Open Meetings Compliance Board – Annual Meeting August 3rd

Maryland’s Open Meetings Compliance Board will hold its annual meeting at 11:00 a.m. on August 3, 2017, in Room 161 of the Arundel Center, 44 Calvert Street, Annapolis, Maryland. The public is invited to attend.

If you are interested in attending, please contact Ms. Janice Clark or call 410-576-7033 so that we may make the necessary arrangements. An agenda will be available in July when determined, and will be posted on the Compliance Board’s website.

State/Local Deductibility Among Tricky Issues in Federal Tax Reform Debate

Talks of renewed efforts to “jumpstart” proposed federal tax reforms have emerged from Washington, with House Speaker Paul Ryan encouraging efforts to develop a plan for House passage — likely as a part of budget reconciliation, meaning a lower vote threshold needed in the Senate.

From coverage in the Wall Street Journal, a political consensus – even among the majority Republicans – has been elusive in part due to the tentative proposal to eliminate tax deductibility of state and local taxes on federal returns. From the Journal coverage:

• Intra-Republican disputes threaten the GOP effort with every trade-off. Just this week, seven House Republicans from New York and New Jersey signed a letter asking the administration—and by extension, the speaker—to reconsider a plan to repeal the deduction for state and local taxes.

• To even get to tax policy, Republicans will have to pass a budget that allows them to use reconciliation, the procedural tool that enables a simple majority vote in the Senate. That will require bridging gaps between Republicans who emphasize spending cuts and those who want to spend more on the military.

For more on the state and local tax deduction, see NACo’s release: State, Local Governments Urge Congress to Preserve State and Local Tax Deduction and Tax-Exempt Municipal Bonds in Tax Reform Efforts

NACo Webinar: National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization – What Counties Need to Know

On Monday, June 26, the National Association of Counties (NACo) will host a webinar to educate stakeholders about the potential impact of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The upcoming webinar titled “National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization: What Counties Need to Know” will provide participants with an overview of the NFIP and how it works. Additionally, the webinar will provide an update about legislation that Congress is developing to reauthorize the program before it expires on September 30, 2017.

Monday’s webinar will feature Caitlin Berni, Vice President for Policy and Communications at Greater New Orleans, Inc., who recently testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee about the potential impact of changes to the program on communities throughout the United States.

NACo encourages local leaders from communities that participate in the NFIP to register for the webinar by clicking here.

Additional information is available on the NACo website.

MACo Seeking 2018 Legislative Initiative Ideas

MACo is currently welcoming suggestions for legislative initiatives for the 2018 legislative session.

Each year, MACo adopts up to four topics to forward as initiatives — working with supportive legislators to get those bills introduced and enacted. Past years have seen a wide range of MACo focus — from major budgetary topics to legal clarifications to public health measures.

County governing bodies, individual elected officials, MACo’s professional affiliate groups, MACo chapter organizations, and others within the county community are welcome to suggest topics for consideration. Suggestions may be submitted by email to MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson by July 7.

MACo has an Initiatives Committee that meets through the interim period to review and evaluate the various proposals. The Committee typically presents its recommendations to the MACo Legislative Committee in the fall for the slate of initiatives to be adopted for the year ahead. From that point on, the membership and staff begin work on engaging supportive legislators, connecting with other interested players, and drafting the proposed statutory language needed.

Submit your suggestions to MACo for a 2018 MACo Initiative by July 7!

Recycling Programs Seeking To Update, Upgrade, Educate

Recycling used to look like this… but today it’s increasingly multi-component packaging, complicated plastics, and other components that challenge local collection/sorting facilities to keep pace
A Governing magazine article explores modern challenges with local recycling programs across the country — including the proliferation of more complicated materials that leave citizens unsure whether they are eligible for the recycling stream. Local recycling centers are seeking to better educate citizens on system use, and to improve their back-end management of an increasingly complicated material stream.

From Governing:

People on all sides of recycling agree that contamination is a major problem. “There is a lack of consistency with how communities educate about curbside recycling programs, leading to confusion and frustration regarding understanding what is recyclable and where and how to find program information,” wrote the authors of The 2016 State of Curbside Report, which was prepared by the Recycling Partnership for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Many communities do not provide easy-to-access and easy-to-understand recycling-related information.”

Just a decade or two ago, residents sorted their recyclables for curbside pickup. But in order to increase household recycling rates, cities moved to “single-stream” recycling: One bin for everything — newspapers, glass, aluminum, tin, plastic and cardboard. Compliance is easier for residents and, since the city only needs one truck to pick up everything, it saves money. But the downside is that someone eventually does have to sort out the paper from the cardboard and the glass and cans from the plastic. It makes the process more expensive because now instead of just one household sorting it out, employees at a waste facility and big, costly machines do it. It also leads to more contamination and a decrease in the quality of the materials recovered. That, in turn, matters to the people who buy bales of recycled material and turn it into new products.

Another challenge is that the materials manufacturers are using are becoming more complex. “We are creating packages that are hard to recycle,” [Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)] says.

Council Approves “Surprise” Tax Cut In Wicomico

During its Thursday evening work session, the Wicomico County Council approved a series of spending cuts to enable a 1.1 cent reduction in the county property tax rate – the first such reduction in many years.

From coverage in the Salisbury Independent:

The County Charter allows the Wicomico Council to cut a County Executive’s proposed spending plan, and the seven members did just that on Thursday night, removing $684,783 from the fiscal 2018 budget.

Their unanimous actions mean county property owners will receive their first tax cut in recent memory, lowering the property tax rate by slightly more than a penny, down from the current 0.9516 cents per $100 to 0.9398 cents.

In a budget session unlike any since the creation of the County Executive form of government, council members appeared to arrive for Thursday’s session determined to cut some spending, reduce the amount of dollars the county places each year in its contingency fund and give cash to several priority school projects that were left out of the Board of Education budget.

The Council is scheduled to meet on May 30 and formally adopt its revised budget plan.

Session Wrap-Ups From Around Maryland

With the 2017 General Assembly session in the books as of Monday midnight, the session-end summaries offer insight into the issues affecting broader communities than MACo and county governments. Read these sources for broad coverage of the session that was:

Baltimore Sun: Final Day Roundup

Washington Post Session Review

Washington Post Summary of Passes and Fails

WYPR Radio coverage

Herald-Mail coverage

The Last Day: How Did Counties Fare?

With several issues coming down to the final day of the 2017 legislative session, here’s a quick wrap-up of their final disposition. As is almost always the case, the final results are a mixed bag of successes and disappointments.

ENERGY SITING BILL PASSESHB 1350 included a final compromise to grant counties greater input into the certificate process to approve large-scale energy generation facilities.

ATTORNEYS FEE LEGISLATION DEFEATED ON SENATE FLOORSB 705, a bill that spent most of the last three weeks of the session on the Senate floor, was defeated after several more “special order” motions to delay its consideration. MACo had opposed the bill, citing its broad effects and costs from lawsuits well beyond the targeted “access to justice” sphere.

NEXT-GEN 911 COMMISSION AND FLEXIBILITY BILL DIES IN HOUSE COMMITTEESB 466, an amended-down version of legislation to advance Maryland 9-1-1 call centers toward “next generation” technology failed to receive a vote in its House Committee, and was defeated. MACo had supported the modest bill, but questions kept the Health and Government Operations Committee from taking the bill up on Monday.

ELECTION SCANNERS COST SPLIT FAILS – A late session effort (SB 406) to codify the 50/50 state/county cost split passed the House, but failed to progress through its final procedural steps and was defeated as time ran out.

STORMWATER COMPROMISE STALLS IN SENATEHB 656 was a bill MACo initially opposed, but committed to lengthy negotiations and developed into a compromise to fairly apply government stormwater charges on properties owned by other governments. The House approved the compromise, but the Senate was unable to gather the support from the dually assigned committees, and the bill died. The framework of the bill, however, may offer a roadmap for county/municipal agreements in the future, even without passage.

Attorney’s Fee Bill Back To Senate Floor

SB 705, legislation providing plaintiff attorneys fees on numerous constitutional claims against governments, has been passed again by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and will be debated in the days ahead on the Senate floor.

Local governments have opposed the bill, citing its effects far beyond the stated desire to provide “access to justice” for non-monetary cases. The fiscal note suggests the bill would have a substantial fiscal cost to state and local governments, as it would trigger more expensive lawsuits and does not contain numerous balancing provisions that exist in federal courts.

The bill will be on “second reader” and open to amendments for the Thursday morning session.

Update: Following another motion to delay consideration of the bill, it will be on the Senate floor agenda again for Monday, April 10 – the last day of session.

3,000 Times a Month, Marylanders SAVE With NACo Live Healthy Program

The NACo Live Healthy Program provides your county residents a tool to save on prescription drugs, medical supplies and services, and dental care.

The prescription drug discount card is completely free to the county, and free to your residents. Across 19 Maryland counties, every month more than 3,000 times that card gives residents the best discount available — helping many under-insured and uninsured residents with savings from 15% to 75%.

The additional services are available to residents for a very affordable fee:
Dental Discount Program: $6.95 month or $69 year for individuals. $8.95 month or $79 year for families
Medical Services: $6.95 month or $69 year for individuals. $8.95 month or $79 year for families

Learn more about NACo’s Live Healthy Program, an outstanding benefit to your county’s residents, and completely FREE to your county government!