Apprenticeship Bill from 2016 Session May Return

House of Delegates Health and Government Operations Committee Chairman Peter Hammen called a meeting today on a bill introduced in the 2016 legislative session to expand apprenticeship requirements for projects receiving state funding in the capital budget.

MACo attended a meeting of proponents and opponents to HB 108, legislation that was introduced but did not pass in last year’s General Assembly.

Chairman Pete Hammen called the meeting, which was also attended by Government Operations Subcommittee Chair Delegate Dan Morhaim, and the bill’s House Sponsor, Delegate Cory McCray of Baltimore City.

State Departments of General Services, Labor, and union and non-union construction stakeholders were represented at the meeting, in addition to MACo. Attendees shared their positions on the bill and concerns regarding the legislation.

MACo described the how a trend of additional laws and regulations on school construction has lead to increased costs, and particular concern regarding the effect of HB 108 on construction and renovation contracts of less than $500,000.

Delegate McCray expressed an interest in re-introducing the bill, and an openness to listen to stakeholder input. The Chairman suggested that another meeting might be held later in the fall to discuss amendments proposed by stakeholders.

For more information, see our previous post, MACo Opposes Expanding Apprenticeship Requirements for School Construction, or contact Robin Clark at MACo.

Jobs, Income, Education, and Health Insurance Trends in Maryland

The Maryland State Data Center has released the 2015 American Community Survey with comparison data from 2008 through 2015.

From the summary:

ECONOMY

  • Maryland’s unemployment rate continued to fall. . .
  • Median household income continues to remain stagnant. . .

HEALTH INSURANCE

  • The percent of Marylanders with health insurance increased to 93.4 percent in 2015, a statistically significant increase from the 92.1 percent in 2014. . .

EDUCATION

  • . . . the weak job market post Great Recession had led to increased educational attainment, as more people stay in school gaining the skills and training which will make them more marketable. . .

HOUSING

  • The median value of owner-occupied homes had statistically significant increase in 2015. . .

For more information, see the 2015 American Community Survey and these links:

 A Status Report on Maryland from the American Community Survey

 Household Income for Maryland and Its Jurisdictions, 1999 to 2015

 Comparison of 2015 with 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011 for State of Maryland and Its Jurisdictions

 Jurisdiction Summary Graphs

School Board Considers Options Under Start Date Order

Following the Governor’s order on school start dates, Montgomery County’s school board is working through several new options for next year’s school calendar.

As reported by the Washington Post, a Montgomery school board committee has come up with a few possible plans for next year’s school year.

Two of the three proposals the committee backed would set the opening of school just after Labor Day, on Sept. 5, in 2017. A third proposal includes an Aug. 28 start, a plan that is similar to what Montgomery does now.

The option that complies with the Hogan decree would trim a day from Montgomery’s typical 184-day school year. But it also stands to affect spring break. If 2017-2018 brings more than three snow days, spring break could be cut back by up to three days.

For more information, see the full story, One Md. school system grapples with state order to start school after Labor Day from the Washington Post.

Next Steps on Next Generation 9-1-1

County Emergency Managers, Public Safety Answering Point Directors, and Public Safety GIS staff meet in Baltimore to set shared priorities and challenges for Next Generation 9-1-1 implementation in Maryland.  

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Scott Roper, Executive Director of the Emergency Number Systems Board speaks with attendees at the Next Generation 9-1-1 Round Table.

On September 23, Emergency Managers, Public Safety Answering Point Directors, and Public Safety GIS staff from across Maryland gathered for a Round Table on Next Generation 9-1-1.

The event featured local, state, and national experts, each of whom spoke about the best practices, challenges, and implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1. MACo’s Emergency Manager’s affiliate and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council hosted the event in Baltimore.

Next Generation 9-1-1 issues are of top concern for county governments that are seeking to improve and enhance their handling of 9-1-1 calls from cell phone users with technology that will increase response times, location accuracy, and allow text, photo, and video data to be shared by callers to First Responders on their way to the emergency.

Implementation of new geographic information systems and other updates will come at a cost, however, and counties are seeking the most cost effective implementation through statewide and regional collaboration.

From the Round Table:

  • Trey Fogerty, Director of Government Affairs of the National Emergency Numbers Association, spoke about issues with cyber security and reliability of current 9-1-1 systems, as well as opportunities for improvement with Next Generation 9-1-1 systems. Fogerty also pointed out that Next Generation 9-1-1 is necessary because there are significant gaps between the data that can be sent via cellphone over data networks and the information most emergency call centers are capable of receiving.
  • Steve Souder, Director Fairfax County Dept. of 9-1-1 / Public Safety Communications, discussed the importance of accurate GIS mapping for the successful implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1. Souder stressed that GIS is of utmost importance to Next Generation 9-1-1 because it will be the lone utility that determines where a call was made from and where it will be routed.
  • Scott Roper, Executive Director of the Maryland Emergency Number Systems Board, spoke about the challenges of federal regulation for Next Generation 9-1-1. Roper also discussed the importance of collaboration between local government officials and wireless telephone carriers, especially in the event of a system failure.
  • Dave Sehnert, Senior Consultant, Mission Critical Partners and Lori Stone, Region III Lead, FirstNet, spoke about the technological capabilities of Next Generation 9-1-1, along with a potential increase in staff required to implement new technologies associated with the platform.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for updates on the work of MACo’s Emergency Management Affiliate on this subject, and programming on this topic at the MACo Winter Conference.

Post-Labor Day School Start Is Law of the Land, For Now

With no legal challenges on the horizon, school boards are planning the 2017-2018 calendars according to the Governor’s Order.

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John Woolums speaks with MACo’s Legislative Committee about school start dates and the Governor’s Executive Order.

This week in Annapolis, John Woolums, Director of Governmental Relations of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE), addressed MACo’s Legislative Committee on the topic of school start dates.

Woolums detailed key parts of the Attorney General’s recent letter of advice on the Governor’s Executive order, and described the input his organization submitted to the Attorney General on the topic. MABE’s correspondence to the Attorney General’s office outlined several potential legal issues with the Governor’s action. The Attorney General’s letter of advice predicted that a reviewing court might find the executive order exceeded his authority.

Barring any pending legal action, however, Woolums clarified that the executive order is still the law of the land. Local and state boards are currently implementing the Governor’s order, and, to his knowledge, no boards of education have taken steps to challenge the legality of the Governor’s Order.

Woolums also shared several possible implications that could have an effect on county governments and other educational programs:

  • Because of the many dual-enrollment and crossover programs between schools and community colleges, the Governor’s Labor Day start date order has the potential to become an implied mandate on community college calendars
  • If school boards are granted waivers from the 180-days of school requirement, there could be financial savings. At the same time, requirements to open school early to provide special needs and low-income student services could lead to additional requests for funding.

State and local implementation of the Governor’s Order includes:

  • All school systems in Maryland are planning for a post-Labor Day start for the 2017-2018 school year.
  • The State Board will be adopting criteria for granting waivers from requirements that school systems must hold 180 days of school. These criteria could be guidelines, not regulations, speeding the process of adoption.

For updates on the State Board’s waiver policy, check the State Board of Education’s website.

 

MACo Adopts 2017 Legislative Initatives

The MACo Legislative Committee adopted its four legislative initiatives for the 2017 session during its meeting on September 21. The four topics, have all gathered broad interest and discussion across the state during the last year.

28 different initiative proposals were received from a wide swath of county officials and organizations. MACo’s Initiatives Committee met through the summer to recommend a slate of no more than four items, consistent with the MACo by-laws. The limited number of initiatives is designed to keep the Association’s focus limited — but does not preclude involvement and effort on behalf of other important issues.

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2017 Legislative Initiatives

Re-invest In Local Roads, Bridges, and Infrastructure – Recession-driven cost shifts have left local roadways lacking proper maintenance, bridges in dire need, and other public infrastructure neglected. Re-investing in infrastructure – a call being heard at every level of government – is good for Maryland jobs, business attractiveness, and quality of life across the state. Meanwhile, funding for school maintenance, water delivery systems, and public safety centers all lack predictable centralized funding commitments. MACo calls on state leaders to take action in 2017:

* Approve meaningful new FY 2018 funding for restoring Highway User Revenues – using the fair, statewide formula used for decades

* Enact a phased-in restoration of the historic 30% local share of state transportation revenues – enhancing safety and road quality for motorists everywhere

* Document and assess the state of public infrastructure across Maryland – assessing the needs and reliable revenue sources targeted for each area of service

Strong and Smart State Funding for School Construction – The State’s commitment to school construction funding needs to remain strong and smart – to best serve the modern needs of our schoolchildren, educators, and communities. Strong state funding will recognize modern cost factors as we achieve new environmental and energy standards, satisfy heightened needs for technology, ensure student safety, fulfill community resource needs, and mesh with evolving teaching methods. Smart state funding will provide flexibility for county governments seeking cost-effective solutions to meeting student and community school construction needs. A smarter state-county school construction program will reduce unnecessary regulation, revise processes to work alongside county budget decisions, provide a county voice in state school construction funding decisions, promote statewide and regional efficiencies, and provide a meaningful opportunity to pursue alternative financing for school construction.

Energy Facility Siting – For decades, the state has exercised a very narrow pre-emption of local planning and zoning authority for major power plants, grounded in the need for the larger power grid to receive ample power supply. Recent cases before the state’s Public Service Commission threaten to dramatically widen that principle, applying it to virtually any generation facility, regardless of its size or importance to the regional power grid. A new generation of power facilities – from solar farms to alternative technologies – could be freed up to ignore local zoning and oversight. This decision threatens local land use control — and the important rights of communities to guide their own historic, agricultural, and residential character.

Balancing Release of Police Body Camera Video – As governments work to implement sensible police body camera policies, the State should clarify how body camera footage is treated under Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA). The PIA was largely created to handle paper documents and only recently updated to better handle static electronic records. However, the PIA still does not address the practical, technical, and privacy challenges facing a local government from potential requests of hundreds of hours of accumulated body camera video, all of which must be subjected to attorney review and redaction where appropriate. In light of such challenges, MACo supports legislation to strike a reasonable balance between making affected people having proper access to the footage while preventing overbroad, abusive, or invasive requests.

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In the weeks ahead, Conduit Street will feature more detail on the policy and legislative importance of each of these major topics.

School Boards React to Letter of Advice on School Start Date Order

As reported in Governing and other news outlets, Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General has released a letter positing that a reviewing court may find Governor Larry Hogan has exceeded his authority when he issued an executive order this month requiring all public schools to start after Labor Day and finish by June 15.

As reported in Maryland AG Questions Governor’s Authority on School Start Time from Governing,

“I cannot say unequivocally that the Labor Day executive order exceeds the governor’s authority, but I believe it is likely that a reviewing court, if presented with the issue, would conclude that it does,” wrote Adam D. Snyder, a lawyer in the office of Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.

Read the Attorney General’s letter on Labor Day order, posted by the Baltimore Sun.

The Maryland Association of Boards of Education met Monday to look at the legal arguments that supported the right of local school boards to decide their school calendars, according to Governing.

As reported,

The attorney general’s advice is likely to throw into disarray the process for deciding next year’s school calendar. That planning is taking place this month and next in most of the state’s 24 school districts. In addition, the letter opens up the possibility of a court challenge by a local school board or parent.

“Clearly this opinion will inform the work of local school systems and school boards, which may want to take a wait-and-see approach to the legality of the order and what the legislature may do,” Woolums said.

John Woolums, Legislative Director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) and author of the Maryland School Law Deskbook will address MACo’s legislative Committee on Wednesday on this topic.

An editorial in the Carroll County Times this morning asks the Carroll County School Board to approve a post-Labor day start date for next year’s school year despite legal options.

While not a formal opinion from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, a 24-page letter penned by Adam Snyder, the AG’s chief counsel of opinions and advice, in response to legislators’ questions about Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order for all public schools to start after Labor Day opens the door for a legal challenge to be filed. The letter also makes clear the order could be overturned by the General Assembly during next year’s session.

Our guess is this means the issue may not be decided until spring at best, leaving school calendars for the following year potentially undecided until then. However, school boards still have local control and, if like Carroll County, there is a post-Labor Day option that works, they should move to approve it.

Read more of the Carroll County Times Editorial: BOE should approve post-Labor Day start calendar, regardless of challenges to Hogan’s order.

For more information on MABE’s position, see Opponents: School Start Date Order Overrides Local Decision-making

Kansas Education Funding Case Arises as Maryland Begins Its Own Review

The State of Kansas defends itself in a case based on the Constitutional adequacy of its education funding as Maryland begins a review of its own education funding adequacy.

As reported by the Wichita Eagle,

Kansas could be required to spend $1 billion more in school funding if the Kansas Supreme Court rules in favor of the districts suing the state.

A court order of that magnitude would require some combination of tax increases and cuts in other state services.

The court will hear arguments Wednesday on whether school funding is adequate as required by the Kansas Constitution. A ruling is expected later.

For more information, see School finance case poses potential fiscal crisis for Kansas,
from the Wichita Eagle.
The State of Maryland is about to begin a review of its education funding adequacy with Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. The first meeting of the Commission will be held on September 29, 2016 in Annapolis.
The last review of education funding in Maryland led to the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002, a plan intended to increase statewide education funding by $1.1 billion over five years.
For more information and background on the new Commission, see Commission to Start Review of State Education Funding on Conduit Street.

Predictability in School Construction Funding

Two meetings in Annapolis yesterday raised the predictability of funding for local school systems alongside goals of debt restraint and ideas for reform of funding decision processes. 

In a morning meeting of the Capital Debt Affordability Committee this week, the Committee heard presentations from the Department of Budget and Management  and the public school construction program, among others.

A few notes from the meeting:

  • While estimated agency requests for funding over the next five years are almost $4 billion above the planned debt limits of $995 million per year, according to the Department of Budget and Management, state agencies are listening to the debt limit and beginning to restrain new project requests.
  • The continuity of school construction funding over the past decade has created a helpful level of predictability for local school boards as they develop multi-year plans, according to the State School Construction Program.
  • The School Construction Program asked that previous levels of state funding for school construction continue with a $330 million request for FY 2018.

For more information see the September 15, 2016 Capital Debt Affordability Committee

In the afternoon, the 21st Century School Facilities Commission met, hearing presentations on the Maryland School Construction approval process and comparisons from other states.

A few notes:

  • The overview of the process and timelines for school construction requests and approvals from state and local governments for funding prompted a question from the Commission on whether the process includes enough predictability for local governments.
  • According to the Department of Legislative Services, the history of funding reveals that from year-to-year, districts tend to receive a similar percentage of the total state’s capital school construction budget.
  • Maryland’s process of recommendations from the Interagency Committee on School Construction and final approvals for funding from the Board of Public Works is unique in the nation, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

For more information, watch the 21st Century School Facilities Commission Meeting (meeting materials forthcoming).

Baltimore County Gets Waiver to Put AC in More Schools

The Interagency Committee on School Construction voted 5-0 Thursday morning to grant Baltimore County a waiver to move ahead with putting air conditioning in a dozen additional elementary and middle schools. Hot weather forced the closure of schools without air conditioning for four days this school year. Thirty-seven schools currently have no air conditioning.

From WBAL:

This has been a hot topic all summer long, and it has come down to just how fast Baltimore County can make good on its promise to install air conditioning at schools.

“If we can expedite this process for air conditioning to be finished in the Baltimore County area, then I think we should do that. I think it makes sense for kids,” Maryland state school Superintendent Karen Salmon said.

That means a dozen air conditioning projects on the drawing board will go out for bid six months ahead of time.

“All of the elementary and middle schools will be completed with the high schools coming online after that. They’ll be in construction, but they won’t be completed until the following year,” said Kevin Smith, chief administrative and operations officer for Baltimore County Public Schools. “The action today by the IAC just allows us to technically submit solicitations to get the bidding process going before the Board of Public Works actually votes for its next round of funding in January.”

For some time, Baltimore County has been at odds with the governor and comptroller over a timeline for equipping all schools with air conditioning. The dispute caused the governor to hold up $10 million already earmarked for Baltimore County.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said he’s not clear, in light of plans to speed up school projects, if the money will now be released.

“We haven’t seen any suggestions that we are not getting that money. Obviously, we’re really pleased today (that) the governor’s appointees to the IAC voted to support our plan,” Kamenetz said.

The plan is to eventually have all Baltimore County schools equipped with air conditioning by 2018.

Read the full article for more information.