More Answers Needed in Gender Wage Gap Reporting Bill

MACo Legislative Director, Natasha Mehu, provided testimony in support (with amendments) of House Bill 62- Procurement Contracts- Gender Wage Gap Reporting before the House Health & Government Operations Committee on January 18, 2018.

This legislation would require any entity bidding for a contract with a state or local entity to report the mean and median wages of all male and female employees in the organization, as well as, how many people are employed in total. There are many considerations that still need to be taken into account in this bill. Including, but not limited to:

  • Does this apply to all procurements, or just those over a certain dollar threshold?
  • What happens if a bidder or offeror adds or changes staff after receiving a public contract – are they required to provide updated information?
  • Do local governments have the ability or obligation to reject the bid in light of wage data provided?

From MACo Testimony:

Gathering data to address wage equity issues is a laudable objective. However, MACo believes the lack of clarity in this bill could result in unintended consequences, such as discouraging potential vendors from bidding, or in findings that vendors are nonresponsive to solicitations when they otherwise would serve as able government partners.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

MACo Supports Revising the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, provided written testimony in support of Senate Bill 67, which would rename the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund as the Advantage Maryland Fund Authority and Advantage Maryland Fund.

In addition to the name change, this bill revises the fiscal abilities of the fund. It increases the amount of grant money that can be provided to fund projects for individuals, local governments, and others seeking to expand economic and employment opportunities. It also repeals most restrictions on providing funding for capital costs.

From MACo Testimony:

Last year, the program provided a $1.2 million loan for a new Amazon distribution center in Cecil County. Harford County partnered with the Department of Commerce to provide a package to Maines Paper & Food Service Inc. This program also contributed to the incentive package which led to Marriott International’s decision to remain in Maryland – which Montgomery County anticipates will produce $1.8 billion in economic activity over 20 years.

Economic development projects such as these promote vibrant business communities within counties. This in turn creates jobs, contributes to enhancing quality of life, and expands the local tax base – enabling counties to better provide core services for Maryland families and businesses.”

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Counties Seek Right To Request Timely Assessments

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, testified in support with amendments of Senate Bill 10 – Property Tax Assessments – Physical Inspection of Property, before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on January 18, 2018.

This bill would repeal the requirement that the State Department of Assessment of Taxation (SDAT) assess the value of a property through a physical inspection of every property within a three year period of time. Instead, the bill requires SDAT to review each property within that same three-year window. Physical inspections of property can still be requested of SDAT in certain circumstances, including: upon completion of significant improvements on a property, recent sale of a property, an active appeal from the property owner, or at the discretion of SDAT.

From MACo Testimony:

“MACo agrees with SDAT that regular physical inspections of every property are no longer necessary…However, it is extremely important to counties that SDAT uses resources saved from these advances and applies them toward assessing the value of new construction and improvements in a timely manner. This allows counties to tax properties more fairly, based upon their actual value at the time. Therefore, MACo requests the following amendment:

(3) The Department shall perform a physical inspection under subsections (2)(I) or (2)(II) above within thirty days of receipt of notice from a local government with authority to tax the property at issue.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Finance Committee Holds Briefing On Controversial Collective Bargaining Bill

A panel of representing several Maryland community colleges voiced their objections over proposed legislation that would mandate a one-size-fits-all form of collective bargaining during a briefing held by the Senate Finance Committee. The briefing focused on failed legislation (SB 652/HB 871) from the 2017 General Assembly Session.

At the briefing, MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally explained that the move to collective bargaining outlined in this bill could create potentially unsustainable costs for counties, who provide substantial funding for community colleges throughout Maryland – especially since the legislation does not envision any added State support. Bernie Sadusky, Executive Director, Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC) told the Committee that the State has not been living up to its funding obligations, and that the added costs of collective bargaining would fall on counties and/or students, in the form of higher tuition rates.

State Senator Stephen Hershey expressed frustration with the proposal, telling fellow Committee Members that his constituent counties would be unable to afford the added costs resulting from mandated collective bargaining. Senator Hershey also addressed the lack of State funding for community colleges, he asked:

How can we pass a bill when we have no idea how to pay for it?

MACo opposed the 2017 legislation.

Representatives from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Maryland/DC American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO), and Communication Workers of America (CWA) testified in support of the legislation.

Useful Links

HB 871/SB 652 of 2017

Previous Conduit Street Coverage

Anne Arundel County Council Passes Anti-Racism Resolution

The Anne Arundel County Council heard more than an hour of moving testimony Monday night as residents packed council chambers to ask members to take meaningful steps to fight racism in the county.

As reported by The Capital Gazette,

Council members unanimously passed Resolution 22-17, which denounces hatred and racism in the wake of recent events — including the killing of Lt. Richard Collins III, a black Bowie State University student who was stabbed to death on the University of Maryland, College Park campus, allegedly by a white man from Severna Park.

The resolution responded to the killing, as well as other recent events in the state and county that have “shown that hateful messages and speech serve as a call to action for certain individuals and groups to perform bold acts meant to induce fear and commit acts of violence.”

In addition to condemning messages and acts of racism, the resolution encouraged the implementation of programming and educational initiatives in cooperation with the county administration’s “effort to improve inclusion, understanding and diversity within county government and to aid in ending racism and discrimination in our communities.”

Councilman Pete Smith, a Severn Democrat who initially proposed the resolution, choked up as he explained why he believes it is important for the council to take a stand against racism.

Smith, the council’s only African-American member, told of the racism he faced as a 13-year-old playing in the school yard, when he was approached by two white boys who began to push him and call him racial slurs.

“It blew me away because I did not know why,” he recalled. “I didn’t antagonize these individuals, I didn’t say anything to them — they just came up to me and started using this barrage of words.”

“Twenty-five years ago to this day, I still remember how I felt when these two individuals started minimizing and demeaning me because of the color of my skin. I felt freaking small.”

About 60 people gathered across the street from the County Council’s chambers before the meeting Monday night for a demonstration led by the Caucus of African American Leaders.

Council members amended the resolution to include language condemning white supremacy in response to testimony from some residents who said the resolution did not go far enough.

Read the full article for more information.

MACo Advocates for Revenue Equity for State Forests & Parks

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick recently testified in support of Senate Bill 273, which addresses a longstanding funding shortfall to counties for their acreage of State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas.

MACo’s testimony states,

As amended, the bill would establish a Revenue Equity Program which would provide counties with at least 40,000 acres of State forests, State parks and wildlife management areas with State funding, allocated through an analog to a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, in fairly wide use across Maryland. Beginning in Fiscal 2019, the State would pay the qualifying counties the amount they would receive in property taxes if the land were not government-owned. Five counties currently have at least 40,000 acres of applicable land and qualify for the benefits provided by the bill: Allegany, Dorchester, Garrett, Somerset, and Worcester.

SB 273 will serve as an appropriate incentive to counties to preserve their State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas. As State lands or designated wildlife areas, these properties are exempt from the local property tax, which is the counties’ top revenue source. These State lands comprise as much as 20% of the total land mass in some counties. Property revenues fund a large portion of county expenditures from which these lands benefit, including law enforcement, emergency management services, stormwater infrastructure, and roadways. Providing services to these areas without revenues for this specific purpose draws funds away from other parts of the county budget.

The following county members joined Zektick to testify in favor of this bill:

  • Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine
  • Somerset County Commissioner Charlie Fisher
  • Executive Assistant to the Dorchester County Manager, Rebecca White

After a detailed introduction from bill sponsors Senators George Edwards and James Mathias, Governor Hogan’s Chief Legislative Officer and former Senator Chris Shank stressed the Governor’s support for the bill. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources also testified in support of the bill, clarifying that its passage would relieve any tension between the State and local governments concerning the purchase and development of additional State forest and park land.

Delegate Stephen Lafferty asked White about the income potential of State land primarily covered in marsh, where housing could not be developed. White and Commissioner Valentine testified that just because it could not house development did not mean that counties did not have to pay for services supporting the land. Delegate Andrew Cassilly followed up with a friendly question concerning the land value, and Delegate William Wivell drove home the point that any concerns about the value of the land would be addressed through the property assessment process.

Previous Conduit Street coverage can be found here. Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo Supports Expansion of Substance Abuse Treatment Outcome Partnership Grant Program

MACo Associate Director Natasha Mehu testified in favor of legislation (SB 1194) which would provide greater flexibility and increased resources to local governments for substance abuse treatment and related prevention, outreach, and maintenance efforts. Drug-related deaths and crises continue to rise in epidemic proportions. Counties need support to bridge remaining gaps.

MACo’s testimony states,

The grant program supports targeted substance abuse treatment services and populations, as proposed by county governments in response to local needs. SB 1194 expands the eligible populations and uses for grant funds to address remaining challenges in addressing substance abuse to include individuals in recovery and recovery support services. It also establishes an $8.4 million annual appropriation for the fund. The program has been level-funded at $6.4 million for over a decade. In FY 16, STOP was revitalized to address changing demographics and challenges, but no new funding was appropriated.

Supporting sobriety is a key component in the opioid addiction battle. As counties continue efforts to prevent individuals from falling into addiction and to treat those who have already succumbed to it, it is essential to also provide adequate support to individuals in recovery and at risk for relapse. SB 1194 helps to provide additional resources and support to programs targeting those vulnerable individuals.

This bill was heard by the Senate Finance committee on March 29. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman joined Ms. Mehu in support of the bill.

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

MACo Backs Compromise on Transportation Scorecard

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified in favor of the amended Administration bill (SB 307) which would repeal the controversial transportation scorecard law passed last year. This bill passed unanimously out of the Senate and was heard by the House Appropriations and Environment and Transportation committees on March 23.

Governor Hogan’s Administration introduced and supported the bill.

MACo’s testimony states,

This amended bill substantially reframes the 2016 legislation creating a “scorecard” for major transportation projects. The amended bill clarifies that the use of scoring from the statutory system will be purely advisory for a two-year period, while a designated work group convenes to consider refinements to its elements and effects. By eliminating the uncertainty regarding the potential immediate effect on project funding, SB 307 addresses the chief county concerns with the current law. Counties welcome an opportunity to help inform the ongoing work group efforts proposed in the amended bill.

Useful Links

Senate Bill 307

MACo’s testimony

Transportation Scorecard Compromise Passes Senate Unanimously

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

Community College Collective Bargaining Bill Remains in Committee

Neither the Senate Finance Committee nor the House Appropriations Committee has taken action on a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all collective bargaining bill that would affect all Maryland community colleges. HB 871 / SB 652 failed to move prior to yesterday’s “crossover” deadline, and bills passed out from now on go to the Rules Committee of the second chamber, a procedural hurdle impeding their chances of final passage.

Counties oppose the one-size-fits-all approach of HB 871 / SB 652, which limits local decision-making. The move to collective bargaining outlined in this bill could create potentially unsustainable costs for counties, who provide substantial funding for community colleges throughout Maryland – especially since the legislation does not envision any added State support.

From the MACo testimony,

Despite counties’ role in supporting community colleges, this legislation would not provide any opportunity for county governments to participate in collective bargaining negotiations. The combination of these effects – State-imposed system and costs, no county participation in bargaining, and no additional State funding – is simply not affordable as a statewide county mandate and could present substantial budget difficulties.

MACo opposed identical legislation in past sessions of the General Assembly. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.

For more on MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session, visit our Legislative Tracking Database.

Local Collective Bargaining Mandate Misses “Crossover” Deadline

A bill that would require all counties to extend collective bargaining rights to all of their employees – except for supervisory, managerial, or confidential employees, or elected or appointed officials, has not moved out of the House Appropriations Committee. HB 1370 failed to move prior to yesterday’s “crossover” deadline, and bills passed out from now on go to the Rules Committee of the second chamber, a procedural hurdle impeding their chances of final passage.

MACo opposed the bill, as it mandates a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all design that would expand collective bargaining rights in a third of Maryland’s counties.

From the MACo testimony,

Maryland county governments vary in many ways. They come in different forms of government, including charter, commission, and code home rule. They are different sizes, ranging from less than two hundred employees to more than ten thousand. And, they have different levels of collective bargaining rights. Some authorize collective bargaining for all the employees described in HB 1370, some have it for public safety employees, and others do not currently have collective bargaining agreements.

Requiring even Maryland’s smallest county governments and any municipal governments in Maryland that have more than 20 employees to authorize collective bargaining to almost all their employees will create a new administrative burden, and could also create additional personnel costs. The low threshold and broad application of HB 1370 puts pressure on some of the state’s smallest jurisdictions, which may be least able to accommodate additional administration and costs.

Useful Links

2016 Bill: HB 736

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