Counties Receive Legal Issues Update at 2017 Winter #MACoCon

County officials received updates on pending state and federal legal issues on December 6 at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference. The panel was called “From the Bench: A Federal and State Legal Update” and was moderated by Maryland Delegate William Folden.

National Association of Counties (NACo) Associate Legislative Director Jack Peterson discussed several cases before the United States Supreme Court that would address: (1) whether banning political apparel at polling places violates the first amendment ; (2) how and when states can remove individuals from their voter rolls; (3) whether comments made at a public meeting must relate to the topic under consideration; and (4) whether states and local governments can collect sales tax from online retailers regardless of whether they have a physical presence within their jurisdiction.

From left to right: Jack Peterson, Lisa Oschenhirt, Timothy Baker

Peterson discussed several regulatory issues, including the recent definitional change to the federal “Waters of the United States” rule. Peterson noted that the issue would likely remain a top legislative priority for NACo. Peterson also discussed NACo’s efforts to improve the “integrated planning” option under the Clean Water Act that in theory simplifies how local governments can meet federal and state mandates for water quality.

Finally, Peterson discussed several pending federal legislative issues, including extension of the current federal budget so that the government does not run out of money and current tax reform efforts. On tax reform, key local issues included losing the deduction for local income taxes and some property taxes and the removal of the ability to refinance local municipal bonds. Peterson stated that tax reform would probably be done by the end of the year.

AquaLaw Attorney Oschenhirt discussed the permitting process and current litigation for Maryland counties subject to a Phase I or Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. Oschenhirt stated that Phase I controversies included: (1) whether the  permit applied across the entire county or just to those areas of a county that have stormwater systems; (2) whether the proposed permits go beyond the “maximum extent practicable” standard; and (3) whether nutrient credit trading will be included or not.

Delegate William Folden

Oschenhirt also noted that MACo, the Maryland Municipal League, and the Maryland Municipal Stormwater Association submitted joint comments on the new Phase II MS4 permit proposed by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). The comments raised concerns over who should be included in the permit, the geographic scope of the permit, the 20% treatment retrofit burden, and the lack of nutrient trading authority.

Oschenhirt also touched on the pending regulations for nutrient trading, staffing and program funding issues within the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load Mid-Point Assessment, tax sales, and state legislation regarding non-flushable wipes.

Maryland State Archivist and Commissioner of Land Patents Timothy Baker highlighted an optional program that is being set up by the Maryland State Archives to encourage county governments to appoint a records officer. The records officer would liaison with State Archives regarding document retention policies and infrastructure.

Public Safety, Voter Registration Among ACLU of Maryland 2018 Priorities

 

 

 

 

Representatives from MACo and the ACLU of Maryland meet on November 27, 2017, to discuss their respective legislative initiatives for the 2018 Session. A 2018 Session Priorities Handout provided by ACLU Maryland identified six key issues that the organization will focus on:

  1. Election Day Registration (allow voters to register and vote on the same day)
  2. Pre-Trial Justice (preserve existing judicial rules that disfavors cash bail, prohibits unaffordable bail requirements, and prevents bail from being used for public safety)
  3. Taking the Politics Out of Parole (remove the Governor’s role in the parole determination process)
  4. Solitary Confinement (“Restrictive Housing”) Reform (reform the usage and duration of administrative or disciplinary segregation of inmates and mentally ill detainees)
  5. Criminal Justice Reporting (create a task force, including local government representation, that would standardize how race and ethnicity is reported in public safety situations)
  6. Public Funding of Private and Religious Schools (restrict the use of public monies for funding private schools)

The sheet listed a number of secondary issues, such as access to justice and transparency, where the ACLU of Maryland will be active during the 2018 Session. The ACLU of Maryland will certainly take a position on MACo’s Public Information Act (PIA) reform initiative. The group opposed MACo’s PIA body camera initiative in 2016 and 2017 but has worked with MACo on other issues.

ACLU Maryland 2018 Session Priorities Handout

ACLU of Maryland Website

Josh Kurtz Op-ed: Many Key Maryland Races Wide Open

In an op-ed published by Maryland Matters (2017-11-07), Josh Kurtz ruminated on the unusually open nature of many of Maryland’s state and local elections next year. Kurtz highlighted a number of races that at the moment appear very difficult to predict. Here is just a partial list of contested positions discussed in the op-ed:

A wide-open, eight-candidate race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, with no obvious frontrunner – and potential paths to victory for just about everybody. …

How vulnerable is Gov. Larry Hogan (R), really? There will be plenty of external forces at work, and chances are good that the general election is going to be close. …

Look around the state: Who’s going to be the next Baltimore County executive? There are closely-fought primaries in both parties, and the general election is likely to be, too. …

Who’s going to be the next Prince George’s County executive? Two strong women are competing against each other for the job – and a woman has never held that office before.

Who’s going to be the next Montgomery County executive? Even at this late date, the field is still growing. …

Look how much turnover is possible in the 47-member state Senate: A dozen seats or more are at play.

Kurtz proposed several reasons for the large amount of electoral uncertainty: (1) a generational change in voters and candidates; (2) a weakening of the long-entrenched Democratic party leadership; (3) the increasing role of women and minority candidates; and (4) the political dynamic of President Donald Trump.

 

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.

Md. Atty. General’s Office: County-By-County Public Campaign Financing Is Legal

The Maryland attorney general’s office announced that it would be legal for the state to allow public financing for candidates on a county-by-county basis. The opinion is likely to spur the drafting of such a bill in 2018.

According to The Washington Post,

Del. Marc A. Korman (D-Montgomery) contacted the attorney general’s office in May for guidance on whether a localized approach to public financing — as opposed to a statewide option — would hit constitutional roadblocks. A county-by-county approach was so novel that it left certain questions, such as how to handle legislative districts that don’t match up with county lines, unanswered.

Korman called the office’s opinion “good news” and said he will move forward with drafting a bill, which he and other advocates say would increase opportunities for candidates to run for office without relying on big individual or corporate donors.

Thirteen states — including Maryland — and a handful of localities have some form of public financing for elections. In 2014, the Montgomery County Council authorized partial public financing for county executive and council candidates. In June, Howard County approved its own system, which is similar to Montgomery’s and will take effect for the 2022 election cycle.

Proponents of public financing for candidates say such programs boost citizen engagement in elections by amplifying the power of small donors and encourage more candidates to run in local races.

Opponents of public financing argue that the government has no business in funding individual campaigns. There are also concerns that a localized option would create a disadvantage for candidates in less wealthy counties, which may be reluctant to use tax revenue to fund political campaigns.

Read the full article for more information.

State Approves, But Questions, Election Contract Hike

The Board of Public Works this week approved a substantial increase in a State Board of Elections contract, but asked several questions about the jump in labor costs associated with the changes. The discussion around the immediate decision also foretells a pending request for additional equipment, with increased administration costs arising in Baltimore County and several smaller jurisdictions, citing concerns with long voter lines and additional early voting locations.

The full Board meeting was streamed online, and is archived at the BPW website.

The Daily Record has substantial subscriber-only coverage of the meeting, as well.

Maryland Official Resigns from Trump Voter Fraud Panel

Maryland’s deputy Secretary of State has resigned from a controversial Trump administration panel probing alleged voter fraud in last year’s presidential election.

The Baltimore Sun reports,

Deputy Secretary of State Luis E. Borunda, a former Baltimore County school board member, informed the Hogan administration Monday that he resigned from Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, according to Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer.

Mayer said Borunda joined Trump’s 15-member bipartisan panel “on his own,” and was not appointed by the governor.

“He informed our office he has resigned from the commission,” Mayer said. Borunda did not respond to a request for comment.

President Donald J. Trump created the commission with an executive order in May after alleging millions voted illegally for his opponent in the presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump has not offered evidence to back up his assertion.

Borunda’s appointment prompted some head scratching in Maryland. Unlike in many other states, the Secretary of State’s office in Maryland has no role in voter registration or the administration of elections.

Borunda’s resignation coincides with Maryland’s refusal to comply with a request from President Trump’s voter integrity commission to supply data on the state’s registered voters.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Md. Election Board Denies White House Commission’s Request For Voter Data

Read the full article from The Baltimore Sun

Md. Election Board Denies White House Commission’s Request For Voter Data

Maryland will not comply with a request from President Trump’s voter integrity commission to supply data on the state’s registered voters.

According to The Washington Post,

Maryland’s primary election (photo credit: The Washington Post)

Linda H. Lamone, the administrator for the state Board of Elections, said in a letter on Monday to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that the request violates state election law.

“Disclosure of some of the information encompassed by your request may be prohibited under State and/or federal law,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, I am denying your request.”

Maryland joins more than two dozen other states that have partially or entirely rejected the request by the commission, which is chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.. The Maryland board had sought advice from state Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) on how to respond to the unprecedented request, which was made last week.

Both Common Cause Maryland and the ACLU of Maryland had raised questions about whether turning over the data would violate state election law.

Damon Effingham, legal and policy director for Common Cause Maryland, said Maryland law only allows only Maryland registered voters to request to inspect voter roll information. The voter has to submit a statement that the information would not be used for commercial purposes or purposes unrelated to the electoral process.

“Secretary of State Kobach is a registered voter in Kansas,” Effingham said in a statement. “And the request . . . does not include any indication of how the data will be used, let alone the required statement of intent under Maryland law. In fact, the Commission has stated its intent to release this vast trove of data to the public, creating significant concerns with how that data will ultimately be used.”

Click here to read the full statement from the State Board of Elections.

Will You Throw the First Pitch?

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Step up and share your county’s IT needs at MACo’s Summer Conference.

This year’s MACo Conference offers attendees an opportunity to voice county government information technology interests directly to private sector providers in an informal, informational format.

Share challenges & discover capabilities in this new Tech Wednesday offering.

SWITCH PITCH” IGNITE! — Meet Your Match: Solutions to County IT Challenges

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Gain quick insight into what tech can do for county governments in this fast-paced session. County IT and management professionals will state their needs, and vendors in the Tech Expo Tradeshow will respond with their pitch for solving the top tech issues. Attendees will get a chance to learn a little about a lot of vendors in a short period of time. Listen and learn!

Example County Pitches

  1. How do I empower employees to work from home in a secure and productive manner at minimal cost to the County?
  2. There are so many mobile apps in the market. Other than reading through the reviews, how can one determine the overall quality of a mobile app?  Is there a standard to check an app’s quality? What is it?
  3. What and where have been some of the more successful public/private partnerships providing broadband to unserved rural areas?

SIGN UP HERE TO BE A PART OF THIS SESSION Space is limited – Reply by July 19.

Have a pitch, but you are not attending this session?  Contact Robin Clark Eilenberg at MACo.

Tech Wednesday Vendor List

  • AVI-SPL, Inc
  • CDW-G
  • Comcast
  • Commvault
  • Cybersecurity Association of Maryland, Inc.
  • Data Networks of America
  • ePlus Technology Inc.
  • Esri
  • Freedom Broadband
  • Fujitsu America, Inc.
  • GovDeals, Inc.
  • Juniper Networks
  • Lenovo
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Maryland Libraries
  • Maryland Relay
  • Motorola Solutions, Inc.
  • Musco Sports Lighting
  • NIC Maryland
  • Phillips Office Solutions
  • Presidio
  • Prosys Information Systems
  • Regent Development Consulting, Inc. (RDC)
  • Ricoh USA, Inc.
  • Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.
  • Rudolph’s Office & Computer Supply, Inc.
  • SAIC
  • ShoreScan Solutions
  • Splunk
  • Sprint
  • Supply Solutions, LLC
  • Tomi Environmental Solutions

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker Announces 2018 Gubernatorial Bid

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III announced Wednesday that he is running for governor, sending a video message to news outlets and supporters that explains why he believes he can emerge from a crowded field of Democrats to challenge Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s bid for a second term.

Baker, 58, is midway through his seventh year as leader of the state’s second-largest jurisdiction. He has focused on improving schools, streamlining county services, and stimulating economic growth.

The Washington Post reports,

A former state lawmaker with a law degree from Howard University, Baker would become Maryland’s first African American governor and the first county executive to serve in the role since Parris N. Glendening (D), also of Prince George’s, did from 1995 to 2003.

“Being county executive gives me a good vantage point to look at Maryland as a whole, because we are urban, suburban and rural,” Baker said in an interview before his campaign announcement.

“When I look at what we had to do in Prince George’s, given the circumstances we were in, and I look at the state, it’s not dissimilar,” he added.

The son of a U.S. Army Special Forces officer and a nurse’s aide, Baker was born in Georgia. His family moved frequently, including stints in Okinawa, Japan, before settling in Massachusetts, when he attended high school.

After law school, Baker worked on Capitol Hill, in the D.C. government and as legal counsel for a nonprofit community development and social services organization.

He married his college sweetheart, civil rights lawyer Christa Beverly, and settled in Prince George’s, where he forged ties with fellow black politicos, including Wayne K. Curry, the late county executive. In 1994, with Curry’s guidance, Baker won a seat in the House of Delegates representing Cheverly and parts of Bladensburg.

But Baker badly wanted to be county executive. He lost two primary races, the first while serving in the House of Delegates. In 2010, he tried again and defeated four other Democrats in the primary, later easily winning the general election. Days later, federal agents arrested outgoing county executive Jack B. Johnson (D) on corruption charges.

Baker has traveled the state for months, sharing his story of an economic and civic resurgence in Prince George’s County, the only majority-black jurisdiction in Maryland besides Baltimore City and one of the most affluent majority-black jurisdictions in the nation.

In addition to pushing through ethics reform and seizing partial control of the struggling school system, Baker has boosted development around Metro stations and shepherded major projects, including a regional medical center slated to break ground in the fall. He abandoned his initial opposition to gambling in the county and became a major supporter of the glittering MGM National Harbor casino, which opened to rave reviews in December.

Before launching his campaign, Baker said he had to decide whether he thought he could do a better job than Hogan. That was the standard that Baker’s wife, whom he calls the driving force in his political career, had set in his previous races.

Beverly was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2012. Her condition has deteriorated considerably, but the county executive still includes her — along with their three adult children — in campaign meetings and conversations.

Her illness, Baker said, has increased his awareness of “the issues facing working men and women” who juggle work and caretaking. It’s also made him impatient about implementing public policy.

“Time is a precious commodity,” Baker said. “People want to know what you can do now.

“And I understand it, because I don’t know what tomorrow is.”

Read the full article for more information.