduit Street Podcast: 9-1-1 Takes Center Stage, Huge Drop of Bills Introduced, Sick Leave Law Looms, and Senate Changes Afoot

MACo testimony on Senate Bill 285

Conduit Street Podcast: “Crossover” Coming, Fiscal Follow-Up, Body Cameras Back-And-Forth, and More!

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss the looming “crossover” deadline, review the latest on the State’s fiscal plan, break down MACo’s Legislative Initiative to modernize the Maryland Public Information Act, and look ahead as the dust begins to settle on the 2018 session. MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

“Crossover” Deadline

As the unofficial deadline for passing legislation out of its original chamber approaches, both the Senate and House are awash with lengthy agendas and long floor sessions. The “crossover” date is Monday, and bills passed out after that date will be forced to go to the Rules Committee of the second chamber, a procedural hurdle impeding their chances of final passage.

State Fiscal Plan

The Senate passed SB 185, the Budget Bill, and SB 187, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2018 (“BRFA”) – both with good news for Maryland counties.

As proposed by the Governor, the budget included shifting nearly all costs of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT)’s assessment and directorial functions to counties, forevermore. The Senate struck this language from the BRFA.

The Governor’s original proposal also included flat funding local health departments at the previous year’s levels. The Senate cut that language, too– instead increasing the funding according to the formula in existing law.

The Senate has also approved all funds included in the original budget for local roads funding: $178.1 million in highway user revenues, in addition to $53.7 million in additional local transportation grants. This includes a full $27.8 million to 23 counties, which is $15 million more than the Senate approved last year.

The applicable House Appropriations subcommittees have also recommended retaining all local roads funding in the budget, scrapping any language to shift additional SDAT costs to counties, and increasing local health department funding. The full committee considers the budget bills on Friday.

Modernizing the Public Information Act

Maryland’s Public Information Act creates a balanced framework for guaranteeing public access to open information, while protecting sensitive and private material. The rapid ascension of new technologies has strained the implementation and effect of these laws – potentially chilling their otherwise beneficial use. Maryland should clarify and reframe its Public Information Act to better accommodate citizen electronic engagement, personal surveillance footage from first responders and other county officials, and the release of sensitive personal information.

SB 788 – Public Information Act – Revisions, a 2018 Legislative Initiative, received a favorable report from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and the full Senate may vote on the bill this week. The bill’s cross-file, HB 1638, was heard in the House Health and Government Operations Committee on March 7. The Committee has not taken action on the bill.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Worcester Hosts School Safety Conference

As part of ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of students and the security of school buildings, Worcester County on Tuesday hosted the Maryland Safe Schools Initiative 2018 Conference. The conference was as a joint effort of the Maryland Center for School Safety, Safe and Sound Schools, and Worcester County Public Schools.

According to WBOC:

The event featured six national presenters, including survivors of Columbine and Virginia Tech. Additionally, a mother who lost her 7-year-old daughter addressed the crowd.

The speakers shared their stories and discussed best practices school leaders can utilize to ensure safety and prepare for tragedy.

The audience included local school leaders, law enforcement officials, EMS personnel, parents, and other groups.

Read the full article for more information.


Conduit Street Podcast: Small Cells, Big Concerns. Fiscal Plan Coming Together, State Song Dilemma, & the Road Ahead

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson pay tribute to the late Senator Wayne Norman, who passed away suddenly last week, discuss the latest on the State’s fiscal plan, break down this week’s budget decisions, review the latest push for small cell deregulation, examine the state song dilemma, and preview the road ahead. MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

Useful Links

Senate Committee Rejects SDAT Cost Shift, Maintains Local Health Funding

MACo Leadership Rallies For Unified Roads Funding Deal

Comptroller Releases County-level Tax Reform Data

Conduit Street Podcast, Episode #7 – Small Cell Broadband/Election Issues

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

$20M TIGER Grant Will Spur Job Growth In Baltimore County

Baltimore County has been awarded a $20 million federal grant for infrastructure improvements and expansion of aging marine facilities at Tradepoint Atlantic. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant will be matched by private investment from Tradepoint Atlantic, developer of 3,100 acres at Sparrows Point.

According to a press release:

“This public/private infrastructure investment will ignite job creation in Baltimore County and the entire region by speeding up the turnaround of Sparrows Point from a shuttered steelmaking site into a modern hub for global commerce,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

With funding from the TIGER grant, Tradepoint Atlantic will make structural upgrades to the East-West Berth, modernize it for efficient movement of 21st century cargo, strengthen bulkheads, perform maintenance dredging to allow deep water ships access to the marine terminal, and other necessary improvements designed to leverage existing rail and highway systems on the site.

The investments in dredging, a stronger berth, and short line rail track will facilitate efficient and safe loading and unloading, reducing handling costs for shippers using the facility.

The project will expand the region’s bulk handling capability by restoring an obsolete regional marine asset to a state of good repair. The modernization program expands bulk cargo handling capability at Tradepoint Atlantic and does not introduce container cargo handling to the site.

The grant projects will span four years. The TIGER grant is led by the Baltimore County Department of Economic and Workforce Development.

A recent economic impact report projects Tradepoint Atlantic will generate 17,000 jobs in the Baltimore region, plus another 21,000 jobs during construction. Economic impact is projected to top $3 billion when development of the 3,100 acre site is completed in 2025, according to the Sage Policy Group study.

“There are more than 17,000 jobs on the horizon at full development, but jobs already are coming back to Sparrows Point from world class companies including FedEx Ground, Amazon and Under Armour,” added Kamenetz.

Read the full press release for more information.

House Advances Bill to Allow Same Day Voter Registration

The Maryland House of Delegates today gave final approval to House Bill 532, Elective Franchise – Registration and Voting at Precinct Polling Place. The final vote was 91-47.

The bill proposes amending the Maryland Constitution to authorize the General Assembly to allow a qualified individual to register and vote at a precinct polling place on Election Day. As is the case with all proposed amendments to the Maryland Constitution, the measure must be approved by a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly. If the law is passed, the Constitutional Amendment would need to be approved by voters in the 2018 Gubernatorial Election.

Prior to passing the bill, the House of Delegates rejected an amendment proposed by Delegate Susan McComas that would have required anyone who registers to vote on Election Day provide identification and sign a sworn affidavit attesting to their identity.

The bill’s cross-file, Senate Bill 594, was heard by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 15 and no further action has been taken on the bill since the hearing.

MACo did not take a position on HB 532/SB 594.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Anne Arundel Announces $15M School Safety Plan

$15 Million, Two-Year Proposal Will Add School Resource Officers, Upgrades to School Facilities

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, Board of Education President Julie Hummer, Superintendent George Arlotto, and Police Chief Tim Altomare on Tuesday announced a proposal to upgrade security for the county’s school system.

According to a press release:

“No child should ever fear going to school in our County,” said Schuh. “Working with Dr. Arlotto and the Board, our Administration will propose funding the needed staff and school upgrades that will keep our children safe.”

The $14.8 million proposal will fund:

  • 20 additional School Resource Officers, enough to station one at every county high school and middle school
  • More than 1,500 cameras for schools
  • Lock upgrades for 4,000 doors in County schools
  • Double-door security systems at all high schools in the County
  • Protective tactical equipment for every school.

The plan would be funded over two years. The County expects that some of the costs of these initiatives will be defrayed by state funds.

Dr. Arlotto also announced that the school system will reinstitute its School Safety and Security Council. The Council is comprised of school, county, law enforcement, and community officials as well as parents and students, and makes recommendations on school safety measures. The superintendent also announced schools will be asked to make space available for patrol officers to use on down time in between calls so that those officers can provide additional presence in the county’s 120-plus school facilities.

“We are committed to working in partnership with our schools to provide the needed deterrents to violence,” said Chief Tim Altomare.

All proposals are subject to approval by the Anne Arundel County Council.

Now Available: 2018-2019 Pre-K Expansion Grants

The new Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Preschool Expansion Grant application for FY 2018-2019 is now available. The deadline for submission is April 20, 2018.

The purpose of the grant program is to expand free access to public prekindergarten for four-year-olds from families with household incomes either at or below 200 percent or 300 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG).

Full-day prekindergarten programs for eligible four-year-olds at local public schools or qualified vendors, i.e., State or nationally accredited licensed child care programs and MSDE approved nonpublic nursery schools that are (1) published at Level 5 in Maryland EXCELS; and (2) are State or nationally accredited.

Technical Assistance Webinar: Preschool Development Grant

This webinar will provide an overview of the grant requirements and application process.

Date/Time: Thursday, March 8, 2018; 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Click here for more information.

A Supreme Court Decision Could Shrink Unions’ Power

Last week the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. At stake are agency fees — public sector unions can collect fees for service from employees who refuse to join the union that represents them, which Janus argues is an unconstitutional act of compelled speech.

Mark Janus, an employee of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, has about $46 deducted from his paycheck every month to cover the collective-bargaining expenses of AFSCME, the union that represents employees at his state agency. Although Janus is not a union member, by law he receives all the rights and benefits under the contract the union negotiated for workers at his agency.

The union and government employer argue that Janus is trying to be a “free rider,” obtaining the benefits of union representation without paying his fair share of the costs. While some workers may disagree with the union’s goals, many others fully support the union’s goals of higher wages and better benefits but still hope to free-ride by having others rather than themselves pay the union dues.

It’s already possible for public employees to “opt-out” of paying that portion of their dues that fund explicitly political activity. But Janus argues that all dues paid to public sector unions are political because the consequences of collective bargaining in the public sector impact taxes, government debt, budgets and spending priorities. Janus contends that the agenda of public sector unions, including collective bargaining, is inherently political.

While a ruling is not expected until later this year, The Washington Post warns that a ruling in favor of Janus could have widespread unintended consequences, even for those who support the plaintiff’s case.

According to The Washington Post,

What the Janus backers (and most commentators) miss is that agency fees are not just compensation for the financial costs of representation, but for the political costs of representing all the members in the bargaining unit and maintaining labor peace. As AFSCME’s attorney pointed out in his oral arguments, the agency fee is routinely traded for a no-strike clause in most union contracts. Should those clauses disappear, employers will have chaos and discord on their hands.

The combination of exclusive union representation, mandatory agency fees, no-strike clauses and “management’s rights” are the foundation of our peculiar labor relations system. No other country structures its labor relations system quite like this. Knock one part out, as the Janus plaintiffs aim to do with agency fees, and the whole system can fall apart. Employers will not like the chaos that this will bring.

The piece argues that if Janus prevails, thousands of contracts that would have to be renegotiated in a climate where an agency fee is no longer a trade for a no-strike pledge, which could lead to significant labor unrest across the country.

The United States Supreme Court has issued several opinions relating to the right of a public sector exclusive representative to collect service fees from nonunion members. In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), the court found that, while an exclusive representative could collect a fee from nonunion members, the fee revenues could not be used to support ideological causes not germane to the organization’s duties as the collective bargaining representative. In another case, the Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292 (1986), the court held that, in order to protect nonunion members’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech and association, the union’s collection of agency fees must “include an adequate explanation of the basis for the fee, a reasonably prompt opportunity to challenge the amount of the fee before an impartial decision maker, and an escrow for the amounts reasonably in dispute while such challenges are pending.”

There is no State law that generally allows all local government employees to engage in collective bargaining; rather, it is within the powers of the counties and municipalities in Maryland to pass local laws granting collective bargaining rights to their employees.

Several counties have exercised that authority and have some kind of collective bargaining for employees. Some allow collective bargaining for most rank and file employees. Others allow for collective bargaining for a specific group of individuals, such as police officers, sheriffs, or emergency medical personnel.

The extent to which a county’s code includes collective bargaining measures varies drastically from robust sections in the Montgomery and Prince George’s counties codes to Washington County, which simply states collective bargaining is authorized and strikes are prohibited.

Read the full article for more information.

Conduit Street Podcast: Local Roads Funding “Deal,” BRFA Hearings, Unpacking the Big School Construction Bill, & School Safety

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss a potential “deal” on local roads funding, explain MACo’s position on the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA), break down the Knott Commission school construction legislation, and examine a new proposal for funding to enhance school safety across Maryland.

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

If you are having trouble using this media player, listen on our website.

Highway User Bill in the Fast Lane – “Deal” Locks in 5yr Funding Increase

A House Committee has amended and is advancing HB 807, legislation to increase state funding for locally-maintained roads and bridges. The five-year plan would set new, higher levels of funding for county and municipal roadways beginning in FY 2020. Signs point to the bill marking a negotiated “deal” including legislative leaders from both chambers, clearing its path to passage this session.

Both MACo and MML have made restoring Highway User Revenues a top priority for years, as recession-driven cuts left local governments with a fraction of historic funding levels of state transportation revenues.

The amended version of HB 807 would roughly double the funding for county governments in each year — to approximately $58 million each year. The funding would be designated as “capital transportation grants” rather than simple statutory distributions (the effect of this terminology change on local governments is unclear, but may be negligible). The new funding level for counties would represent 3.2% of the funds from the Highway User Revenues, coming from taxes on motor fuels, vehicles, and other transportation-related sources — an increase from 1.5% today (through a combination of traditional HUR and capital grants).

The municipal share would be adjusted to 2.0% of the total, and the share for Baltimore City (which has the unique responsibility of maintaining nearly all state roads within its boundaries) is adjusted to 8.3%.

MACo On BRFA: Drop the SDAT Cost-Shift, Don’t Permanently Cap Formula Increases

At this week’s hearing on the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2018 (“BRFA”), Department of Legislative Services (DLS) analysts recommended striking the provision which would shift 90 percent of costs for certain State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) functions onto the counties – concurring with MACo’s suggested amendment to delete this provision from the BRFA.

As introduced, the bill would shift nearly all costs for SDAT’s property assessment, information technology and Office of the Director costs onto the counties. Currently, counties fund 50 percent of assessment and information technology functions. The cost shift would have placed an additional $20 million on the backs of county budgets.

Section 8 of the BRFA is intended to reduce out-year expenditures by permanently capping formula increases in statutorily mandated programs to the level of general revenue growth minus 1 percent. In effect, this section could have some of the deepest and longest-lasting effects of any fiscal policy, as formulas and spending priorities would be dramatically abrogated over time. The effect of this “mandate relief” would place important county programs in jeopardy and uncertainty. MACo urges the Committees to reject this section of the BRFA, and to retain the year-by-year public hearings and evaluations of any cuts and changes needed to effect that year’s budget plan.

Unpacking the School Construction Legislation

The Knott Commission bill, expecting to be a major piece of legislation in the 2018 Session of the General Assembly has now been introduced.

One of the main questions with regard to the Knott Commission’s recommendations was how its main suggestion – that the State conduct an assessment of every school facility in use and rank them – would affect the State’s priorities for school construction funding.

HB 1783 leaves that question for another day by establishing a work group to review the results of the first assessment and whether the results should be incorporated into school construction funding decisions. The 9-member Work Group on the Assessment and Funding of School Facilities would be chaired by the State Superintendent of Schools and would include a representative of MACo.

School Safety

In the wake of a mass shooting at a Florida high school that triggered an outcry for accountability and reform, Governor Larry Hogan announced that the administration will commit an additional $125 million to accelerate and enhance safety improvements in schools, including secure doors and windows, metal detectors, security cameras, panic buttons, and other capital improvements. Hogan also announced he will allocate an additional $50 million in operating funds each year for new school safety grants, which could be used for school resource officers, counselors, and additional safety technology.

The funding will be allocated through the governor’s education lockbox proposal, which provides an additional $4.4 billion in education spending from casino revenues.

As an immediate step to activate the emergency legislation, the governor announced a supplemental budget that provides an additional $5 million for the Maryland Center for School Safety, an increase in funding of 600 percent. The funding will enable the center to hire analysts and social media trackers, allocate staff in more regions of the state, and assist schools with conducting the mandated safety assessments.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.