Tax Incentives Should Maintain Local Autonomy

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick submitted written testimony in support of Senate Bill 310 before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on February 21, 2018 with an amendment to remove the subtraction modification portion of the bill and instead focus on providing the proposed state tax credit.

The bill offers tax incentives for certain cybersecurity companies including a subtraction modification for state and local income taxes of capital gains income related to the sale or other transfer of an investment in one of these companies. MACo supports the initiative to provide tax incentives to businesses, but counties have concerns about the carryover effects that subtraction modification legislation will have on county budgets.

From MACo Testimony:

MACo has no quarrel with the State offering tax incentives to businesses it chooses to incentivize, but is concerned with the carryover county fiscal effects of this and other subtraction modification pieces of legislation. Counties would prefer approaches that provide local autonomy to determine the best way to provide tax incentives, rather than those that mandate reductions in local revenue sources.”

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

Student Screenings Are an Unfunded Mandate

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified before the Senate Education and Health and Environmental Affairs Committee in opposition to Senate Bill 548 on February 21, 2018.

This bill would require local boards of education to conduct specific screenings to identify children with reading difficulties. Without any mechanism for state funding, this potentially costly mandate will be entirely placed on county boards of education. Several new standards and screenings would be established requiring training of employees that could take a substantial amount of time and resources.

From MACo Testimony:

Counties are concerned this legislation places a substantial administrative and cost burden onto local boards of education, whose operations are supported by county funding. Without state resources to offset these potentially large costs, the bill represents an unfunded mandate on local governments.

Local boards of education currently establish educational goals and objectives that conform with statewide educational objectives for subject areas including reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. SB 548 requires local boards of education to implement prescriptive literacy screening standards, develop individualized reading intervention programs, and comply with onerous reporting requirements.

Furthermore, the process of training employees to administer and interpret literacy screenings, providing questionnaires and progress reports to parents or guardians, and preparing reports for the Maryland State Department of Education will take a substantial amount of time, which could divert resources from other efforts.

This bill would place a costly mandate on county governments to carry out new state policy.”

For more information, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Amendments Ensure Fair Framework for Wireless Security System

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified in support with amendments of House Bill 645, “Business Regulation – Wireless Security Systems – Local Government Licenses and Permits”, before the House Economic Matters Committee on February 20, 2018.

As introduced, this bill would have prohibited local governments from requiring any permit or license to install wireless security systems that do not require a fire protection plan review. The bill sought to provide a framework for installation of wireless security systems, but the language was vague and did not include longstanding safeguards for security systems. MACo worked closely with stakeholders championing the bill to develop amendments to address lingering concerns and create a sensible framework for regulation.

From MACo Testimony:

HB 645 defines a wireless security system and prohibits local governments from requiring any license or permit to install, maintain, inspect, replace, or service a wireless security system that does not require a fire protection plan review. As introduced, the bill is vague on the specific license or permit prohibition. It does not account for longstanding, commonsense state and local public safety protections for security systems, which should apply regardless of whether the security system is wired or not. MACo believes an amended version of the bill could accomplish these objectives more clearly, and without upending important and appropriate local oversight.

The amendments sought by the counties would ensure that:
(1) Low voltage is explicitly defined as 50 volts or lower;
(2) Only electrical licenses or electrical permits are prohibited for wireless systems;
(3) Individuals who install wireless systems must comply with state laws governing security system technicians;
(4) Wireless security system operators and users comply with any local alarm business registration and alarm system registration laws; and
(5) Wireless systems must meet the appropriate building codes wherever installed.”

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

Tax Credits Give Consideration to Local Governments

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick submitted written testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 498, “Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Employee-Owned Businesses”, before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on February 21, 2018.

This legislation would provide an adjustment in the amount of income taxes paid on employee stock ownership plans or an employee ownership trust. MACo is concerned with the carryover effects that this modification and other would have, and counties prefer an approach that allows for local flexibility to consider tax incentives.

From MACo Testimony:

MACo is concerned with the carryover county fiscal effects of this and other subtraction modification pieces of legislation and would prefer approaches that provide local autonomy to determine the best way to provide tax incentives, rather than those that mandate reductions in local revenue sources.

MACo suggests that consideration be given instead to providing state tax credits, which do not mandate the depletion of resources from all counties for education, public safety, and needed community services.”

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

Bill Extends County Repayment Timeline to Local Reserve Accounts

House Bill 686 and Senate Bill 742 would implement a two-year delay of county repayments to the Local Income Tax Reserve Account that stems from the ruling in the Comptroller v. Wynne court case. This delay would allow counties to continue to properly plan and take into account the impact that these repayments will have on their budgets, and subsequently their ability to continue to provide comprehensive services to citizens.

Taxpayers have already received their refunds and interest stemming from the Wynne case, and these bills allow counties to smoothly address the repayment of funds into the tax reserve account for an extra two years. MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick testified in support of both HB 686 and SB 742 before the House Ways and Means and Senate Budget and Taxation Committees on February 21, 2018.

From MACo Testimony:

The amount of money owed by counties for the refunds paid pursuant to the Wynne case is extraordinarily high, at around $250 million. Counties appreciate efforts made by the General Assembly in the past to smooth out the severe, deleterious impact of the Wynne case decision over an extended time, and to delay repayments until the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019.

Now that this date is coming near, unfortunately, counties are grappling with significant uncertainty surrounding their income tax revenues, arising from federal tax reform and the State’s anticipated, yet presently unknown, responses to it. Counties would extremely appreciate this Committee and the General Assembly mitigating this uncertainty by delaying their obligation to refund the Local Income Tax Reserve Account at the same critical juncture.”

For more information on these bills and others, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Tax Alterations Without County Input Depletes Local Resources

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick testified before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on February 21, 2018 in opposition to Senate Bill 299, “Income Tax Subtraction Modification – Correctional Officers (Hometown Heroes Act of 2018)”.

This would drastically alter the existing income tax modification for retired “hometown heroes”, while reducing county revenues by over $7 million annually by 2023. This subtraction modification approach excludes local jurisdictions from working with policymakers to develop flexible tools to provide tax incentives to different qualifying groups in those areas.

Additionally, with the uncertain effects of tax reform still looming over county revenues it is possible that modifications such as this one could present significant budget difficulties.

From MACo Testimony:

SB 299 is just one of many bills that have been introduced this session to reduce or adjust the income taxes paid by residents of Maryland. The revenue effect of this bill, combined with that of other bills already introduced this session, simply cannot be afforded as a statewide county mandate and could present substantial budget difficulties. This is exacerbated by the fact that counties do not know yet just how tax reform will affect their revenues.

MACo suggests that consideration be given instead to providing state tax credits, which do not mandate the depletion of resources from all counties for education, public safety, and needed community services.

Counties welcome the chance to work with state policymakers to develop flexible and optional tools to create broad or targeted tax incentives, but resist state-mandated changes that preclude local input.”

For more information on other tax-related bills, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

MACo Initiative: Commission Would Advance Transformation of 9-1-1 Services Across Maryland

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified before the House Health and Government Operations Committee in support of House Bill 634, “Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland – Establishment”, on February 21, 2018.

911bill

Next Generation 9-1-1 helps to innovate and improve the exemplary and essential services required of emergency services in the state of Maryland. By establishing this commission, Maryland can begin to develop a common framework and collection of best practices in order to properly and successfully implement Next Gen 9-1-1 services.

From MACo Testimony:

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.”

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

Proper Alarm System Registration=More Effective Use of Resources

House Bill 1117 would allow counties to impose penalties onto alarm system contractors that fail to register or have failed to renew an alarm system. As introduced, the bill contained a provision that forces counties to wait 10 days before penalizing a contractor, which could significantly affect a jurisdiction’s ability to combat false alarms and allocate police resources effectively.

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified in support of HB 1117, “Alarm Systems – Registration and Renewal – Penalties”, before the House Economic Matters Committee with amendments worked out with the bills stakeholders that address the outlined concern.

From MACo Testimony:

Proper and prompt registration of an alarm system is an important tool for local governments to combat false alarms and the drain of valuable police time and resources that accompany them. Registration and renewals help ensure that local governments are able to quickly identify and contact alarm users prior to the dispatch of police resources.

Improper or missing registrations can result in confusion and dangerous delays of police response. For instance, Baltimore City and Baltimore County share 15 different zip codes. Without proper registration, calls may come into the wrong jurisdiction for police dispatch, delaying prompt police response.

These amendments strike a necessary balance. The parameters set by the bill for imposing a penalty on alarm contractors ensure that they will only be penalized for these specific violations, rather than for actions outside of their control. Removing the 10-day period will help ensure counties are able to hold contractors accountable for violating local law in a timely fashion.”

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

 

Minding the Gap: Career and Tech Grant Funding Program

MACo submitted written testimony in support of House Bill 1098 and Senate Bill 515, “Career and Technology Education and Workforce Investment Act”, to the House Appropriations and Senate Budget and Taxation Committees.

These bills would established a grant program for career and technology education facilities, while also repealing certain spending mandates on scholarships by making them optional. Local jurisdictions would have to match the State input of the grant allotted by the governor up to $2 million. This affords counties more flexibility and allows them to address growth and facility concerns in different ways.

From MACo Testimony:

Maryland counties partner with the State on school construction funding. With more than 50% construction cost increases over the past five years, however, it has been difficult for counties and the State to keep pace with school construction needs. The State’s school facilities are an average age of 29 years, yet must support educational goals of the 21st Century – including providing training for fast-paced technology fields.

According to the Department of Legislative Services, there is no state grant program specifically for the capital equipping of schools with career and technology education programs. This program will fill a niche in the State’s school construction investments and support a growth trajectory of Maryland’s education system.”

For more information, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Senator Kagan Receives Prestigious National Public Safety Award

NG911 Institute Honors Senator Kagan for dedication and leadership in advancing the 9-1-1 system

Maryland Senator Cheryl Kagan and Maryland Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan last week received the Government Leader Award from the Next Generation 9-1-1 Institute. This award recognizes an elected or appointed Federal, State, or Local Government Leader that has displayed significant dedication and leadership in advancing the 9-1-1 system.

Senator Kagan is the lead Senate sponsor of Senate Bill 285/HB 634 a MACo Legislative Initiative to establish a Commission to Advance Next-Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland. The Commission will examine 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.

Tony Rose, Chief, Fire/EMS Communications, Charles County, Senator Kagan, and Bill Ferretti, Director, 9-1-1 ECC, Montgomery County

Each February, the NG911 Institute hosts the Annual Honor Awards Reception where heroes and leaders in the 9-1-1 field are recognized and celebrated. Members of the Congressional NG9-1-1 Caucus and other Members of Congress and their staff, appointed federal officials and agency staff, members of the public safety community, public safety industry leaders, and members of the general public, are invited to attend.

Senator Kagan and Patrick Halley, CEO, NG911 Institute

The NG911 Institute is a not-for-profit organization, which supports the efforts of the Congressional NextGen 911 Caucus. The mission of the NG911 Institute is to assist the Congressional NextGen 911 Caucus by serving as a broad educational resource on issues important to the effective operation and advancement of NG911 services and systems. The overarching objective of the Institute is to advance the rapid implementation of NG911 in order to promote more effective emergency response, improve public safety, and advance national security interests. To this end, the Institute seeks to educate Congressional Members and staff on issues that may impact timely and effective NG911 implementation.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Senate Passes MACo 9-1-1 Initiative

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Washington Post Op-Ed: Bring 911 Into the 21st Century

MACo Testimony on Senate Bill 285

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