Chairman Davis: Local Preemption Bill Will Die in Committee

A bill in the House Economic Matters Committee that would prohibit counties and municipalities from increasing wages and benefits above state levels lacks the votes needed to move forward this session.

According to The Washington Post,

“I don’t believe the support is there,” said Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), the bill’s sponsor and chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee.

He said that the bill will die in committee.

Davis said he introduced the measure last month because he thought it would help the state recruit and retain businesses. He said he was influenced by his participation last year on the Augustine Commission, a task force aimed at making Maryland more business-friendly.

“One of the key issues — above taxes — was inconsistency and constantly changing rules,” Davis said.

Davis faced fierce opposition to his proposal from labor unions, who argued that the measure would suppress wages, and local elected officials, who viewed it as a power grab.

MACo opposed the one-size-fits-all approach of HB 317, which limits local decision-making. The preemption of local authority outlined in this bill would significantly undermine a local government’s ability to implement policies that reflect the diversity of local economies.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo, Counties Defend Autonomy On Labor Issues

The Washington Post Article

Sick Leave Bill Voted Out of House Committee

A bill that would require Maryland employers to provide many of their workers with paid sick and safe leave was voted out of the House Economic Matters Committee Thursday. The Committee voted 14-9 to send the measure to the full chamber for consideration.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

The bill would require companies with at least 15 employees to offer up to seven days of paid sick leave to full-time workers per year. Smaller companies would have to offer unpaid sick leave.

Part-time workers would earn sick leave based on the hours they work.

“I’m very excited that we’ve gotten this far again,” said Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the bill.

The bill has been designated House Bill 1, which signals its place as a top priority of the Democratic leadership in the legislature.

Last year, a version of the legislation cleared the House but got hung up in the Senate and failed to pass, though negotiations went down to the final day of the 90-day General Assembly session.

The bill would also require county governments to provide sick leave to all employees. While county governments generally provide generous benefits, at a much higher rate than the legislation would require, MACo opposed the legislation, raising concerns with the bill’s potential effects on provision of emergency and essential services and with the bill’s broad requirements for providing leave to part-time, seasonal, and contractual employees in the same manner as full-time employees.

Useful Links

MACo Testimony on HB 1

The Baltimore Sun Article

MACo Expresses Concerns With Statute of Limitations Bill

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, testified in opposition to House Bill 852, “Courts – Action for Violation of Collective Bargaining Agreement or Breach of Duty of Fair Representation – Limitations Period,” before the House Appropriations Committee on February 21, 2017.

HB 852 alters the time limit in which a complainant must bring an action for injunctive relief or damages for a violation of a collective bargaining agreement or a breach of duty of fair representation of an employee of the State or a political subdivision. The action must be commenced within six months after the later of: (1) the date on which the claim accrued; or (2) the date on which the complainant knew or should reasonably have known of the breach.

The bill’s six-month requirement could help reduce cases brought against local governments based on the date on which the claim accrued. However, MACo is concerned that setting the same threshold to the date on which the complainant knew or should reasonably have known of the breach could create a more open-ended standard that could ultimately increase litigation over the current law.

From MACo testimony:

MACo recognizes that HB 852 is intended to create a definitive statute of limitations for collective bargaining agreement and breach of the duty of fair representation of governmental employee claims. Unfortunately, MACo is concerned that the practical effect of the bill would be to increase the time limit within which such claims can be brought.

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

MACo Opposes Costly Changes to State Retirement System

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, provided testimony in opposition to House Bill 344, “State Retirement and Pension System – Disability Retirement and Workers’ Compensation Benefits – Offsets,” before the House Economic Matters Committee on February 21, 2017. Kinnally was joined by Wendy Karpel, Associate County Attorney, Montgomery County in opposition to the bill.

The bill appears to shift costs from the pension/retirement sector to the workers’ compensation sector, which may not affect State costs but would increase costs on local governments. One of the key provisions of HB 344 is the repeal of the ability to offset a workers’ compensation benefit if a person is receiving an ordinary disability payment for the same injury from the State Retirement and Pension System (SRPS). Another appears to result in the shifting of costs between SRPS and the workers’ compensation system.

Currently, the ability to collect both a workers’ compensation payment and a disability retirement payment is a special benefit enjoyed by fire and public safety personnel. The “stacking” of these benefits is costly to local governments. HB 344 would broaden the pool of potential candidates that could stack such benefits.

From MACo testimony:

While such shifting may ultimately be neutral at the State level, as the State pays for both retirement benefits and workers’ compensation for its members, such shifts have a different effect for local governments, which pay for workers’ compensation directly.

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

MACo Opposes Statewide Community College Collective Bargaining

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally testified to the House Appropriations Committee on February 21, 2017, in opposition to House Bill 871, Education – Community Colleges – Collective Bargaining.

Counties oppose the one-size-fits-all approach of HB 871, which limits local decision-making.

The move to collective bargaining outlined in this bill could create potentially unsustainable costs for counties, who provide substantial funding for community colleges throughout Maryland – especially since the legislation does not envision any added State support.

From the MACo testimony,

Despite counties’ role in supporting community colleges, this legislation would
not provide any opportunity for county governments to participate in collective bargaining
negotiations. The combination of these effects – State-imposed system and costs, no county
participation in bargaining, and no additional State funding – is simply not affordable as a
statewide county mandate and could present substantial budget difficulties.

MACo opposed identical legislation in past sessions of the General Assembly.

For more on MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session, visit our Legislative Tracking Database.

MACo – MES Collective Bargaining Bills Will Raise Costs on Local Governments

MACo submitted written testimony on legislation (HB 239/SB 291) that would impose mandatory collective bargaining on the Maryland Environmental Service (MES). HB 239 was heard by the Appropriations Committee on February 14, 2017, and SB 291 was heard by the Senate Finance Committee on February 16. HB 239 is sponsored by Delegate Patrick Young. SB 291 is sponsored by Senator James Rosapepe.

The bills would require MES to recognize and collectively bargain with an employee organization that is elected as an exclusive representative of MES employees.  From MACo’s opposition testimony:

As noted on the MES website (www.menv.com), MES is a self-supporting fee-for-service agency that “provides services at competitive rates to government and private sector clients and works on projects including water and wastewater treatment, solid waste management, composting, recycling, dredged material management, hazardous materials cleanup, storm water services and renewable energy.” Maryland counties and municipalities are major MES clients and in FY 2016, MES did $54.4 million in business with local governments. This represented 34% of MES’ total income for that year.

As the bill’s fiscal note indicates, MES estimates it will likely have to charge an additional $1.5 to $4.1 million annually to local governments as a result of mandatory collective bargaining. This would undermine the unique role MES plays in assisting local governments to meet numerous federal and state environmental mandates.

Useful Links

HB 239 of 2017

SB 291 of 2017

MACo Testimony on HB 239

MACo Testimony on SB 291

Delegate P. Young Webpage

Senator Rosapepe Webpage

MACo Bill Tracking Tool

Counties Seek Flexibility in County Employment Policies

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, testified in support with amendments of House Bill 167, “Counties and Municipalities – At-Will Supervisory Employees – Residency Requirements,”  before the House Appropriations Committee on February 14, 2017.

This bill authorizes a local government to require an at-will supervisory employee to reside in the state, county, or municipality as a condition of employment if the employee reports directly to the head of a unit of local government.  MACo proposed an amendment that would ensure any ordinance enacted by a local jurisdiction would only apply prospectively, so as not to be used as a basis for removing current supervisory employees.

From MACo testimony:

Currently, local governments may only impose residency requirements on department heads and similar managerial positions. This bill will provide local governments with greater autonomy and flexibility in implementing local policies designed to serve and react to community needs. While MACo supports the premise of this bill, counties want to ensure current local government employees are not adversely affected by the implementation of a new residency requirement policy.

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

The Next Generation of the Apprentice

Apprenticeships have always been a way to provide on-the-job training for people who want to work in the skilled trades; like a carpenter or electrician.

Not so much for IT, until now.

According to WYPR,

Steve Grega, for example, has bounced around a lot of jobs in the IT industry, including computer retail, for more than 20 years. Now he has an apprenticeship with UTX, a tech company based in Cockeysville. He says he went for it because he was tired of hopping from one contract to another.

“You have a contract, it can be one week at company ‘X’ and not have anything for three or four weeks before they put you in for six months at company ‘Y,’” he said. “I’ve gotten to the point that jumping around is not really conducive to what I want to do any more.”

Grega’s apprenticeship is a full-time job with a lot of training – at least 144 hours of classroom time – and mentorship. He will even get a raise if he meets certain goals.

One recent morning Grega was listening to Iris Gold – an event designer with Zeffert and Gold Catering in Woodlawn – describe a problem she was having with her machine. Not a furnace, but the computer on her desk.

“It was kind of like a gasping out of the back; like it was trying to play catch up,” Gold said.

It was one of the rare times that he had to fix a problem on site. Most of the time; he’s solves problems over the internet.

Grega’s apprenticeship was arranged through Northeast Baltimore-based TranZed Apprentice Services, a company modeled after 3aaa, an outfit based in the United Kingdom that provides non-traditional apprenticeships.

TranZed grew out of President Obama’s call for expanding apprenticeships into non-traditional fields like IT and cyber-security.

The company partnered with The Children’s Guild after the guild expressed an interest in expanding its educational mission.

Kimberly Neal, president of TranZed, says they were able to take their first apprentices in November after a change in state regulations.

“We’ve had to work with the government and the legal system to actually amend COMAR to expand apprenticeships and allow us to bring forth this offering,” she said.

State Labor Secretary Kelly Schulz says the change in law began in 2015 when the legislature approved creating pilot youth apprenticeships for STEM careers.

“We took that opportunity with the youth apprenticeship program to really start to talk and advocate for those types of non-traditional apprenticeship programs in the registered apprenticeship program in what we would consider more of an adult traditional style program,” she said.

Schulz says the possibilities for non-traditional apprenticeships are endless. Based on her department’s website, you can start apprenticeships in Maryland for illustrator, medical assistant; even journalism.

“It really is what the industries, the businesses, the workforce system is craving is that combination between your academic and your learning environment and the on the job training.”

For companies like UTX, apprentice services offered by TransZed save time.

UTX President Ed Podowski says he was able to hire his first apprentice – Steve Grega – in two to three hours; calling the process easy compared to what he did before.

“If I’m hiring one person, I’m going to spend 10 to 20 hours going through interviews. I get 50 applications; 50 resumes,” he says. “I have to look through all of those. I have to have either myself or have someone call references; I have to do the first interviews.”

Read the full article for more information.

MACo Concerned about Limits on Local Officials’ Speech

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, testified in opposition to House Bill 507, Community Colleges and Local Governments – Use of Public Funds to Influence Collective Bargaining Rights – Prohibition,”  before the House Appropriations Committee on February 14, 2017.

This bill would prohibit public officials and employees of a local government, as well as of a community college, from using public funds to influence employees in supporting or opposing an employee organization.

From MACo testimony:

Local government officials serve at the pleasure of their constituents. MACo believes that a free and open dialogue between local representatives and the communities they serve is a key cornerstone of good local governance. HB 507, while well intentioned, could undermine this communication structure, and create a cloud of uncertainty over a wide range of actions when public officials discuss labor-related matters.

MACo testified that it had no objections with efforts to prevent the use of public funds for the willful interference into employees’ labor rights, or to coerce employees to make decisions concerning collective bargaining rights. The bill as drafted, however, is overbroad and has unintended consequences. 

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

Bills Would Extend Benefits to Part-Time, Contract Employees

On February 9, 2016 MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally testified in opposition to Senate Bill 230, Labor and Employment – Maryland Healthy Working Families Act and Senate Bill 305, Commonsense Paid Leave Act to the Senate Finance Committee. These bills would require counties to extend their employee leave policies, which are generally very generous, to all part-time and grant-funded contract employees.

SB 230, Labor and Employment – Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, would require county employers to provide paid sick leave at a normal rate of pay for part‐time, seasonal, and contractual employees. The bill expands the definition of “family members” and includes a broad array of circumstances for taking sick leave.

From the MACo testimony,

This bill would require counties to make administrative changes and incur additional costs; however, the larger concern is the potential operational inefficiency. Providing many public services depends on the attendance of those employees who work a limited schedule. Additionally, this bill may increase costs of providing services, such as after-school activities, summer camps, and community services for vulnerable populations. Accommodating this legislation could result in cuts to those programs.

The expansive definition of “sick leave” allowed under this legislation and the extended definition of “family member” would entitle part-time employees to absences for many reasons other than their own health. In the context of county government, the unscheduled absence of these employees can overburden other county workers and create extra expenses in the provision of services to the public.

SB 305, Commonsense Paid Leave Act, this bill would require employers, including counties, to provide paid time off at a normal rate of pay for full-time and contractual employees. An employer with fewer than 50 employees is eligible for a subtraction modification if the employer provides all employees with paid leave.

From the MACo testimony,

Extending broad leave benefits to contractual employees would require counties to make administrative changes and incur additional costs. Another substantial concern is with the carryover county fiscal effects of the tax benefits offered under the bill. According to the bill’s fiscal note, local revenues would decrease by $36.5 million annually – a massive fiscal cost. This revenue effect, combined with that of providing contractual employees with paid time off, is simply not affordable as a statewide county mandate and could present substantial budget difficulties.

This bill would infringe on local autonomy and flexibility by preempting local governments from enforcing existing leave policies and from enacting any new law that regulates leave provided by an employer.

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