General Assembly Leadership Announces Bills to Combat Heroin

Senate President Mike Miller, Speaker of the House Michael Busch, and members of the Senate and House Democratic Caucuses held a press conference Friday morning announcing a package of legislation to combat the heroin and opioid crisis in Maryland.

The package includes two omnibus bills: the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) and Treatment Act of 2017 (HB 1329 /SB 967) and the Heroin and Opioid Education and Community Action Act of 2017 (Start Talking Maryland Act) (HB 1082 /SB 1060). MACo supported Start Talking Maryland Act and supported the HOPE act with amendments.

(photo courtesy: @mddems twitter)

Work groups in the House and Senate have been working all session to refine these bills. Legislators at the press conference confirmed that the bills will be passed out of committee on Monday.

Advocates and members of the public joined the legislators in expressing the impact the epidemic has had in Maryland and the need for the bills to address those issues.

Register Now: Southern Maryland 3rd Annual Crab Pot Pitch Contest

The Calvert County Department of Economic Development is co-sponsoring the third annual Crab Pot Pitch Contest.

Crab Pot is a Southern Maryland pitch contest that provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to present their ideas to a panel of judges and investors in front of an audience.

Crab Pot also provides an opportunity for the community to celebrate the efforts of local entrepreneurs and innovators.

Audience members get to see what entrepreneurs in Southern Maryland are doing. Entrepreneurs get to practice their pitches and win prizes, including cash and a bushel of crabs!

Speed Round
Thursday, April 13 at 6 p.m.
Elements Eatery & Mixology
Each qualifying contestant will have 90 seconds to provide an elevator pitch. The audience will select all 5 finalists that will compete in the Crab Pot Finals.

Final Round
Thursday, May 11 at 6 p.m.
Patuxent River Naval Air Museum
Each of the finalists will have 5 minutes to pitch their idea in front of a panel of judges and the audience. The judges will determine the winner and runner-up of the finals.

Registration closes April 6!

Local entrepreneurs are invited to participate. To learn more or register to compete visit the Crab Pot website.

Senate Debates Bail Bill, No Action in House

Bail bills hit barrier as reform advocates and bail bondsman clash over whether court rules should stand or legislative changes should be made. The Senate is debating one of the bills (SB 983) on the floor, while the House has not taken action on either set of bills(HB 1390/SB 880  or HB 1215/SB 983).

Advocates who previously supported a bill (HB 1390/SB 880) introduced to codify the new Maryland judiciary rules on the use of money bail, have switched gears and are now advocating that no bills be passed. Inaction by the General Assembly would let the court rule, which goes into effect July 1 stand. The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus voted last Thursday to take no action on any of the bail reform bills in order to let the court rule stand.

However, bail bondsman stand by their bill (SB 983) which would make changes to the bail process and, if passed, would supersede the court rule before going into effect. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted SB 983 out of committee. It is on the Senate floor and has been subject to vigorous debate.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street:

Sun Weighs in Cautions Against Pro-Bail Legislation

Court of Appeals Unanimously Approves Changes to Bail Rule 

MACo Supports Criminal Pretrial Reform


“Trust Act” Limiting Local Engagement on Immigration on the Move

HB 1362, a bill that would set explicit parameters limiting state and local agencies and officials from cooperating with federal immigration efforts, has passed out of the House with amendments. It will move on to the Senate where the Judicial Proceedings Committee has not yet taken any action on the crossfile SB 835. An article in The Baltimore Sun notes Governor Hogan as saying he would veto the bill.

MACo opposed the bill at it imposes stringent limitations on local government autonomy that have far-reaching and significant consequences.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street: MACo: Don’t Impose Limitation on Local Law Enforcement

Related coverage:

Revised immigration trust act moves forward in House (The Baltimore Sun)

As counties move to help immigration officials, Maryland lawmakers weigh policy change (The Baltimore Sun)

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Law Enforcement Training Bill Passes House

A bill that as originally introduced would have stripped funding from local law enforcement agencies if all individuals required to take specific trainings did not complete the trainings has passed out of the House with amendments.

As amended House Bill 1503 would require each local law enforcement agency to report to Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention every two years on the agencies policies and procedures on use of force de-escalation training. Provisions stripping funding for failure to complete trainings have been removed.

MACo opposed the bill as introduced out of concern that it may have the unintended consequence of stripping a law enforcement agency of nearly all its funding if even just one officer is unable to complete the training. While counties understood the need to enforce compliance with required law enforcement trainings, they did not believe that the penalty should come at the expense of public safety.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Senate Subcommittee Concurs on Rejecting Local Health Department Cost Shift

The Senate Budget and Tax’s Health and Human Services subcommittee voted at the March 14 decision meeting to reject the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) proposal to require local health departments to absorb costs of contractual employee health insurance. They concurred with the House Health and Human Resources subcommittee which rejected the cost shift at their March 6 decision meeting.

The proposal amounted to a $1.6 million cost shift to local health departments. It would have further reduced state funding for health departments (already subject to a funding freeze at last year’s levels in the budget reconciliation bill), and would have likely resulted in service cutbacks.

MACo submitted a letter to the subcommittees opposing the cost shift.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street:

Subcommittee Rejects Cost Shift Onto Local Health Departments

Analysts Propose Cost Shift Onto Local Health Departments

Statewide Child Abuse Reporting Bills Withdrawn

A bill that would shift the critical responsibility of answering calls concerning child abuse and neglect from local departments of social services to the statewide 2-1-1 system was withdrawn by sponsors.

MACo opposed HB 697 /SB 945. While the concept of a statewide hotline proposed by the bill was well intentioned, it had practical shortcomings.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street: MACo Opposes Changes to Child Abuse Reporting System:

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Local Electrical Licensing Repeal Bill Dies in Committee

A bill that would remove all electrical licensing authority from local jurisdictions by 2020 and would establish a statewide licensing framework for master electricians received an unfavorable report by the House Economic Matters Committee this week.

MACo opposed HB 1368 as journeymen and other local classes of electricians would effectively lose their local ability to perform services. Counties also believe their local electrical boards are best situated to oversee and discipline electricians working within their jurisdictions.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street: MACo: Don’t Remove Local Electrical Licensing Authority

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.


‘Airbnb’ Regulation Bill Snagged in Senate Committee

A bill to require short term rentals, such as Airbnb, and individuals who hosts on those platforms to be registered with the Comptroller and regulated hit a road block in the Senate Finance Committee on Friday. It is unlikely to make it out of committee.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Members of the Senate Finance Committee expressed little interest in passing a bill during a work group meeting on the issue Friday afternoon.

They’re considering a bill that would require short-term rentals posted on websites like Airbnb, HomeAway and FlipKey to file paperwork with the state, pay state sales taxes and pay local hotel taxes.

After a couple hours of discussion, committee chairman Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton said it seems that the General Assembly may best be suited only to deal with the issue of state sales taxes. The state Comptroller’s Office already has taken the position that short-term property rentals through websites are subject to the state sales tax.

Local governments are better suited to deal with making sure their local hotel taxes are collected, Middleton said. Local hotel taxes range from 3 percent to 9.5 percent.

MACo participated in Friday’s work group and had supported the bill in question, SB 463, with amendments.

Read The Baltimore Sun for more information.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street:

MACo Backs Regulation of Short Term Rentals Protects Local Autonomy

Airbnb Bill Ignites Debate Between Old Regulations and New Economies

MACo testimony on SB 463.

Sun Weighs In, Cautions Against Pro-Bail Legislation

The Baltimore Sun Editorial Board has weighed in on the debate between legislation introduced to codify the new Maryland judiciary rules on the use of money bail and counter legislation introduced to “modernize” the system. The Sun’s take: eliminate bail or codify the new court rules, but don’t backslide protections in the name of “modernization”.

The other approach, supported by the bail bonds industry, sounds good at first. Its proponents cast it as part of the effort to “modernize” the use of bail in Maryland and to ensure that the state meets a high burden of proof before determining a defendant is a flight risk or a public safety threat and thus must be held before trial. It codifies the principle that high bail cannot be used as punishment or to placate public opinion. Both Paul Clement, who served as the solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration, and J. Howard Henderson, president of the Greater Baltimore Urban League, testified on its behalf, with the latter asserting that it would have no negative effect on minorities.

But in key respects, it amounts to a backpedaling on the reforms the Court of Appeals adopted, which are set to go into effect this summer. It jettisons the concept that judges and court commissioners use the least onerous means to make sure defendants show up in court and pose no risk to the community. It requires judges and detention officials to review jail populations to determine whether people are being held solely because of their inability to pay, but it does not enshrine in law Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s conclusion that such detention is unconstitutional. And it perpetuates the idea that cash bail is an effective means to protect public safety rather than merely to encourage a defendant to return to court.

Ultimately, we believe the public would best be served by the elimination of cash bail altogether. It accomplishes nothing that can’t be achieved through other means, such as enhanced monitoring or, in circumstances when it’s really necessary, pre-trial detention. Such a system should be accompanied by adoption of a well tested and validated risk assessment tool to help court commissioners and judges determine whether and under what circumstances defendants should be released before trial. Other jurisdictions — notably, Washington, D.C. — have long histories of successful pre-trial management without cash bail.

Given the clout of the bail bonds industry in Annapolis, we don’t expect Maryland to move in that direction soon. But the judiciary’s new rules provide a solid foundation for reform, and they should be allowed to work. Even if legislators aren’t willing to pass new laws codifying and strengthening the courts’ new rules, we hope they will at least not gut them in the guise of “modernizing” the system.

For more information read the full editorial in The Baltimore Sun.

Related coverage on Conduit Street:

Court of Appeals Unanimously Approves Changes to Bail Rules

MACo Supports Pretrial System Reform