Skills to Pay the Bills: Chamber Partners With Schools to Address Workforce Shortage

As part of a joint effort with Garrett County Schools, the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce today announced the creation of a Work Ethic Diploma program. The purpose of the program is to ensure that the State is graduating skilled workers ready to take on the jobs offered by employers and industry.

According to Cumberland Times-News:

By meeting established criteria, local students will earn a work ethic diploma upon graduating that will guarantee them job interviews and better wages.

“The concept for a regional Garrett County work ethic initiative was brought to the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce by employers that felt students were not completing high school with the soft skills needed to be successful employees,” said Nicole Christian, chamber president and CEO. “With the input of area educators, business leaders and post-secondary representatives, standards were developed to measure work ethic in students.

To qualify for the diploma, students must earn a minimum of points in discipline standard, attendance standard, absence standard, work experience, community service/internship project standard, overall GPA standard, team work standard, drug free (optional) and exit interview (seniors only).

By meeting established criteria, local students will earn a Work Ethic Diploma upon graduating which will guarantee them job interviews and better wages.

Read the full article for more information.

Click here to learn more about the Work Ethic Diploma program.

Round-up of the 2018 Session for Counties

MACo’s legislative efforts earned an 80% success rate – and as usual, the counties’ voice makes a difference in Annapolis. Bills we support are more likely to pass, and bills we oppose are more likely to fail.

2018 Legislative Results Infographic

MACo’s legislative initiatives, priorities, and positions are directed by its Legislative Committee. This body comprises elected representatives from all of MACo’s members – the 24 county jurisdictions (including Baltimore City).

The “one county, one vote” system of deciding the Association’s legislative strategies, ensures that all counties have an equal voice. All 24 jurisdictions participated regularly in the weekly meetings throughout the session – where they also engaged with policy leaders and advocates who joined the meeting to address county leadership.

Our policy staff have compiled updates and results on all of the bills the Legislative Committee decided to take action on this year.

For the 2018 End of Session Wrap-up for each subject MACo covers, click below:

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Assessments and Taxation

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Business Affairs

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Disparity Grants

2018 End of Session Wrap-up: Economic Development Tax Credits

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Education

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Elections

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Employee Benefits & Relations

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Environmental Legislation

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Finance and Procurement

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Government Liability & Courts

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Health & Human Services

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Housing & Community Development

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Intergovernmental Relations *MACo Initiative Area*

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Parks & Recreation

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Pensions

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Planning & Zoning

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Property Taxes

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Public Information & Ethics * MACo Initiative Area *

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Public Safety and Corrections

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Road Funding * MACo Initiative Area *

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: School Construction * MACo Initiative Area *

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: State Budget & Fiscal Affairs

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Tax Sale Bills

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Transportation and Public Works

2018 End of Session Wrap-up: Wynne Tax Bills

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: County Tax Revenues

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Other Tax Bills

Conduit Street Podcast: Sine Die Is Quickly Approaching… What’s Locked Up? What’s Still Lingering?

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss a number of issues that have been resolved by the General Assembly as well as a number of issues that still require attention. MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

Show Notes:

What’s Locked Up?

  • Amazon Incentive Package
  • Tax Cut Package
  • School Construction Sage
  • Same-Day Voter Registration

What’s Left?

  • School Safety Legislation
  • Crime Bill Blowup
  • Education Lockbox… Limbo?
  • Cannabis (and Quirky Zoning Sideshow)

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

The Fastest-Growing Policy Idea to Produce Qualified Workers? Free Tuition

It’s no secret that Maryland’s sixteen community colleges are grossly underfunded by the State. In fact, Maryland is nearly $1,000 below the national average for state support of community colleges.

The fastest-growing policy idea in the country to produce qualified workers? Free tuition. In Maryland, six community colleges offer College Promise programs: Garrett College (2006), Allegany College (2015), Hagerstown Community College (2017), Wor-Wic Community College (2016), Prince George’s Community College (2017), and Baltimore City Community College (fall of 2018).

Maryland has been mulling over a statewide College Promise program for three years. Meanwhile, there are now over two-hundred College Promise programs in communities across forty-one states, including six statewide programs.

The John R. Cade Funding Formula

Source: Maryland Association of Community Colleges

State funding of Maryland’s community colleges is based on the Senator John R. Cade funding formula which was established as law in 1996. The Cade funding formula was created to provide community colleges with predictable support for operations, and to provide students with affordable tuition.

Recognizing that all of public higher education has an obligation to work together to educate students and prepare a qualified workforce, the Cade formula calculates state support for community colleges as a percentage of state support for designated University System of Maryland institutions, per full-time equivalent (FTE) student. The intent of the Cade formula is that community college costs be divided into equal thirds between the state, local government, and student tuition/fees. Unfortunately, due to budgetary constraints over the years, the Cade funding goal has typically not been met.

The original intent of the Cade funding formula was for the State to provide 29% of community college funding by 2012. However, the State has adjusted the formula seven times in the last ten years – delaying its commitment to fully fund the Cade formula.

Source: Maryland Association of Community Colleges

Maryland counties have consistently supported full funding of the State’s Cade formula to fund community colleges. The formula represents the appropriate state share of the three-part state-county-student partnership to support community college offerings. When state funding for community colleges lags, additional pressure builds on county budgets and on student tuition. County governments currently provide 38% of funding for Maryland’s community colleges. Student tuition and fees cover 40% of the costs.


Free Community College?

In a piece featured in, columnist Barry Rascovar argues that “instead of holding the line on state aid to these public institutions, Maryland leaders should be aggressively increasing state support.”

According to the column:

This year, a Senate bill has made it halfway through the legislature to create a free-tuition program for most community college students. But the clock is ticking every day toward the General Assembly’s April 9 adjournment date.

That bill would cost $31 million, starting in 2020. It would be another legislative mandate placed on the governor, but it could move Maryland forcefully into the top tier of states promoting workforce development through their community colleges. Nine other states already have similar free-tuition programs.

It’s pretty much a given that graduates of Maryland’s four-year colleges and universities will wind up in good jobs with upwardly mobile careers.

But what about all the other high school graduates in Maryland? Only the community colleges offer them a road to a better tomorrow.

That’s why it is so perplexing neither Hogan nor legislative leaders have singled out these public colleges for priority funding initiatives. It is a tragic oversight that stands in the way of preparing Maryland’s entire workforce for the evolving job demands of the next generation.

The free tuition trend started in 2005 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which launched the effort to combat its economic woes. The movement has quickly spread: Today approximately 200 localities offer residents free tuition to local community colleges and technical schools.

In the past two years, twelve states have enacted similar legislation. The state rush to offer free tuition began with Tennessee in 2015, but other states quickly followed suit. Arkansas, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island have enacted programs, and Nevada plans to launch one this year. California and Montana last year enacted legislation to create programs but have yet to appropriate funds.

Delaware and Louisiana offer more restrictive free college scholarships with additional requirements, such as a minimum college aptitude test score or a clean record.

Free tuition plans typically promise students free tuition if they meet certain requirements, such as maintaining a certain GPA. Most plans only pay for tuition, so students must cover fees, books, and other costs.

Most of the programs are “last dollar,” which means a student must obtain and exhaust all federal aid, such as Pell Grants or other scholarships before the program kicks in to cover the rest.

The Maryland General Assembly is considering three bills that aim to implement a statewide College Promise program in Maryland.

MACo did not take a position on any of the College Promise bills.

Senate Bill Allows More Wiggle Room For Giving Businesses a Boost

Senate Bill 67 provides the Department of Commerce more flexibility in providing economic development assistance to local governments and businesses. It renames the economic development assistance fund as the, “Advantage Maryland Fund Authority and Advantage Maryland Fund.” Along with the name change, the legislation allows for more grant and loan funding for enterprises that seek to expand employment in the State.

The bill is now being considered in the House, and has already passed the Senate 45-0. MACo submitted written testimony in support of SB 67 to the House Economic Matters Committee on March 21, 2018.

From MACo Testimony:

Counties and local economic development leaders appreciate the economic development benefits that this program provides. This program funds grants, loans, and investments to support economic development initiatives, including business attraction and retention, infrastructure support, brownfield redevelopment, and local strategic planning.

Last year, the program provided a $1.2 million loan for a new Amazon distribution center in Cecil County. Harford County partnered with the Department of Commerce to provide a package to Maines Paper & Food Service Inc. This program also contributed to the incentive package which led to Marriott International’s decision to remain in Maryland – which Montgomery County anticipates will produce $1.8 billion in economic activity over 20 years.

Economic development projects such as these promote vibrant business communities within counties. This in turn creates jobs, contributes to enhancing quality of life, and expands the local tax base – enabling counties to better provide core services for Maryland families and businesses.”

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Short-Term Rental Bill Dies in House Committee

The House Economic Matters Committee voted down a bill that would have established a state-wide regulatory scheme for online short-term regulatory platforms, such as Airbnb, and the residents who rent their rooms or properties through the platform. Likely ending the prospect of this issue being addressed this session.

HB 1604 was the third attempt at creating some sort of statewide law for short-term rental platforms that has fallen short. Previous iterations of the bill were viewed as too burdensome. However, this year’s bill was more narrowly tailored and less overreaching. A hearing was held earlier this week on a Senate version of the bill SB 1081.

MACo supported HB 1604 as it struck a reasonable balance between state regulation and local authority; requiring the entities to be registered with the Comptroller, keep records, and to act within the local laws of the jurisdictions they operate in. Counties across the state have either enacted local laws or are in the process of deciding how to regulate short-term rentals.

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Senate Sets to Amaze Amazon With $6.5 Billion

The Maryland Senate has approved an incentive plan to woo Amazon to Montgomery County, reports Bethesda Magazine. Legislative analysts value the package at $6.5 billion, with the State funding $5.6 billion, and Montgomery funding $924 million via property tax credits.

The Senate amended the bill so that the availability of the incentives terminate in 2022 if Amazon chooses another location.

From  Bethesda Magazine:

The Seattle-based tech company is choosing between the county and 19 other locations for its massive project. The language of the bill would have enabled any Fortune 100 company that plans to bring more than 40,000 workers and pay most of them at least $60,000 to qualify for the tax breaks. However, the change ensures the legislation only impacts Amazon should it choose to locate in Montgomery County.

The House of Delegates is considering a companion bill.

Carson Floats Opportunity Zones as CDBG Replacement

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson testified before the House Appropriations subcommittee on Housing and Urban Development about the Administration’s FY 2019 budget and suggested that the Opportunity Zones program could replace Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.

The Trump Administration has called for cuts to grant programs that support state and local governments. Congress, however, has not embraced those proposals.

Route Fifty reports:

Carson, however, made a case that “we do have a way to take care of the good things that CDBG does, and that again is through the Opportunity Zone program.” He estimated that the fledgling initiative would bring in as much as $2.2 trillion, which could be used “to substitute” for CDBG and to put toward infrastructure.

The Opportunity Zones program provides a tax incentive for investors to reinvest unrealized capital gains—such as profit from a stock position that has not been closed to make a profit—into special funds that will channel money to investments in low-income communities.

Earlier this month MACo sent a letter to the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Department of Commerce urging a process to incorporate county input into Maryland’s process for determining which zip codes would qualify for the Zones. The Hogan administration responded by designating an official at the Housing Department to serve as a coordinator for any input received.

For more information:

Carson Says ‘Opportunity Zones’ Could Serve as CDBG Substitute (Route Fifty)

County Input Sought on “Opportunity Zone” Designations (Conduit Street)


Economic Distress Transcends County Borders

Senate Bill 1104 would expand State economic development benefits to communities that share a zip code with distressed  economic areas that are currently eligible for the benefits. Local governments have a vested interest in ensuring that “distressed” areas receive aid in achieving long-term economic growth. Counties understand that these economically distressed areas are not limited by county lines, and this legislation takes that into account.

MACo submitted written testimony in support of SB 1104, “Economic Development – More Jobs for Marylanders – Tier I Eligibility”, to the Senate Finance Committee on March 20, 2018.

From MACo Testimony:

Local governments, just as the State, have a vested interest in economic development. Local economic growth creates jobs and increases salaries, expanding the tax base both locally and statewide. Counties promote economic development through their own programs and coordinate with the State to attract and retain businesses where most beneficial to our economy.

SB 1104 offers a reasonable recognition that a “distressed area” may not strictly be confined within political boundaries, and creates some flexibility in targeting them in distressed areas spilling across county lines.”

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

$20M TIGER Grant Will Spur Job Growth In Baltimore County

Baltimore County has been awarded a $20 million federal grant for infrastructure improvements and expansion of aging marine facilities at Tradepoint Atlantic. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant will be matched by private investment from Tradepoint Atlantic, developer of 3,100 acres at Sparrows Point.

According to a press release:

“This public/private infrastructure investment will ignite job creation in Baltimore County and the entire region by speeding up the turnaround of Sparrows Point from a shuttered steelmaking site into a modern hub for global commerce,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

With funding from the TIGER grant, Tradepoint Atlantic will make structural upgrades to the East-West Berth, modernize it for efficient movement of 21st century cargo, strengthen bulkheads, perform maintenance dredging to allow deep water ships access to the marine terminal, and other necessary improvements designed to leverage existing rail and highway systems on the site.

The investments in dredging, a stronger berth, and short line rail track will facilitate efficient and safe loading and unloading, reducing handling costs for shippers using the facility.

The project will expand the region’s bulk handling capability by restoring an obsolete regional marine asset to a state of good repair. The modernization program expands bulk cargo handling capability at Tradepoint Atlantic and does not introduce container cargo handling to the site.

The grant projects will span four years. The TIGER grant is led by the Baltimore County Department of Economic and Workforce Development.

A recent economic impact report projects Tradepoint Atlantic will generate 17,000 jobs in the Baltimore region, plus another 21,000 jobs during construction. Economic impact is projected to top $3 billion when development of the 3,100 acre site is completed in 2025, according to the Sage Policy Group study.

“There are more than 17,000 jobs on the horizon at full development, but jobs already are coming back to Sparrows Point from world class companies including FedEx Ground, Amazon and Under Armour,” added Kamenetz.

Read the full press release for more information.