Gov. Hogan Terminates Funding for Baltimore Crime Panel

Governor Larry Hogan on Friday announced he is terminating state funding for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, a panel formed in 1999 to tackle issues affecting criminal justice in Baltimore, initially focusing on streamlining the processing of criminal cases by coordinating the efforts of criminal justice system participants. The Council is fully funded through a state grant of about $272,000.

In a letter to the council’s chairman, V. Glenn Fueston Jr., the governor’s designee on the CJCC, says “the inability to deliver solutions in support of the governor’s initiatives forces the termination of the CJCC’s grant.”

According to WBAL,

The letter states that the CJCC mission is not being carried out: “Its goals to reduce violent crime are not being met. Continuing to fund the CJCC is simply not a responsible use of taxpayer dollars.”

The letter states that the funding will instead go to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice — an office, the letter stated, “we are confident will not seek to evade the responsibility of providing the timely and actionable strategies to appropriately respond to this critical issue.”

Read the full article for more information.

After 2016 Election Hacks, Some States Return To Paper Ballots

Going back to paper ballots may seem retrograde. But in the wake of widespread uncertainties during the 2016 election, some states are ditching voting machines and reverting to paper ballots.

According to Governing,

Citing security concerns, the Virginia Board of Elections announced last Friday that it will stop using electronic voting machines in the state. The board’s action is the latest sign that state and local election agencies are trying to address growing concerns that the nation’s election infrastructure is vulnerable to hacking.

During the 2016 presidential election, Russia targeted voting systems in 21 states, according to U.S. officials. Though U.S. security officials say the cyberbreach did not impact vote-counting, they have warned of future, and more intrusive, attacks.

Some states — including Virginia and Georgia, which recently announced a pilot program to use paper ballots — hope eliminating the use of electronic ballots will reduce the threat of cyberattacks.

The move to paperless ballots began after the Florida “hanging chad” fiasco in the 2000 presidential election. Many state and local governments bought electronic voting machines in the mid-2000s after Congress allocated nearly $3 billion to update voting equipment. Electronic voting machines were touted as a way to prevent the potential for miscounting incomplete paper ballots from a punch-card machine. But some computer experts now say election systems should include paper ballots to verify the accuracy of vote tallies.

Virginia is also one of two states — the other is Iowa — that passed requirements this year for post-election audits to compare paper ballots with electronic vote tallies. A handful of other states considered similar bills. But audits are only effective if election officials have a paper trail to verify against the computer counts.

Five states — Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina — still use only electronic machines. Another handful of states have a mix of electronic and paper-based machines, depending on the local jurisdiction.

The 2016 election marked the return of paper ballots in Maryland. Maryland used paper ballots until 2004, when it switched over to touch-screen voting machines. In 2007, legislation was passed requiring the state election system to produce a voter-verifiable paper record for each vote cast in an election. A lack of funding delayed the reintroduction of paper ballot voting systems until last year.

Read the full article for more information.

Revised State Share Percentages for School Construction May Be Revised Again

At this week’s meeting of the Interagency Committee on School Construction, revised rates for the State’s school construction contributions were withdrawn and a communication from the State Public School Construction Program Office indicates that the percentages may be recalculated again.

As stated previously, the original draft percentages for the State’s share in school construction projects were withdrawn from the Board of Public Works August 16th Meeting Agenda. The most recent draft may be altered to reflect more current information regarding county school construction debt, which is one of the factors in the complicated formula governing the State’s share in school construction.

These several delays and changes to the percentages reveal a willingness to revisit the calculations and to make sure the numbers used in the formula are the most up-to-date as possible. For example, following this week’s IAC meeting, the Public School Construction Program reached out to county budget officers requesting updated county debt information to use in the formula.

In addition, there may be an appetite for revising the formula itself. The formula is complicated and may not relate to current school construction funding realities. Either the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, or the Interagency Commission (IAC) could begin the process of updating the state cost share formula in COMAR this fall.

As described by Bob Gorrell, Executive Director of the School Construction Program,

We need to be certain we have all of our information correct, and then potentially revise the COMAR not only for new percentages but possibly even its calculation formula. . .  In addition to the under-recognized local debt we have discovered, I think another issue in the COMAR is the point-in-time calculation that lasts for three years.  If we do make corrections to the COMAR calculations, I think this ought to be revised so that calculations are done annually and using three-year rolling averages.  This would dampen any changes in state / local share.  Knowing available funding is important and a few percent, either way, can make it difficult on LEA and County planning decisions.

Below find the percentages that were withdrawn from the IAC Agenda this week. This most recent version would have added an additional 1% increase in the state share in Baltimore County and Prince George’s County. It would increase the state share to Caroline by 1% (the previous calculations would not have increased it), and it would remove the prior revision’s state share increase to Queen Anne’s County to keep it at the lowest level of state share, 50%. And, it would lessen the decreases in state share to Carroll, Dorchester, Frederick, Harford, Howard and Wicomico by 1%. Finally, it would decrease the state share to Somerset by an additional 2%, for a total drop of 4%.

Screenshot 2017-09-15 09.03.41

Click here for reference to the original percentages that were withdrawn from the Board of Public Works.

For more information, contact Robin Eilenberg at MACo.

 

Dr. Kirwan To Education Commission: ‘We’ve Reached The Beginning Of The End’

The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting today in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the Commission is charged with reviewing and assessing current education financing formulas and accountability measures.

Dr. Kirwan opened the meeting with a message to the Commission, saying, “we’ve reached the beginning of the end and are beginning to end… Up until now, we’ve been at the 30 thousand foot level with our discussions, we have to come down to 15 thousand feet, then 10 thousand feet, then 5 thousand feet, and then hopefully have a smooth landing in December.”

Pre-Kindergarten 

Commissioners began the day by trying to come to a consensus on several recommendations from the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). The first NCEE recommendation is to expand and intensify education and support services for all 3-4 year-olds in the State.

There seems to be a general consensus on the idea of ensuring children are better prepared for kindergarten and, when necessary, providing pre-K. However, Commissioners disagree on how to implement and assess pre-K programs. Much of the debate centers around the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA).

According to Commissioner Craig Rice, Councilmember, Montgomery County, “all kids should be given the assessment test before they go to kindergarten so that teachers know each child’s readiness prior to the first day of class.” Commissioner David Helfman, Executive Director, Maryland State Education Association, disagreed, saying “the KRA was designed to measure the effectiveness of pre-K programs, not to get a baseline test score for each student… It’s about the administrator deciding what kind of sample needs to be looked at, not allowing individuals to decide whether they want their children to take it or not.” Commissioner Rice said that an accurate and representative sample is impossible without requiring all parents bring their kids to take the assessment, which would be impossible.

Sensing a lack of consensus on pre-K, Commission staff promised to invite the Maryland Department of Education to provide more information on pre-K and the KRA during the next meeting.

Teacher Preparation / Career Lattices

There seems to be agreement on many NCEE recommendations regarding teacher preparation and teacher incentives, including:

  • The number of teacher preparation programs offered at Maryland colleges should be reduced but not limited to research institutions
    • The State should use a data-driven process to select which teacher preparation programs should be offered based on producing successful teachers
  • A tuition forgiveness/other incentive programs should be developed to encourage top tier high school graduates to pursue the teaching profession
  • Alternative pathways into the teaching profession should not be eliminated, they should be modified and strengthened
  • A career ladder that includes a rigorous assessment of teaching performance should be created in each district. The ladder should lead to a top performance level, perhaps a “Master Teacher”

Commissioner Bill Valentine, County Commissioner, Allegany County, questioned recommendations to increase/alter teacher certification requirements, saying, “I question the timeline here. How much time are current teachers going to have to adhere to these new standards?” Chairman Kirwan noted that changes to certification requirements will require further discussion.

Governance Structure to Implement Commission Recommendations

The idea of developing a multi-year, statewide implementation plan with specific goals and strategies to enhance Maryland’s public education system was well received. In general, Commissioners agree that while the State should be responsible for setting overall goals and strategies, Local Education Agencies should be allowed to develop master plans to meet the goals and strategies set by the State.

However, there was disagreement on how to set up a governance structure for the implementation of such a plan. Commissioners could not come to a consensus on who should oversee the plan, and thus this recommendation will be subject to further review.

Funding

Commissioners began to discuss the financial impact of any potential recommendations toward the end of the day, so they could only scratch the surface. Commissioner Rice expressed concerns over unintended consequences resulting from potential changes to education formulas, saying, “we don’t want to give less money to at-risk students by tinkering with the formulas… we need to pay special attention to what we’re doing here.” The Commission will continue with funding discussions during their next meeting.

Chairman Kirwan closed the meeting by reminding the Commission that their work must be finished by December, emphasizing the need to “find a middle ground between the funding mechanism and the framework for ensuring accountability.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission. MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation.

Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, October 12, 2017; 9:30 am-5:30 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

Click here to view today’s meeting materials.

For more information, contact Kevin Kinnally at MACo.

 

MACo To Host ‘Deep Dive’ On Education Funding

MACo will be hosting a “deep dive” session on Wednesday, September 27; from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm at the MACo offices in Annapolis. This session is open to any county officials who are interested in a more substantive update on the Kirwan Commission – the state’s major effort to evaluate and reform public education and school funding.

MACo’s two Commission representatives and MACo staff will lead a comprehensive update on the Commission’s activities, schedule ahead, and the major issues we expect to be their focus leading toward their final report in December.

Learn more about the Kirwan Commission by reading previous Conduit Street coverage.

For more information, contact Kevin Kinnally at MACo.

Questions Abound on State’s Draft Adequacy Standards for School Construction

The Agenda for the Interagency Committee on  School Construction’s meeting today included notes from local school systems on the State’s proposed adequacy standards for school construction.

Comments ranged from general concerns to specific issues, including:

“There is concern that smaller systemic projects may no longer receive State funding.” -Harford County Public Schools

“Will these standards be utilized for evaluating the adequacy of existing facilities to meet eligibility for a future capital project? Or is the objective to create minimum standards for future projects?” -Calvert County Public Schools

Do the standards apply to portable or temporary facilities? -Many local school systems

There should be a minimum adequacy standard that Kindergarten and Pre-K students do not have to exit the‐classroom to use restrooms. -Prince George’s County Public Schools

The IAC did not make any final decision on the new adequacy standards, the item was for discussion only. For more information, see the IAC Agenda.

Cecil Announces Joint User Agreement for School-Recreation Facilities

Cecil County Executive Dr. Alan McCarthy and Cecil County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. D’Ette W. Devine have announced a joint user agreement for public school-recreation facilities throughout Cecil County.

According to a press release,

The Cecil County Government and Cecil County Public Schools have entered into a joint use of athletic facilities agreement that will benefit the citizens of Cecil County. With the first of five artificial turf athletic fields currently in the final stages of installation at Perryville High School, these two government agencies have agreed to procedures that will enhance the use of these upgraded school athletic facilities for both high school students and Cecil County citizens of all ages. Included in the agreement is the understanding at a certain time each day the control of the school athletic facilities shifts from the local high school administration to the Director of Parks and Recreation who will oversee the processes for extended use beyond the normal school activity day.

This agreement puts into action the move to regionalize the Parks and Recreation programs making activities more accessible to citizens within the region. In this first case, the region impacted will be Perryville and Port Deposit. The school athletic facilities will also be open for uses by other community recreation organizations who will receive authorization through the Department of Parks and Recreation office.

This agreement also provides school system athletic teams access to Parks and Recreation facilities including Calvert Park which is the location of the first artificial turf athletic field in Cecil County as well as multiple grass fields and outdoor basketball courts. The relationship between the county and school system has been growing in recent years and will be further enhanced through the upgrading of athletic facilities at all five Cecil County Public School High Schools.

Read the full press release for more information.

MACo’s Weekly County News & Notes… from Twitter

Maryland Counties have been very active on Twitter this week providing followers with updates ranging from 9/11 remembrance to continually providing preparedness tips and facts. Here are some tweets that caught our eye:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

Gov. Hogan: Opioid Epidemic Continues to Spiral Out of Control

Despite vigorous efforts that include the declaration of a state of emergency, spending over half a billion dollars, and widespread support from state and local stakeholders, Maryland continues to be plagued by a heroin and opioid epidemic. Governor Larry Hogan addressed the issue on WBAL NewsRadio 1090, saying that the state is taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach in order to fight the epidemic.

According to WBAL NewsRadio 1090,

“This one is even more deadly than any other emergency we have ever seen. And it is more long lasting,” says Hogan.

The money the state has spent has gone to additional treatment beds for addicts, to help law enforcement, supplies of the opioid reversal drug Narcan and education programs to prevent people from using drugs. Hogan says the state has doubled the number of treatment beds.

The state also remains focused on going after the dealers who pushing the drugs on the streets and killing people. Hogan says one way that has been accomplished is by toughening laws and beefing up law enforcement.

Hogan says he would like to see President Donald Trump declare a federal state of emergency on opioid abuse. “He (President Trump) does think it is a federal emergency but he didn’t declare it like we have and that’s the next step I am hoping they will take,” says Hogan.

Heroin and opioid deaths continue to skyrocket in Maryland and across the country. The crisis has been exacerbated by the deadly combination of heroin and fentanyl,  a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.

Read the full article on WBAL NewsRadio 1090 for more information.

Carroll Likely To Extend Tax Credit For Fallen Heroes

The Carroll Board of County Commissioners plans to discuss and “likely pass” and extension on the Fallen and Disabled Heroes tax credit this Thursday, reports The Carroll County Times. firefighters-696167_1920

Last session the General Assembly approved and Governor signed SB 282/HB 571, which authorizes local governments to expand the existing optional property tax credit offered to disabled first responders and the surviving spouses of fallen and disabled first responders. Under existing law, local governments may offer disabled first responders and the surviving spouses of disabled or fallen first responders a property tax credit for homes acquired within two years of the event causing the disability or death. Beginning with taxable years that start after June 30, 2017, local governments may extend their property tax credits to cover properties acquired with 10 years of such an event. They may also grant the credits to cohabitants, in addition to surviving spouses. The law allows counties to determine whether to offer the credit, and if they do, the duration, amount, and additional terms of the credit.

Carroll County currently offers the credit for 100 percent of the local tax obligation for those who qualify, and plans to extend the credit to properties acquired within 10 years. The Commissioners held a hearing on the change in August.  The Carroll County Times reports:

These people put their lives on the line every day for the community, [Commissioner Stephen] Wantz said. And, he added, the pay for these public safety positions isn’t always commensurate with the risk involved.

Wantz said the main reason he went to bat for the legislation [in Annapolis] is because he’s seen law enforcement and rescue workers who have become disabled and what it can do to their lives.

“When something of that magnitude happens to you, two years doesn’t really give you the time to get your life in order,” he said.

Commissioners will discuss and potentially vote on the credit extension at their meeting this Thursday at 1 p.m.

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Update, September 19: The Board of Commissioners approved the changes: