Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services: A Collaborative Approach At #MACoCon

All of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions depend on some level of volunteers for the delivery of fire and rescue service. The evolution of volunteer fire companies presents both challenges and opportunities for county governments.  At this year’s annual MACo Winter Conference, learn how Maryland counties are collaborating with volunteer fire companies to protect lives, property, and the environment.

Together We Respond: A Collaborative Approach to Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services

Description: All of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions depend on some level of volunteers for the delivery of fire and rescue service. As volunteer fire companies continue to evolve, it is critical for local governments to strengthen their relationships with local volunteer firefighters. This session will provide an overview of the challenges and best practices related to the volunteer fire service in Maryland. Speakers will discuss challenges in oversight and authority, recruiting and retaining volunteers, and funding for both volunteer companies and county governments.


  • Richard Devore, Director of Emergency Services, Allegany County
  • Tom Owens, EFO, Director/Chief, Division of Frederick County Fire & Rescue Services
  • Michael Faust, Second Vice President, Maryland State Fireman’s Association
  • Clarence “Chip” Jewell, Director/Deputy Chief, Frederick County Division of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services

Date/Time: Thursday, December 7, 2017; 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “The Power of Partnership.”

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

Finance Committee Holds Briefing On Controversial Collective Bargaining Bill

A panel of representing several Maryland community colleges voiced their objections over proposed legislation that would mandate a one-size-fits-all form of collective bargaining during a briefing held by the Senate Finance Committee. The briefing focused on failed legislation (SB 652/HB 871) from the 2017 General Assembly Session.

At the briefing, MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally explained that 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. Bernie Sadusky, Executive Director, Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC) told the Committee that the State has not been living up to its funding obligations, and that the added costs of collective bargaining would fall on counties and/or students, in the form of higher tuition rates.

State Senator Stephen Hershey expressed frustration with the proposal, telling fellow Committee Members that his constituent counties would be unable to afford the added costs resulting from mandated collective bargaining. Senator Hershey also addressed the lack of State funding for community colleges, he asked:

How can we pass a bill when we have no idea how to pay for it?

MACo opposed the 2017 legislation.

Representatives from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Maryland/DC American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO), and Communication Workers of America (CWA) testified in support of the legislation.

Useful Links

HB 871/SB 652 of 2017

Previous Conduit Street Coverage

Unemployment Below 4% For First Time Since 2008

For the first time since 2008, Maryland’s unemployment rate fell below 4 percent in August – just below, to 3.9 percent. The state gained 14,200 jobs, with the private-sector adding 9,700 jobs. August is the fifth month this year to post over-the-month job gains.

The national average unemployment rate is 4.4 percent, placing Maryland ahead of the curve.

Governor Larry Hogan stated:

From day one, a top priority of our administration has been growing our private sector and creating more jobs and we have made incredible progress. In just two and a half years, Maryland has added more than 10 times more private sector jobs than were added in the previous 8 years, and the unemployment rate is at the lowest it has been in nearly a decade. We pledged to put our state on a new path and turn around our economy, and we are doing exactly that.

Maryland Labor Secretary Kelly M. Schulz said:

August’s job gains are the second-highest in the past seven years. Our regulatory reform and workforce development programs are creating opportunities for both business owners and job seekers, and the numbers reflect that. The Department of Labor is proud to do its part to ensure our citizens have jobs.

Government jobs increased by 4,500 positions. Leisure and hospitality suffered the largest decrease, losing 1,100 jobs.

Useful Links

State’s press release

Baltimore Business Journal coverage

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Report Calls for More Career & Technology Education at Montgomery County Schools

A study team is recommending that Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) make more of an effort to prepare students for careers, not just for college. Education Strategy Group Fund, a consulting firm based in Chevy Chase, was hired by MCPS to analyze the district’s efforts to prepare students for an ever changing workforce.

According to The Washington Post,

Montgomery County has created “a clear and commendable culture of high expectations” in its public schools, but career preparation “has been marginalized as a priority, sometimes being inaccurately perceived as the antithesis of the college-going culture.” Presented to the school board Tuesday, the report recommended a string of changes, starting with a new vision for career readiness and more meaningful collaboration with key employers.

The 75-page report notes that enrollment in career and technology education lags behind the state average and that relatively few students — about 10 percent of 2016 graduates — complete a program, which requires multiple courses.

The study’s authors note that career and technology education (CTE) has widened in scope over the years, preparing students for jobs in health care and information technology as well as more traditional areas such as construction and automotive repair.

The consultants suggest that MCPS educate parents and students about career readiness opportunities and dispel the stigma associated with CTE programs. The study’s authors also note that MCPS does offer some top-notch CTE, but access to these programs is not consistent across the school system.

CTE should be redefined as offering rigorous academic coursework, state-of-the-art technical instruction, and real-world experiences, the report said. According to the consultants, in a 21st-century economy, more opportunities exist for workers with industry credentials, two-year college degrees, and other postsecondary certificates.

The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, is reviewing statewide CTE programs as part of its charge to evaluate a wide range of issues relating to K-12 education in Maryland. Click here to read Kirwan Commission coverage on the Conduit Street blog.

For more information, read the full article from The Washington Post.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Pending Overtime Rule

A Texas federal judge has struck down the Obama Administration’s pending rule mandating that employers provide overtime for a far wider swath of salaried employees than previously. The decision, released today and first reported by Bloomberg news, prevents the rule from going into effect on December 1, after a previous ruling in November of 2016 put the rule on hold.

From coverage in The Hill:

In the ruling, first reported by Bloomberg, the judge wrote that the agency improperly looked at salaries instead of job descriptions when determining whether a worker should be eligible for overtime pay.

The rule would have required employers to pay overtime to most salaried workers who earn less than $47,476 annually, a sharp increase from the current annual salary limit of $23,660.

See previous Conduit Street coverage

A Federal Agency Is Moving to Prince George’s (Spoiler Alert: It’s Not the FBI)

The General Services Administration has finalized a deal to consolidate part of the Department of Homeland Security into a new headquarters that will be housed adjacent to the Branch Avenue Metro station in Prince George’s County.

According to the Washington Business Journal,

The $256.6 million, 15-year deal will shift about 3,700 employees with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from five leased locations across the D.C. area into a new, 574,767-square-foot headquarters in One Town Center on One Capital Gateway Drive in Camp Springs, the GSA said in a news release. It is expected to save the federal government $21.4 million in annual lease savings and reduce CIS’s footprint by 128,000 square feet. Occupancy is expected to occur in 2020.

USCIS is a big deal, but it isn’t the big prize the county has been hoping for — the FBI. That search was cancelled last month but could still be revived under a new solicitation. At the same time, it’s a victory for Prince George’s given it has received a significantly smaller percentage of federal leases than neighboring jurisdictions in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.

Read the full article for more information.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Feds Cancel Plans for New FBI Headquarters

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Frustrated U.S. Senators Press Feds On FBI Headquarters Plan

Panelists Discuss the TechHire Initiative at #MACoCon

During the 2017 MACo Summer Conference panel “Round Up the (Un) Usual Suspects – There’s a Broader Pool of People for Your Tech Hiring Needs ” panelists discussed TechHire, an initiative powered by Opportunity@Work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education. TechHire is a nationwide, community-based movement that helps underrepresented and overlooked job seekers start technology careers.

Keyon Smith, Community Engagement Manager, Opportunity@Work began the session by providing an overview of the TechHire initiative, explaining that three Maryland Counties have already implemented TechHire in their communities – Carroll County, Howard County, and Baltimore City. Mr. Smith also provided information on what local officials can do to bring TechHire to their counties.

Kati Townsley, Executive Director, Carroll Technology Council, Inc. and Denise Beaver, Deputy Director, Carroll County Economic Development discussed the TechHire program in Carroll County. Specifically, Mrs. Townsley and Mrs. Beaver described what Carroll County has done to develop a TechHire “ecosystem” and highlighted best practices.

Tracey Turner, Executive Director, Howard Tech Council talked about the TechHire program in Howard County. Mrs. Turner gave insight on how Howard County has partnered with Howard County Community College to focus on internships and training.

Evan Dornbush, CEO, Point3 Security, Inc. discussed what his company is doing to expand technology training, especially for veterans. Mr. Dornbush explained how counties can and should recruit veterans, especially because they often have technology experience and valuable insight into the technology industry.

The session was moderated Washington County Commissioner and MACo Immediate Past President John Barr and took place on Thursday, August 17. The MACo Summer Conference was August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD. This year the conference’s theme was “You’re Hired!”.

Mastering the Millennial Workforce at #MACoCon

During the 2017 MACo Summer Conference panel “Dude, What’s My Job?”- Understanding, Attracting, and Retaining Your Millenial Workforce” panelists offered insight into the impact millennials are having in the workplace today. Attendees learned strategies to understand, attract, and retain millennials.

Elliot D. Lasson, Ph.D., Director, Masters of Industrial/Organizational Psychology Program, University of Maryland, began the session by providing an overview of the millennial workforce and how employers may need to adjust tactics to understand, attract, and retain this new generation of potential employees.

Ryan McShane, Vice President & Corporate Operations Officer, Marc3Solutions, discussed how the challenges of generations and megatrends are being met with principles of conscious capitalism to reconcile and make business more effective and efficient

Jennifer Marson, Executive Director, Arizona Association of Counties, concluded the panel by talking about how the Arizona Association of Counties has implemented policies that speak to millennials and how those policies have been successful.

The session was moderated by Delegate Angela Angel and took place on Friday, August 18. The MACo Summer Conference was August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD. This year the conference’s theme was “You’re Hired!”.

Sen. Hershey Supports County “Right To Work” Option

State Senator and MACo friend Stephen Hershey indicated plans to introduce legislation during the 2018 session to give counties the option to become “right to work” counties, enabling them to opt to prohibit employers and unions from compelling union membership.

Senator Hershey sees the legislation as an economic development initiative. He makes the case that employers are more likely to bring manufacturing jobs to right-to-work locations, since those manufacturing employees are less likely to unionize than workers in non right-to-work locations. 

From the Cecil Whig:

Essentially, by prohibiting unions from compelling membership, the law enables employees to choose not to join the union and pay union dues. Without the mandate that employees join their respective union — if one exists — the union loses funds and membership, therefore losing political weight during collective bargaining.

Maryland is not a right-to-work state, meaning that companies and unions can compel union membership. The idea behind compulsory membership is to eliminate “free riders” — those who benefit from the union without paying union dues.

This legislation, which is still being drafted, would give local jurisdictions the ability to say whether they are a right-to-work county or possibly even a right-to-work municipality.

Read the full article here.

BWI Leadership: Baltimore Workers Can’t Get Here 

Getting Baltimoreans to the BWI Airport to work has been “a major challenge,” Maryland Aviation Administrator Ricky Smith told The Baltimore SunAl Hutchinson, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, weighed in on the issue. From The Sun’s coverage:

[He] called the airport a “gem and an economic engine” for the state that is a gateway through which many city visitors arrive.

“We want as many of our residents who are looking for work to be able to get to work,” he said. “I’m glad to hear there’s a conversation being had to close that gap.”

“If we can provide a transportation option, it’s definitely worth studying,” he said.

BWI is the 22nd busiest U.S. airport, with an average of 70,000 passengers per day and 90 domestic and international destinations, according to Smith.