Counties Support Increased Control Over Use of Local Roads

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, provided written testimony in support of Senate Bill 640, “Municipalities and Counties – Local Roads – Regulation of Travel by Heavy-Weight Vehicles,” before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 22, 2017.  MACo provided written testimony on cross-filed House Bill 930 to the Environment and Transportation Committee on February 21, 2017.

The bill would authorize certain counties to regulate and permit heavy-weight vehicles on their own roads. It amends existing law (Local Government Article, Section 12-527) which addresses Allegany, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s and Washington Counties.

From MACo testimony:

As counties continue to suffer the repercussions of devastating cutbacks to their highway user revenues, it becomes increasingly important for local governments to have control over their roads to prevent them from falling into a state of irreversible disrepair. When heavy-weight vehicles continue to repeatedly use local roads instead of state and interstate highways, they compromise the integrity of infrastructure oftentimes not built to accommodate such traffic on a regular basis. When left unregulated, heavy-weight traffic can cause extraordinary damage to local roads and any utilities existing underneath or adjacent to them. This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that local governments lack access to any significant portion of transportation revenues to fund maintenance of their roadway networks.

Both House and Senate bill sponsors introduced amendments to make the bill applicable to Garrett County only. 

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

MACo Strongly Endorses Restoring Highway User Revenues

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, provided written testimony in support of House Bill 552, “Transportation – Motor Fuel Tax and Highway User Revenue – Increased Local Share,” to the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 23, 2017.

This bill restores highway user revenues to local governments, ensures that new gas tax revenues resulting from Chapter 429 of 2013 are shared equitably with local governments, and amends the Maryland Constitution to prevent depletion of highway user revenues from local governments in the future. This bill will supply desperately needed revenue to repair and maintain local roads and bridges.

From MACo testimony:

It is unquestionable that local governments maintain the lion’s share of the roads and bridges in our state. Unlike most other states, in Maryland, local governments own and maintain 83% of the roads. Even recognizing that state arterials have more lanes than local roads do, local governments still own and maintain 77% of the lane miles in Maryland. Every resident depends on local roadways. Highway user revenues fund roads and bridges throughout our entire state, through an equitable, time-tested formula based on road mileage and vehicle registrations. This touches the roads our kids ride to school, the roads our first responders travel to keep us safe, and the roads where we all live.

Support MACo’s #Lift4MD initiative!

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

MACo Resists Effort to Limit Local Authority to Address Nuisances

MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu, provided testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 214, “Local Government – Public Nuisances – Restrictions on Padlock Laws,” before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 2, 2017.

Counties are concerned that SB 214 prohibits them from enacting or enforcing local padlock laws unless the local law provides a hearing before a circuit court judge without the owner of the premises being required to request one first. This limits local government’s ability to address public nuisances in a timely and efficient manner.

Local governments are in the best position to address public safety and health nuisances that threaten the residents of their communities. They have longstanding statutory authority to prevent, abate, and remove these nuisances in the public interest. Local padlock laws afford county governments the ability to address chronic public nuisances. But a temporary closure is typically the end of a substantial series of actions.

From MACo testimony:

Governments do not take this power lightly. Local laws contain notice, hearing, and appeals procedures. Hearings are often administrative in nature, but overall the process in some jurisdictions may involve public participation or the opportunity for judicial review. Action is not taken without thorough consideration and property owners are afforded an opportunity for appeal. Requiring the circuit court to review a nuisance complaint before any action can be taken can cause delays in responding to threats to community and removes the local knowledge and discretion in effectively addressing the concerns of their residents.

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

Calvert County Sees Boost in Tourism

According to a recent report by the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, Calvert County saw an increase in tourist in 2015.

As reported by Calvert County:

A study on the impact of tourism, released in December by the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, shows a whopping 8.8 percent increase in visitors to the county in 2015. In addition, Calvert County tourism industry sales grew by 8 percent to nearly $147 million, while tourism employment, labor income and tax receipts all posted gains.

Nearly 1,300 people are directly employed through the Calvert County tourism sector, representing $38 million in labor income. Tourism tax receipts in 2015 – including federal, state, local and hotel taxes – totaled $37.7 million, an increase of nearly 8.3 percent over 2014.

Visit the Calvert County website for more information.

Cecil Secures Deal for Amazon Distribution Center

A new 1.2 million-square-foot Amazon distribution center is coming to Cecil County and anticipated to create 700 jobs.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Akash Chauhan, Amazon’s vice president of North America operations, said the state-of-the-art warehouse just off Interstate 95 in North East would create hundreds of full-time jobs that pay wages 30 percent higher than traditional retail stores and include benefits, bonuses and stock awards.

“Maryland has an incredible workforce,” Chauhan said in the announcement.

The Cecil County Council unanimously voted 4-0 Tuesday night to approve a resolution endorsing a state loan of up to $1.2 million for a tenant identified in the proposal as “Project Iron.” Council President Joyce Bowlesby was out of town.

The Commerce Department has agreed to make the loan from the Maryland Economic Development Assistance and Authority Fund, the resolution says. Cecil County, which was required to approve the state loan, will contribute a separate $120,000 conditional loan over a period of not more than 10 years.

Amazon will invest $90 million to build the facility, which is expected to employ 700 people by Dec. 31, 2020.

For more information read The Baltimore Sun

 

Maryland Commerce Approves Greater College Park RISE Zone

The Maryland Department of Commerce has announced the designation of the Greater College Park RISE Zone. The Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise Zone program, known as RISE, was created to help boost economic development and job creation around the state’s higher education institutions.

As announced by Maryland Commerce:

The designation aims to spur economic development and job creation by allowing commercial and industrial business that move into or expand significantly within the zone to benefit from real property and income tax credits. Businesses in targeted industries, including engineering, cybersecurity, additive manufacturing, aerospace, and biotechnology, among others, will be eligible to receive increased incentives.

“The University of Maryland, College Park is a world-renowned research institution and a major economic driver for the state,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “The RISE Zone designation will support the university’s spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship and help companies grow and thrive in and around the campus.”

“The creation of this RISE Zone will help bring economic opportunity and investment to Prince George’s County,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III.  “With more than 37,000 students and 14,000 employees, the University of Maryland is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and one of the county’s largest employers.  The proximity of the University of Maryland, College Park to Washington, D.C and Baltimore, as well as being centered along the I-95 corridor, make it an excellent place to stimulate innovation and economic growth for Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland.”

The Greater College Park RISE Zone covers approximately 470 acres, including portions of the university’s campus, the City of College Park, and the adjacent Town of Riverdale Park. Major projects in the RISE Zone include The Hotel at UMD, a 300-room luxury hotel and conference center expected to open in July 2017; a 75,000-square-foot office building; two multifamily residential projects near the College Park Metro Station; and 111,000-square-feet of flex space. The Hotel at UMD will also include facilities for academic research and incubation space for start-up companies.

For more information visit Maryland Commerce.

Governor Enters Session Prioritizing Job Creation, Training

Governor Hogan has announced a package of legislative proposals he will be pushing this session to incentivize manufacturing jobs and workforce training programs, specifically targeting parts of the state experiencing higher unemployment. The 2017 Maryland Jobs Initiative will provide incentives to create thousands of jobs and five million dollars worth of investment in education and workforce training, according to the Governor’s press release.

The More Jobs for Marylanders Act, the “centerpiece of the initiative,” would eliminate all state taxes for ten years for new and expanding manufacturing employers that create jobs in high unemployment areas. It also enables companies to accelerate the deductions of their capital assets to free up capital for investment in new technology needed to create the jobs of the future. Qualifying jurisdictions currently include Baltimore City and Allegany, Dorchester, Somerset, and Worcester counties.

The Administration also plans to open six new Pathways in Technology Early College (P-TECH) high schools throughout the state. P-TECH blends high school, college, and work experience into one program where graduates obtain a two-year associate degree in a STEM career field at no additional cost.

The Governor plans to spend one million dollars on a program that encourages employers to invest in employee training, and make three million dollars available in cyber job training grants. Finally, the package improves the existing Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Program by making tax credits accessible to investors in cybersecurity startups.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Hogan proposed a version of the manufacturing incentives bill last year, but it died in the General Assembly. This year’s bill eliminates the most controversial part of last year’s legislation: a provision allowing workers at new manufacturing companies to be exempted from paying state income tax for several years.

Existing manufacturing companies balked at that provision, saying their workers might flee to new companies to get the generous tax break.

Last year’s bill — including the income tax break for workers — would have cost the state a “significant” amount of revenue, according to a nonpartisan analysis by the state Department of Legislative Services. …

Sen. Roger Manno, a Montgomery County Democrat, sponsored a similar bill last year that also failed. He said Thursday he’s working on a new version for this year and has not discussed manufacturing incentives with the governor’s office. …

Manno said he’s tried to keep his bill nonpartisan. Of the state’s 47 senators, 43 co-sponsored his bill last year. Those sponsors included Democrats and Republicans.

Last session, MACo supported both the Governor’s and Senator Manno’s bills with amendments. Amendments sought on the Administration’s HB 450/SB 386 would have given local governments a more defined role in the designation of a manufacturing empowerment zone, established broader criteria to be used in the designation of the zone, and provided greater flexibility over the incentives drawn from local revenues – specifically, property tax credits. Amendments sought on Senator Manno’s HB 531/SB 181 would have expanded the definition of manufacturing and provided greater flexibility over the incentives drawn from local revenues. Under this bill, local governments determined the zones and applied to the Department of Economic Competitiveness and Commerce for the designation.

More information on MACo’s efforts on last session’s bills on Economic Development Tax Credit Programs is available here.

Incentives Contemplated to Bring Distribution Center to Harford

A deal to bring Maines Paper & Food Service Inc., a distribution operation, to Harford County is in the works and awaiting approval from the county council. The incentive package is a joint effort with the state to help the distribution center expand its Maryland operations.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The package for Maines Paper & Food Service Inc., is made up of two components: a $500,000 grant/loan from the Maryland Department of Commerce’s Maryland Economic Development Assistance Fund, or MEDAAF, for equipment and machinery purchases and a $50,000 grant from the county, to be spread out over five years, for training employees.

“Harford County is fortunate in this current economic climate where every state is vying to retain jobs, as well as create jobs, that our partnership with the State of Maryland has resulted in positive growth and retention,” McNulty continued. “The Harford County Office of Economic Development is pleased to attract a nationally recognized brand and to play a supporting role in the expansion of our critical distribution sector.”

A fiscal impact analysis from the Office of the County Auditor notes the company will receive from the state “a grant of $500,000 towards the eligible project expenses and various tax incentives,” while Harford County will provide workforce technical training grants over five years, not to exceed $10,000 in a single year. The state grant amounts to a $500,000 forgivable loan, provided certain conditions are met, county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby said Wednesday.

In exchange, the company is required to have 75 additional full-time hires by the end of 2017 for the term of the agreement.

“For a conservative estimate, we have assumed that 60 percent of its employees are Harford County residents and wages meet the agreement minimum,” the analysis states. “The new employees would generate approximately $20,000 in [local] income tax each year after they are employed.”

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun.

Baltimore County’s Hotel Tax to Boost Tourism Promotional Budget

The Baltimore County Council has approved legislation to give eight percent of its hotel tax collection to the tourism office to be used for its promotional budget. Currently, Baltimore County tourism has $125,000 in its promotional budget. This law will allow approximately $800,000 to go to tourism promotions.

enjoy-balt-coAccording to The Baltimore Sun,

The county takes in nearly $10 million annually in hotel taxes, so the bill approved last week would reserve about $800,000 to promote tourism. The legislation takes effect July 1.

Baltimore and Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard counties already dedicate portions of their hotel taxes to promoting tourism. Baltimore County Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond said it made sense to follow their lead.

The Reisterstown Democrat introduced the legislation and lined up Democratic and Republican co-sponsors. The measure passed unanimously.

Almond said the county’s tourism spots — from the waterfront to main streets to rapidly urbanizing Towson — are “underutilized.” She said they will benefit from an infusion of marketing dollars.

“By allocating money to tourism, we are generating new revenue for the county without placing additional burden on our residents,” she said.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was not keen on mandating how part of the hotel tax should be used, a spokesman said. But he did not oppose the bill because he supports tourism.

State Targets I-95 Corridor For Automated Vehicle Development

The State Highway Administration (SHA) has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to designate the Maryland I-95 Corridor through Harford, Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore City  as an automated vehicle proving ground to accelerate the development of automated vehicle technology and expertise.

SHA is proposing to U.S. DOT that the Maryland I-95 Corridor holds some of the most advanced concentration of expertise in automated vehicle technology, with testing capacity, private and public sector expertise, numerous academic partnerships and niche opportunities for freight. Entities such as Aberdeen Proving Ground to the north and the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship to the south of the corridor are already heavily engaged in a variety of automated vehicle research and development. Resources such as Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade, University of Maryland, the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, Port of Baltimore, BWI Airport, National Harbor, certain race tracks and others allow for ample development, controlled testing, “real world” implementation, and manufacturing opportunities – particularly as it regards multimodal and freight use of automated vehicle technology.

Designation does not provide any funding but does advance technology and development and could be a gateway to future federal funding and economic opportunity for the State.

To express support for the application or ask questions, contact Nicole Katsikides, Deputy Director of SHA’s Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering at nkatsikides@sha.state.md.us