MACo Fears State Fiscal Implications for Workforce Development Grants

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, provided written testimony to amend legislation of HB 868, “Higher Education – Community Colleges – Workforce Development Sequence Grants and Scholarships” on March 7. The bill would establish workforce development grants and scholarships for community college students, however doesn’t include how the funding of the grants and scholarships would be mandated.

MACo’s testimony states,

This bill encourages community college training opportunities that promote workforce development, minimize the shortage of skilled workers, and raise economic opportunities in Maryland. Not only are community colleges an accessible and affordable choice for many Marylanders, they also work directly with employers to provide training for incumbent workers, and are flexible and adaptable to the needs of their local labor markets.

While MACo supports the premise of this bill, counties are cognizant of the fiscal challenges at the state level, which could make a concrete spending mandate untenable.

The cross-file to the bill, SB 869, was be heard by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 1, 2017. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.

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

MACo Asks State to Boost Its Community College Contributions

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, provided written testimony in support of House Bill 1069, “Higher Education – Community Colleges – Funding,”  before the House Ways and Means Committee on March 7, 2017.

This legislation requires the State to increase its contribution to Maryland’s community colleges. Under this bill, by 2021 state aid for county community colleges would reach 29% of the per-pupil general fund appropriation to students at 4-year public institutions of higher education in the State.

MACo’s testimony states.

When state funding for community colleges lags, additional pressure builds on county budgets and on student tuition. When county budgets face distress from the economic climate or state actions, the local contributions cannot reliably offset these cutbacks. For the past several years, this combined dynamic has led to increased tuition costs for Maryland community college students, at a time when the training and education opportunities are arguably most needed.

The cross-file to the bill, SB 152, was heard by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on February 1. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.

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

House Committee Votes Down Gov. Hogan’s Charter School Bill

The House Ways and Means Committee has killed a flagship item on Governor Larry Hogan’s legislative agenda, turning down a measure setting up a statewide authority to oversee charter schools.

The Committee voted, 15-8, to not send the measure to the House floor. The vote split along party lines, with Democrats opposed and Hogan’s fellow Republicans supporting it.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

The measure would have allowed the new authority to bypass local school boards in creating charter schools. It would have given the authority broad discretion to exempt schools it licensed from state and local regulations.

Under the bill, workers at the charter schools would not have been employees of the local school boards.

The measure would have provided $577,000 for the authority to get started in its first year.

The House panel acted before the bill could receive a hearing in the Senate. That hearing was scheduled for this coming Wednesday.

Read the full article for more information.

MACo Supports Workforce Development Grants, Fears State Fiscal Implications

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, sought to amend legislation of SB 869, “Higher Education – Community Colleges – Workforce Development Sequence Grants and Scholarships” on March 1. The bill would establish workforce development grants and scholarships for community college students, however doesn’t include how the funding of the grants and scholarships would be mandated.

MACo’s testimony states,

This bill encourages community college training opportunities that promote workforce development, minimize the shortage of skilled workers, and raise economic opportunities in Maryland. Not only are community colleges an accessible and affordable choice for many Marylanders, they also work directly with employers to provide training for incumbent workers, and are flexible and adaptable to the needs of their local labor markets.

While MACo supports the premise of this bill, counties are cognizant of the fiscal challenges at the state level, which could make a concrete spending mandate untenable.

The cross-file to the bill, HB 868, will be heard by the House Ways and Means Committee on March 7, 2017.

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

MACo Supports Local Income Tax Credit for Eligible Internships

MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu, provided written testimony in support of House Bill 1483, “Income Tax Credit – Eligible Employers – Eligible Internships,” to the House Ways and Means Committee on March 1, 2017.

HB 1483 creates a program that allows businesses to receive a credit against the state income tax for employing eligible interns enrolled in public and private nonprofit higher education institutions in the state. In turn, the interns receive valuable and paid experience in a field that interests them. Counties appreciate that this bill offers a state-funded tax benefit, without a “spillover” residual effect on county revenues and services.

MACo’s testimony states,

Internships supplement classroom experience by providing students exposure to real-world problems, increasing their marketability to employers, offering opportunities for advancement within organizations, and other professional growth opportunities. Employers benefit from the well qualified pool of potential employees the internships create.

Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice testified on behalf of MACo in support of this bill. The cross-file to the bill, SB 522, was heard by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on February 21, 2017.

Useful Links

Conduit Street coverage of SB 522

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

You’re Invited: Join Us for Our Weekly Legislative Update Conference Call

Every Friday during the legislative session MACo will host a conference call that will update you on the Maryland General Assembly hot topics and bills that affect local governments. Join the conversation at 3:00 pm each week as MACo explores different topics and hosts guest speakers.

This week’s topic (March 3): MACo Initiatives Update

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally will be joined by members of the MACo Policy Staff for an update on MACo’s 2017 Legislative Initiatives. Call in for an update on school construction funding, energy siting, police body cameras, and #LIFt4MD (Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland)!

Conference call information: 1.877.850.5007, passcode: 2690043#

We look forward to your participation! Submit your questions in advance by e-mailing Kevin Kinnally.

MACo Supports Creation of Community College Programs to Better Local Workforce

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, testified in favor of legislation (SB 678) which incentivizes the creation of community college programs that help prepare Maryland students for the workforce and help develop a well-qualified pool of potential employees for local businesses.

MACo’s testimony states,

SB 678 authorizes counties in partnership with their community colleges to establish Community College Vocational Certificate and Apprenticeship Training Programs. The programs are accompanied by an Associate Degree Tuition Assistance Program. Through these programs, eligible students receive on-the-job training, classroom study, financial assistance, and support services that put them in the best position for employment once their studies are successfully completed. Businesses across the state benefit from students entering the workforce with the specific skills, training, and certifications necessary for employment in their trade or profession.

Counties are invested in having strong and vibrant economies. A robust, well-trained, and educated workforce encourages businesses to locate to and grow in Maryland. This bill helps build relationships between local businesses and community colleges. It properly leaves the decision for establishing a program in the hands of the local government and community college who are best situated to determine whether a program is in their best interest. If a program is established, it requires both the county and the State to split the reimbursement of tuition assistance, disbursing financial burdens and ensuring that the State is equally invested in the advancement of its students and workforce.

SB 678 was heard by the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs and Budget and Taxation Committees on March 1. The cross-file to the bill, HB 848 will be heard by the House Ways and Means committee on March 7, 2017.

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

Maryland is #8 in Best States Rankings

U.S. News and World Report just announced that Maryland has ranked #8 of the best states in the nation to live. The report analyzed data in seven key areas – education, health care, infrastructure, economy, government, opportunity, and crime and corrections – to determine the state’s composite score.

A press release from Governor Larry Hogan noted,

In addition to ranking eighth overall, Maryland ranked among the top five states for education and opportunity, a metric that includes factors like income disparity and upward mobility, as well as having the second-lowest poverty rate in the nation, and the highest household income.

“Maryland has made tremendous strides in turning our economy around, improving education, and working to ensure that every single Marylander has the opportunity to succeed,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “We have made incredible progress over the past two years, but there is still more work to do to continue making Maryland the very best place to live, work, raise a family, and retire.”

Click here to read the report and view the complete list of rankings.

MACo Seeks to Amend School Auditing Mandate

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified to amend House Bill 1341, “Maryland Public School Transparency and Accountability Act,” which would require a county government to establish an independent office of the inspector general to oversee the local school system if the system has received 10 or more repeat findings by the State Office of Legislative Audits (OLA). MACo agrees that school systems should be operating in compliance with all laws and regulations but believes this should be based on discretion and in a cost-effect manner.

MACo’s testimony states,

Under current law, the OLA performs financial audits of schools every 6 years. School systems are allowed to request an exemption permitting them to opt out from one audit, extending the time of the audit to once in twelve years. HB 1341 seeks to require more extensive oversight for problem school systems.

First, HB 1341 should be amended to enable, rather than mandate, a county to establish an office of the inspector general. Some counties already have inspector generals or similar independent offices that audit their local school systems and other county-supported functions.

Additionally, HB 1341 should be amended to remove the threshold of 10 or more repeat findings by the OLA. Local governments are in the best position for determining when their school systems require additional oversight. The ability to do so should not be constrained by a specific floor for the number of findings.

Finally, the bill should be amended to expressly require the office to report to the local governing body that established it.

HB 1341 was heard by the House Ways and Means Committee on February 28, 2017.

MACo Supports Niche Program to Help Counties Repair Aging Schools

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, submitted written testimony in support of House Bill 153 and Senate Bill 197 “Creation of a State Debt – Qualified Zone Academy Bonds”, which would issue $4.8M to the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

MACo has supported and will continue to support additional funding for schools.

From MACo’s testimony:

The money would be used for certain development or improvement purposes including the renovation, repair, and capital improvements of qualified schools in accordance with criteria established under the Aging Schools Program. The IAC would award the money through competitively-awarded grants and MSDE would provide targeted grants to eligible schools under the Breakthrough Center Program.

These programs fill an important niche by covering projects that would not normally qualify as true capital projects eligible for general obligation bond (GO) funding. Counties, who share responsibility with the State for Maryland’s schools, appreciate financial support for their infrastructure goals.

The hearing for HB 153 was on February 28, 2017. The cross-file to the bill, SB 197, was heard by the Senate Budget & Taxation committee on March 1.

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