DLS Releases Results of Carroll Schools Audit

The Department of Legislative Services’ (DLS) audit of the financial practices of Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) found a total of 13 findings that require recommendations. The purpose of the audit was to evaluate whether CCPS’ procedures and controls are effective in accounting for and protecting its assets and whether its policies provide for the most efficient use of financial resources.

The audit disclosed that CCPS needs to improve accountability and internal controls in several areas including payroll processing, student activity funds, and equipment inventory. DLS recommends that CCPS ensure schools properly control cash receipts by implementing and enforcing accountability measures and conduct periodic audits of schools with significant school activity funds.

DLS also identified specific security risks on CCPS’ computer systems and network. For example, the network is not sufficiently protected against malware. The network is also vulnerable when it comes to protecting personally identifiable information. DLS recommends that CCPS implement protection against untrusted traffic entering the network and restrict access of third party connections into the CCPS network.

According to the Carroll County Times:

Despite more than a dozen recommendations, CCPS Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said the school system has known about many of the recommendations and has been working to fix them.

“Overall, we’re pleased that these recommendations were relatively minor. There were no surprises,” Guthrie said.

Other recommendations include ensuring that the necessary parental approvals for Medicaid billings are obtained and that all allowable Medicaid reimbursement is sought for eligible students, implementing a process that provides for the independent review of payroll adjustments, making sure that the equipment inventory records accurately include all equipment owned by CCPS, and ensuring that all annual financial disclosure forms are properly completed and reviewed by the ethics panel, as required.

Read the full article for more information.

Sun Editorial Calls for Election Reforms

With just five weeks to go until Maryland’s primary election, today’s Baltimore Sun editorial “Maryland election law needs a serious upgrade calls for major reforms to state election law.

From the editorial, the Sun questions why Maryland requires gubernatorial candidates to name a running mate when they file:

Why not leave that selection until after the primary, as presidential candidates do? Theoretically, the selection of a running mate could tell voters something about the person who is running for governor — but usually what it demonstrates is the candidate’s political calculations rather than his or her character and judgment. And the down side is that we’ve wasted a lot of political talent over the years from people who have given up their own electoral careers for a shot at being someone’s No. 2.

The Sun further criticizes the State Board of Elections for refusing to reprint ballots in the wake of the sudden death of Baltimore County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Kevin Kamenetz:

Maryland law does account for the possibility that a candidate for governor would die before an election, but it’s increasingly clear that nobody thought it through all that carefully. As was her right under state law, Kamenetz’s running mate, former Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, has chosen to run instead. But now state election officials say it’s not only too late to remove Mr. Kamenetz’s name from the ballot, it’s also too late to add hers.

Instead, the State Board of Elections says it will place information in all of Maryland’s precincts to inform voters of Kamenetz’s passing and that the campaign chose to form a new ticket. But that won’t cut it for Ervin, who is contemplating legal action in order to force the State Board to print new ballots.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that the State Board of Elections did not have to print new ballots to remove the name of former state senator Nathaniel Oaks, who petitioned to have his name removed from the ballot after resigning from office. With the primary election set for June 26, and early voting starting on June 14, the State Board argued it was too late to reprint ballots.

State and local election officials are responsible for proofreading, testing, and printing all 747 configurations of the primary ballot, which are specific to Maryland’s varying congressional, legislative, and local districts. As previously reported on Conduit Street, State Board of Elections Administrator Linda Lamone estimates that reprinting ballots statewide would cost around $3.5 million – with counties footing 50% of the bill.

Useful Links

Read the full editorial in The Baltimore Sun

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Reprinting Primary Election Ballots Could Be Costly for Counties

Could a New Governance Board Guide MD School Reforms?

The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting yesterday in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, much of yesterday’s meeting focused on creating a system of governance and accountability to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.

The Commission was originally set to complete its work in time for the 2018 session of the General Assembly, but last October asked for an extension when it became clear the deadline was not realistic. Prior to breaking for the 2018 legislative session, the Commission released a preliminary report detailing its preliminary recommendations.

While the preliminary report did call for a strong system of governance and accountability to oversee the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations, it did not provide specific recommendations on the structure, role, and authority of such a system.

The discussion was centered around a set of design assumptions – an outline of potential recommendations based on previous discussions – focused on three elements:

  • The creation of an Independent oversight body to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations via a strategic plan, with the body ceasing to function at the end of the implementation period.
  • Formula funding designed so that some meaningful portion of the funding will be subject to the approval of specific plans to implement the recommendations and subject to demonstrated progress toward greater student success.
  • Inspection teams to visit struggling schools and pair high performing school leaders with struggling ones to provide support and mentorship, and a complementary system designed to provide the State with a profile for every school.

The Commission grappled with how to structure the oversight body within State government, as well as the role and authority of the oversight body relative to existing State agencies, such as the State Board of Education and local school boards. Perhaps the most controversial question is whether or not the oversight body should have authority to withhold new funding from jurisdictions that fail to implement the Commission’s recommendations in a timely manner. That authority currently rests with the State Board of Education.

Although it’s clear the Commission is nowhere near reaching a consensus on how to best hold the State and local jurisdictions accountable for following through on its recommendations, Dr. Kirwan is confident the group will be able to work out their differences over the next several meetings.

In other news, each of the Commission’s four working groups met to continue their work on developing a consensus on the design, implementation plan, and cost for each of the preliminary recommendations. Once the working groups have completed their work, they will present their recommendations and cost estimates to the full Commission. The chair will work with staff and consultants to develop a draft cost estimate based on the recommendations of the working groups (as considered by the full Commission) for the full Commission’s consideration.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission.

MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation. Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, June 28, 2018; 9:30 am-5:30 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

Materials from today’s meeting are available on the General Assembly website, and the meetings viewable online by searching the House Appropriations Committee room on the dates of each meeting.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

2017 Preliminary Report

Previous Conduit Street Coverage

Montgomery County Sets Zoning Standards for Small Cell Antennas

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday adopted a zoning text amendment (ZTA) that sets standards for small cell wireless antennas in mixed-use commercial and industrial zones. ZTA 18-02 would allow more antennas in commercial and urban areas, on lower height building rooftops, and utility poles. The ZTA does not make any changes to use of street lights in residential areas or in areas with underground utilities.

Small cells are wireless antennas that have a smaller footprint and shorter range than macrocells (what you would typically imagine as a large, tall, and free-standing cell tower), allowing them to be placed on short poles and existing structures such as streetlights and buildings. The technology is proliferating in part to increase network capacity and coverage as the demand for wireless services has increased.

ZTA 18-02 permits the installation of new equipment on existing utility poles or replacement poles in commercial and mixed-use areas. In addition to requiring small cells be masked to minimize aesthetic impacts, the law puts a cap on the allowable height of replacement poles and requires them to be the same color as the poles they are replacing.

The law makes no changes to the requirement that new small cell structures be at least 300 feet from homes and be subject to a public hearing. Further, no changes were made to the 60-foot setback requirement for equipment on existing structures in residential zones.

Earlier this year, MACo opposed a bill that would have regulated small cell technology across the state and significantly preempted local authority and had inequitable impacts on local communities. While counties embrace innovation and the advancement of broadband technology, local authority and community decision-making is crucial. The bill’s hearing was canceled and did not move out of committee. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

Reprinting Primary Election Ballots Could Be Costly for Counties

Reprinting Primary Election Ballots Statewide Would Cost $3.5 million – With Counties Footing 50% of the Bill

The sudden death of Baltimore County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Kevin Kamenetz sent shockwaves across Maryland. Under state law, his running mate, former Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, has until May 17 to decide whether to dissolve the campaign, name someone to take Kamenetz’s place, or run for governor herself and name a lieutenant governor running mate.

Regardless of how Ervin chooses to move forward, and with just weeks to go before Maryland’s gubernatorial primary election, one question is front and center: Will the State Board of Elections be required to reprint some 747 versions of the primary ballot?

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that the State Board of Elections did not have to print new ballots to remove the name of former state senator Nathaniel Oaks, who petitioned to have his name removed from the ballot after resigning from office. With the primary election set for June 26, and early voting starting on June 14, the State Board argued it was too late to reprint ballots.

According to Maryland Matters:

Further complicating the matter is that the State Board of Elections last week mailed all the military and overseas absentee ballots — with the Kamenetz-Ervin pairing on them — in accordance with federal law requiring that they go out by Saturday, 45 days before the election.

Linda H. Lamone, Maryland elections administrator, said late Friday she had no plans to have the primary ballots reprinted at this point because she maintains a section of state election law gives her discretion in determining whether there is sufficient time to revise the ballots with the correct names.

And in Lamone’s assessment, there is not enough time to make any change, given the complexity of such an undertaking, the potential for error — and the fact that the overseas and military ballots already have been mailed out.

“I’m not going to do anything unless ordered by a court to do it,” she said.

State and local election officials are responsible for proofreading, testing, and printing all 747 configurations of the primary ballot, which are specific to Maryland’s varying congressional, legislative, and local districts.

Lamone estimates that reprinting ballots statewide would cost around $3.5 million – with counties footing 50% of the bill.

In 2001, on the heels of the well-documented national election and passage of the federal Help America Vote Act, Maryland passed legislation establishing a statewide uniform voting system, to be certified by the State Board of Elections. (See HB 1457 of 2001)  HB 1457 created an even split of funding responsibility for voting machines and related systems – from Section 4 of that bill:

[E]ach county shall pay its share of one-half of the State’s cost of acquiring and operating the uniform statewide voting systems for voting in polling places and for absentee voting provided for under this Act, including the cost of maintenance, storage, printing of ballots, technical support and programming, related supplies and materials, and software licensing fees.

Ultimately, the laws governing the reprinting of election ballots, including how much authority the State Board has in determining whether such a reprint is necessary, are somewhat ambiguous. Should Ervin elect to stay in the race, she may request that primary ballots be reprinted. Given that the State Board seems unlikely to grant such a request, the question of whether or not to reprint primary election ballots will likely be adjudicated in the courts.

Supreme Court Allows States to Legalize Sports Betting

The United States Supreme Court today struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the federal law that barred states from legalizing sports betting. In a 7-2 decision, the high court sided with New Jersey in the case, Murphy v. NCAA, and reversed a ruling from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

PASPA, enacted in 1992, forbids state-authorized sports betting in all but four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon. Nevada is the only state to allow single-game wagering.

New Jersey challenged the PASPA before the Supreme Court, arguing the law is a violation of the 10th Amendment, calling it a “dramatic, unprecedented” usurpation of New Jersey’s authority. “Just as Congress lacks the power to order a state legislature not to enact a law authorizing sports gambling, it may not order a state legislature to refrain from enacting a law licensing sports gambling,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote on behalf of the court.

While the decision effectively opens the door for Maryland to legalize sports betting, it’s unlikely to do so, at least not any time soon. According to the Maryland Constitution, the General Assembly may only authorize additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming if approved through a referendum by a majority of the voters in a general election.

A 2018 bill to legalize sports betting via a referendum failed to pass the General Assembly. That effectively halts the state from legalizing sports wagering in the short term. Even if the state were to pass a bill in 2019, it would still require the approval of voters in the 2020 presidential election.

Conduit Street Podcast: Procurement, Property Taxes, & Public Works

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Barbara Zektick discuss the importance of procurement in county government, review a number of tax bills from the 2018 General Assembly Session, and explain the relationship between local departments of public works and the United States Federal Highway Administration. 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.

May is Maryland Podcast Month! Visit Marylandpodcastmonth.com for more information.

Listen here:

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

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: 2018 End of Session Wrap-up: Property Taxes

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Yellow Lights: Don’t Mess With the Manual

Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)

Hogan Signs Landmark Community College Promise Scholarship Legislation

Governor Larry Hogan today signed HB 16 – Near Completers and Maryland Community College Promise Scholarships, which allocates $15 million per year in need-based tuition aid for eligible community college students. Senate President Mike Miller and Speaker of the House Michael Busch joined Governor Hogan to sign the landmark legislation. The Governor and Presiding Officers were joined by the bill’s lead sponsor, Delegate Frank S. Turner, presidents of several Maryland community colleges, and staff from the Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC).

According to a press release:

“This is a win – win for our students and our state,” said Dr. Bernie Sadusky, MACC executive director. “It’s a win for our students, most of whom are low-income, work, and have family responsibilities. And it’s a win for Maryland because a more educated workforce is the engine of economic growth.”

By 2020, 69% of Maryland jobs will require a postsecondary education according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, while about 40% of Maryland’s high school graduates don’t enroll in any postsecondary education within one year of graduation. Meanwhile, Maryland employers in high-demand fields contend with unfilled positions and insufficiently skilled applicants.

The program, which begins academic year 2019 – 2020, requires students access all other eligible financial aid before Maryland’s College Promise scholarship funds, up to $5,000 per year, are awarded. Recipients must work in Maryland one year for each year of scholarship awarded, or the scholarships convert to loans and must be repaid.

Other requirements include full-time enrollment in a community college for a vocational certificate, a credit certificate, or an associate degree, within two years of graduating high school or completing a GED; high school GPA of 2.3 or higher; and an annual adjusted gross income of not more than $100,000 if the applicant is single or resides in a single-parent household, or $150,000 if applicant is married or resides in a two-parent household.

The bill also provides $2 million over five years to students who are close to finishing degrees at community colleges and four-year institutions. Near-completer students are eligible to receive up to one-third of their tuition dues.

Read the full press release for more information.

State Announces Five New Apprenticeship Programs

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation today announced five new registered apprenticeship programs, expanding opportunities for Maryland workers in high-wage skilled trade jobs and non-traditional apprenticeship industries.

Moon Services, Tri-County Electrical Services, UMBC Training Centers, and Miller and Long Company became new apprenticeship sponsors, while Englishman Electric reactivated its program, bringing the total of Maryland’s active apprenticeship sponsors to 141.

According to a press release:

“Apprenticeship is a smart choice for any industry or field of interest,” said Labor Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. “Apprenticeship offers job seekers the chance to learn new skills while earning a wage, and employers the opportunity to build their workforce while reducing turnover costs. With benefits such as these, it is clear why the apprenticeship program has grown by nearly 20 percent over the last three years.”

These new programs and reactivations include occupations such as machinist, HVACR technician, electrician, plumber, cement mason, ironworker, operating engineer, and a new occupation in certified cyber analyst operator.

MACo has consistently supported legislation to enhance registered apprenticeship programs. Counties are invested in having strong and vibrant economies. A robust, well-trained, and educated workforce encourages businesses to locate and grow in Maryland.

Anyone 18 or older can be a registered apprentice, while high school students can pursue youth apprenticeships. Businesses and job seekers interested in apprenticeships are invited to contact info@mdapprenticeship.com or call 410-767-2246.

NFPA Releases Active Shooter Response Standard

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released NFPA 3000 (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program. Developed with insights from law enforcement, fire, EMS, medical providers, facility managers, private industry, DHS, the CIA, FBI, and others, the provisional standard will help communities cope with mass casualty incidents. It addresses unified planning and offers response and recovery guidance, as well as civilian and responder safety considerations, according to NFPA. The NFPA 3000 is the world’s first active shooter/hostile event standard.

According to a press release:

“The NFPA 3000 process, from start to finish, has been an exceptional example of emergency responders and other safety-focused practitioners swiftly coming together to provide invaluable perspective and address a significant threat in our world,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said. “The proactive, integrated strategies recommended and defined in NFPA 3000 will go a long way in helping communities plan, respond and recover from active shooter and hostile events.”

This marks only the second time in NFPA’s 122-year history that they have issued a provisional standard. Provisional standards are developed in an expedited process to address an emergency situation or other special circumstance.

Read the full press release for more information.

Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. While an active shooter scenario may unfold in various locations, public and government settings are particular targets. This year’s MACo Summer Conference will feature a special session, Active Shooter Response Training, with take-away lessons in safety for all attendees.

Deputy First Class Wehrle of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office will share his insights into active shooter response and the best way to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Wehrle has been with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office since 2008, with eight years of prior law enforcement experience in another local jurisdiction. He is the Sniper Team leader and is also a member of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office’s Community Action Response Team and regularly provides presentations on active shooter preparedness to a range of audiences.

Active Shooter Response Training

Description: Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. While an active shooter scenario may unfold in various locations, public and government settings are particular targets. These terrifying events are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, so individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to survive the situation before law enforcement arrives. In this deep-dive session, a public safety expert will share the best way to prepare for the worst-case scenario with take-away lessons in safety for all attendees.

Speaker: Deputy First Class Thomas Wehrle, Sniper Section Coordinator, Special Operations Division, Harford County Sheriff’s Office

Date/Time: Saturday, August 18, 2018; 8:30 am – 10:00 am

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: