P3 to Expand Rural Broadband Access in Garrett County

Governor Larry Hogan this week announced a public-private partnership with Microsoft Corp. and Declaration Networks Group, Inc (DNG) to expand rural broadband access in Garrett County. As the 13th state selected to participate in this initiative, Maryland will execute a three-year agreement with Microsoft and DNG to deliver broadband internet access to approximately 30,000 Marylanders.

According to a press release:

In June 2017, Garrett County was one of two pilot programs established by the Hogan administration’s Office of Rural Broadband to improve connectivity for economic and public safety purposes, with a focus on communities that have been underserved. The Hogan administration enabled Garrett County officials to utilize state fiber assets at no charge, through an agreement with Maryland Public Television. This portion of the project commenced ahead of schedule, bringing Garrett County residents significantly closer to broadband accessibility.

Microsoft and DNG aim to address the rural broadband gap for residents and businesses, allowing unserved regions to fully participate in the digital economy through access to technology and services that will empower farmers, healthcare professionals, educators, business leaders, and others in the community.

“This partnership with Declaration Networks will help close the rural broadband gap for 65,000 people living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and in Garrett County, Maryland,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “Broadband is essential for agriculture, education, business and healthcare. Microsoft’s Airband initiative is focused on bringing this necessity to 2 million people in rural America by 2022 and accelerating the national priority of closing the broadband gap.”

This innovative public-private solution creates a model for ways to expand broadband and other important resources in underserved communities. The Office of Rural Broadband will continue to work with local governments, tri-county councils, and key agencies and stakeholders, including the Maryland Broadband Cooperative, to ensure that all Maryland citizens have access to high-speed internet.

Read the full press release for more information.

Hogan Signs MACo’s 9-1-1 Initiative Bill

Governor Larry Hogan this week signed HB 634/SB 285 – Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland – Establishment, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative that will help Maryland prepare for the deployment of a statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) system that our residents expect and deserve.

Photo Credit: Executive Office of the Governor

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 NG911, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers.

Counties encourage efforts to enhance emergency communications in Maryland. SB 285/HB 634 urges a statewide effort to guide this critical transition, harnessing public safety industry leadership and expertise to address complex public safety concerns. Last week, MACo sent a letter to Governor Hogan urging him to sign the bill. MACo as an organization stands ready work with the Administration and other stakeholders to populate the Commission quickly, so they can begin their important work.

Senate Bill 285, sponsored by Senator Cheryl Kagan, passed the Senate unanimously on February 20. Its cross-file, House Bill 634, sponsored by Delegate Michael Jackson, passed the House of Delegates unanimously on March 15.

Useful Links

Read the full MACo letter online

Read MACo’s testimony on HB 634/SB285

Previous Conduit Street Coverage

Anne Arundel Awarded Grant for Opioid Treatment and Food Programs

The Maryland Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) has awarded $500,000 to the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency and $120,000 to the Anne Arundel County Department of Health. The grants, totaling $620,000 and covering a two-year period, will be used to expand the Safe Stations initiative and to create a food pantry in Brooklyn Park.

The Annapolis Patch reports:

“I am pleased that the grants will help enhance local public health initiatives,” said Anne Arundel County Acting Health Officer Frances Phillips. “The funding will support the successful Safe Stations program that offers opioid detoxification and treatment resources 24 hours daily year-round. It will also provide greater access to nutritious food in Brooklyn Park, where County agencies have been working to address the environmental, behavioral and physical health needs of the community’s residents.”

For more information read The Annapolis Patch.

Opioid Update Featured in NACo Northeast Conference Call

naco logo

NACo Northeast Regional Conference Call

AGENDA

Welcome and Introductions

Roll Call by State – Each state will be called and Elected County Officials will be given the opportunity to state their name and county.

  • DC
  • DE
  • ME
  • MA
  • MD
  • NH
  • NJ
  • NY
  • PA
  • WV

 General Legislative/NACo Update: Deborah Cox, Legislative Director

  • Review of two different opioid bills moving in the Senate and the House.
  • House introduces FAA Re-authorization Bill

Every Maryland county is a member of the National Association of Counties and all county elected officials are welcomed to join the NACo Northeast Region Monthly call.

 

School Safety Forum in St. Mary’s County

Senator Steve Waugh announces an opportunity to discuss the details of the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018, passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.  

school safety

Senator Waugh, one of the sponsors of the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018, will host a School Safety Forum in St. Mary’s County about the bill and its elements.

As described in the Senator’s event invitation:

The bill has 3 major purposes:

  1. Mental and Behavioral Health in Schools
  2. Organizational changes to MD Center for School Safety
  3. Security Measures in Schools

This forum will take place Friday April 27th, from 5-7 pm at the Bay District VFD located at 46900 S. Shangri-La Drive in Lexington Park.  The event is open to the public.

For more information, you may contact the Senator’s office at (410) 841-3673.

 

MACo to Governor: Sign MACo’s 9-1-1 Initiative Bill

MACo sent a letter to Governor Hogan today, urging him to sign HB 634/SB 285 – Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland – Establishment, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative that unanimously passed both the Senate and House of Delegates. This legislation is essential to ensure that Maryland is prepared for the deployment of a statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) system that our residents expect and deserve.

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 NG911, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers.

From the MACo Letter:

Today, the key underpinnings of the legacy 9-1-1 framework are based on the same wireline, analog, circuit-switched technology that was the foundation of the original 9-1-1 architecture in 1968. Aside from an enhanced data environment and the ability to support wireless and Internet telephony, the system has not significantly changed in more than 40 years.

In order to close this gap and benefit from the monumental advancements that are taking place in commercial communications, this bill establishes the Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) Across Maryland. MACo believes this legislation is vital for the development of a statewide strategy to create a common framework for the implementation of NG911 in Maryland.

The Commission will examine the strategic aspects of NG911 implementation in coordination with the existing efforts of the Emergency Number Systems Board (ENSB), with a particular emphasis on addressing areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of NG911 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.

In the letter, MACo praises Governor Hogan for his leadership on the Maryland Text to 9-1-1 Initiative:

The importance of this legislation cannot be overstated. Counties applaud your leadership on the Text to 9-1-1 initiative, and hope to build upon that momentum as we work to implement NG911 in Maryland. MACo as an organization stands ready to work with you, your Appointments Office, and other stakeholders to populate the Commission quickly, so they can begin their important work.

Counties encourage efforts to enhance emergency communications in Maryland. SB 285/HB 634 urges a statewide effort to guide this critical transition, harnessing public safety industry leadership and expertise to address complex public safety concerns.

Read the full MACo letter online.

Read MACo’s testimony on HB 634/SB285.

MACo’s Weekly County News & 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:

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

MACo To Governor: Please Sign Highway User Restoration

This session proved a pivotal year for highway user revenue restoration.

Both the House and Senate agreed early on to provide local governments their first multi-year commitment in nearly a decade to bring back some of the local transportation funding that was decimated by about 90 percent in 2010. By passing SB 516/HB 807, the General Assembly has assured that most counties will see an increase in their total transportation funding by more than 40 percent, all the way through fiscal 2024 – assuming Governor Hogan allows the bill to become law.

To that end, MACo sent Governor Hogan a letter thanking him for his efforts to provide additional transportation funding to local governments, and requesting that he sign the bill into law. From that letter:

This bill – a top initiative of MACo’s – codifies an important step toward restoration of highway user revenues to Maryland’s counties, municipalities, and Baltimore City, for five years beginning in fiscal 2020. SB 516/HB 807 begins to address counties’ long-standing top fiscal priority. It provides reliable formula funding for multiple years, allowing counties to program their capital projects accordingly. ….

The cumulative loss of local roadway investment since fiscal 2010 is well over $3 billion.

Again, Maryland’s counties are deeply grateful for your efforts in providing additional transportation funding for local governments. Please take this one last step before the conclusion of your first term, and sign into law Senate Bill 516/House Bill 807, Transportation – Highway User Revenues – Distribution.

Investing in local roads was a key initiative of MACo’s this session.

Helpful Links

MACo’s Letter to Governor Hogan

County Highway User Revenue Breakdown (FY19)

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Road Funding

Highway User Revenues – What’s On The Table?

Counties Call For A Local Infrastructure Fast Track

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Article Offers Practical Solutions to the Public Pension Crisis

A retired Harvard-educated lawyer argues for sharing risk as a fix to underfunded pension systems.

An article on MuniNet Guide offers a model pioneered in New Brunswick as a solution that could be implemented by states and local governments throughout the US.

risk
A shared-risk model could fix public pensions, a lawyer leading the non-profit, Pro Bono Public Pensions, argues.

The shared-risk model would bring employees and employers to the table to define a set of sustainable pension benefits, including pension payments computed solely on base salary, and contribution costs shared proportionally by employers and employees.

The shared-risk model would also set out a goal of 120% funding for pension liabilities.

Sit-and-wait strategies dependent on long-time improvements in revenues or investments are eschewed by the article’s author, who also laments the push to convert public pension plans to 401(k)s. Both of these methods have been present in policy discussions relating to Maryland’s pension system, in which about half of Maryland’s counties participate.

The article describes the urgency of the public pension crisis, stating,

It’s time to solve this policy dilemma, which is straining state and local budgets and crowding out vital investments in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. It’s time to stop believing that anything less than 100% funding is realistic and that future legislatures and taxpayers will fund any shortfall. It is time to account properly for future liabilities by adopting a risk-adjusted rate of return and budget with realistic contributions.

For more information see Embracing Shared Risk and Chapter 9 to Create Sustainable Public Pensions.

 

Anne Arundel Medical Center Gets State Approval to Build New Psychiatric Hospital

The Maryland Health Care Commission this week authorized Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) to move forward with plans to build a new $25 million, 56,000-square-foot psychiatric hospital. The AAMC Mental Health Hospital will house 16 beds and offer both in-patient and out-patient treatment for a host of mental health conditions.

According to the Baltimore Business Journal:

Victoria W. Bayless, CEO of Anne Arundel Medical, said she is “very pleased” with the outcome of the vote and grateful for the unanimous support of the commission for the project. She said mental health services represent the single largest health care need in the local community.

“We transfer out about 1,200 patients a year from our emergency department for mental health, and they end up having to go to places like Shepard Pratt,” she said. “It’s important for us to be able to provide this service closer to home.”

The facility is expected to be fully operational by summer 2020.

Read the full article for more information.