Montgomery County Council Responds to Email Address Publication

As reported by the Washington Post, last week “more than 200,000 email addresses of people receiving newsletters and other information from the county government were made public on the county’s website.”

The County Council responded by asking their attorney to remove from public view many of the email addresses, and one council member has drafted an amendment to the 2012 Open Government Law that required the disclosure, according to the Post.

For more information, see Too much transparency? Montgomery balks at publishing residents’ email addresses (limited free views available) from the Washington Post.

Governor Larry Hogan to Release Second Supplemental Budget

Governor Larry Hogan announced Sunday that the administration has reached an agreement with state leaders and is proposing over $23 million dollars of state funding for Baltimore City Public Schools, with another $5 million for several other counties.

According to a press release,

Governor Larry Hogan today announced that his administration has reached an agreement with leaders in the Maryland General Assembly and Baltimore City to provide additional state funding to Baltimore City Public Schools, contingent upon new fiscal accountability requirements for the school system.

The governor will submit a second supplemental budget, which will include $28.2 million in additional funding for K-12 public schools in Allegany ($793,000), Calvert ($240,000), Carroll ($1.6 million), Cecil ($190,000), Garrett ($456,000), Harford ($356,000), Kent ($215,000), Queen Anne’s ($22,000), Somerset ($455,000), and Talbot ($133,000) Counties, and Baltimore City ($23.7 million). The supplemental budget will be submitted to the legislature on Monday, March 27.

The release of funds for Baltimore City public schools is contingent on the passage of legislation requiring greater fiscal accountability, including a comprehensive audit of the city school system performed by an independent accountant in consultation with the Maryland Department of Budget and Management. These accountability requirements are the direct result of extensive discussions and negotiations by the Hogan administration, the legislature, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh, and Baltimore City School Superintendent Dr. Sonja Santelises.

Governor Hogan submitted his first supplemental budget on March 24, which provided additional funding to combat the state’s heroin epidemic, support education and economic development initiatives, and address public safety needs.

The second supplemental budget provides a temporary remedy to address “cliff effect” funding decreases due to declining enrollment and/or rising property values. MACo supports HB  684 / SB 1024 – State Grants for Education Aid, which would provide additional grant funding for counties facing decreased state education funding.

Useful Links

Governor’s Press Release

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Why Do Five Jurisdictions Lose $45M In Education Funds?

MACo Testimony on HB 684

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Hogan Proposes Supplemental Budget: Funds Included For Police, Colleges

Pugh Vetoes $15 Minimum Wage Bill

Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoed legislation Friday that would have raised the minimum wage in Baltimore to $15 by 2022, leaving the measure’s future in question.

The Baltimore City Council — which next meets on April 3 — would need 12 of its 15 members to vote to overturn the veto. On Friday, the 12-member coalition that originally backed the higher wage began to disband.

From The Baltimore Sun,

Councilman Edward Reisinger of South Baltimore said although he voted to pass the bill, he would not support a veto override. Over the next seven years, the Pugh administration estimated the bill would cost the city $116 million, including the expense of paying city workers a higher minimum wage.

Reisinger said the cost is especially concerning given the city’s outstanding fiscal challenges: a $20 million deficit, a $130 million schools budget shortfall and new spending obligations associated with the U.S. Department of Justice’s police consent decree.

“The mayor has some very persuasive arguments,” Reisinger said. “Baltimore City doesn’t have a money tree.”

Pugh also was concerned that requiring employers in the city to pay a higher minimum wage could send them fleeing to surrounding jurisdictions. That would worsen unemployment in the city and make it harder for low-skilled workers and ex-offenders to get jobs, she said.

She emphasized that Baltimore’s minimum wage is increasing along side the rate statewide. The rate in Maryland will rise to $9.25 on July 1 and $10.10 a year later.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the city that we follow the state,” Pugh said.

The City Council voted 11-3 to pass the minimum wage bill Monday. Councilman Brandon Scott also supported the measure but didn’t cast a vote because he was traveling overseas.

The pro-business Greater Baltimore Committee’s president, Don Fry, praised Pugh’s decision. The measure “threatened jobs, made Baltimore an island surrounded by counties with lower business costs and hit the city budget with millions of dollars in higher labor costs it simply cannot afford.”

“The decision was no doubt a difficult one for the mayor,” Fry said in a statement. “But this shows real leadership as she stayed true to the priority that Baltimore must remain competitive for growth and jobs.”

Advocates pushing for the higher wage decried Pugh’s action as a broken promise.

“We are deeply upset that Mayor Pugh has broken her campaign pledge by vetoing this legislation, which promises to give tens of thousands of workers higher wages and the opportunity to lead self-sufficient lives,” said Ricarra Jones, chairwoman of the Fight for $15 Baltimore Coalition, in a statement.

“As a state senator, Mayor Pugh was a strong supporter of a livable minimum wage and explicitly promised to sign the Baltimore wage bill as mayor. Today, she has made clear that promises are made to be broken. The voters will remember her turn-around.”

Jones noted that during last year’s campaign, Pugh said she would support a $15 minimum wage bill as mayor on a union questionnaire.

“Yes, I would. I am aware of the current initiative to raise the minimum wage in the City Council to $15 per hour and when it reaches my desk I will sign it,” Pugh wrote.

Asked Friday about her response to the questionnaire, Pugh said she has been faced with significant unanticipated expenses since taking office in December, including the schools budget deficit.

“I don’t think they make you swear on the Bible,” Pugh said. “They ask you if you would support it, and I do support it. But you ask me as a chief executive officer of this city what I would do as it relates to the conditions of the city currently, and where we are economically, I have a right and responsibility to respond on behalf of all of the citizens of this city.”

Pugh noted that legislation to increase the minimum wage statewide is before the General Assembly.

“While it may not take place this year or next year, I will follow the lead of the state,” she said.

Read the full article for more information.

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.

U.S. Infrastructure Gets “D+”; 24% of MD Roads In Poor Condition

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has graded the U.S.’s infrastructure with a D+, estimating that it would take an additional $2 trillion by 2025 to bring that grade to a B. The Infrastructure Report Card is one of the most frequently cited reports on the condition of infrastructure in the country. The U.S. has either received a D or D+ in every Report Card issued since 1998.

Information on Infrastructure in Maryland is available here. Key facts include:

  • 5.80% (308) of the bridges are structurally deficient
  • 82 high hazard dams
  • $6.9 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years
  • $9.92 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 20 years
  • 154,507,328 annual unlinked passenger trips via transit systems including bus, transit, and commuter trains
  • 32,037 miles of public roads, with 24% in poor condition
  • $550 per motorist per year in costs from driving on roads in need of repair

The ASCE Maryland Chapter also issues a Report Card for Maryland’s Infrastructure, last updated in 2011.

From Governing: 

But it’s not all bad news: Some types of infrastructure have somewhat improved.

Rail, for example, went from a “C+” to a “B,” the highest grade for any type of infrastructure. That largely reflects the health of private freight railroads, which spent $27.1 billion to improve their infrastructure in 2015 alone, according to ASCE.

Other areas that showed progress in the report were hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, schools and wastewater.

Meanwhile, transit systems earned the lowest mark in the report card, falling to a “D-” from its previous “D” grade. “Despite increasing demand, the nation’s transit systems have been chronically underfunded, resulting in aging infrastructure and a $90 billion rehabilitation backlog,” the group noted. Several systems — particularly those in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco — are struggling with increased rider demand, long-neglected infrastructure and uncertain funding.

Solid waste infrastructure, along with parks and other recreational facilities, also got worse. …

“In many parts of the country,” the group wrote, “recycling and composting are not occurring due to a lack of market need for recyclable materials, many Americans’ lack of desire to sort and separate waste, and the cost associated with sorting out recyclables at collection facilities.”

MACo has prioritized investment in local infrastructure as one of its core initiatives this session. Learn more about the initiative here and on Conduit Street at Local Infrastructure Fast Track (LIFT4MD).

To support local infrastructure investment in Maryland, Let your senators know you support SB 586 – Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland Act, and
let your delegates know you support HB 1322 – Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland Act!

MACo’s Weekly County News and Notes…from Twitter

The social media site Twitter has become a fast-moving setting for news, information, and advocacy on public affairs. We welcome followers of MACo’s own twitter feed for updates from the Conduit Street blog and other MACo hot topics, and often use Twitter to reach our own audience, and to hear from others following the same issues as county leaders.

Here are some tweets that caught our eye this week:

For more news and information:

Follow MACo
Follow Executive Director Michael Sanderson
Follow NACo
See Tweets on #mdpolitics

Hogan Proposes Supplemental Budget: Funds Included For Police, Colleges

Today Governor Hogan will provide more details about his first supplemental budget of the session, to be released later today. It reportedly includes additional funding for police, colleges and economic development. Two million will go to the Baltimore Police Department to support compliance with its consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. Ten million will go toward addressing opioid addiction – the first installment of his plan, announced about a month ago, to spend $50 million on the crisis. He intends to spread the $50 million over five years. The supplemental budget also includes extra money for higher education and economic development.

Disappointing some, it includes nothing for the Baltimore City School System. From The Baltimore Sun

“There are funds available in the budget for other priorities,” Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said Thursday.

Nevertheless, the head of the House of Delegates budget committee expressed surprise and disappointment that the new spending plan didn’t address the city’s plight or the budget woes in nine counties where student enrollment — and therefore state funding — also has declined in the past year.

“We’re talking about the quality of education we can be and should be committed to in 10 districts,” said Del. Maggie McIntosh, the Baltimore Democrat who heads the Appropriations Committee.

Supplemental budgets, which address spending needs that might not have been apparent at the time of the state budget’s release in January, are also a tool used by governors in their annual tug-of-war with lawmakers over budget priorities. By either including or withholding funds, a chief executive can bargain for funding priorities that the legislature may not share.

McIntosh said she made concessions to the administration on several issues and thought the funds would be coming.



You’re Invited: Join Us for Our Weekly Legislative Update Call

Every Friday during the legislative session MACo will host a conference call that will update you on the Maryland General Assembly hot topics and bills that affect local governments. Join the conversation at 3:00 pm each week as MACo explores different topics and hosts guest speakers.

This week’s topic (March 24): General Issues Update

MACo Executive Director, Michael Sanderson will discuss a number of topics, including the proposed state budget, attorneys fees, water liens, pre-trial bail, and more. Call in to hear the latest news from the General Assembly!

Conference call information: 1.877.850.5007, passcode: 2690043#

We look forward to your participation! Submit your questions in advance by e-mailing Kevin Kinnally.

Fun Fact: Did You Know that Basil Hayden, Namesake of a Famous Kentucky Bourbon, Actually Started His Distillery in St. Mary’s County?

Question: Did you know that Basil Hayden, namesake of a famous Kentucky bourbon, actually started his distillery in St. Mary’s County?

It’s true! Basil Hayden, Sr. was a Maryland Catholic who led a group of twenty-five Catholic families from Maryland into what is now Nelson County, Kentucky (near Bardstown) in 1785. Years ago, immigrants from Scotland and Ireland made their way to St. Mary’s and Charles counties, he said, but were lured to the Kentucky territory by “corn grants.” The grants, dispensed by the governor of Virginia, who then presided over the Kentucky territory, gave land to settlers who promised to grow corn.

The Kentucky settlers ended up growing much more corn than ” they needed. And so, these Scotch-Irish folks “did what they knew how to do,” O’Daniel said. “They made whiskey.”

st marys seal and mapSource: Senator Waugh, Wikipedia, the Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun

Do you have a fun fact to share about your county? If so, please send it to Kaley Schultze to be featured in MACo’s weekly Fun Fact on Conduit Street.