Community College Collective Bargaining Bill Remains in Committee

Neither the Senate Finance Committee nor the House Appropriations Committee has taken action on a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all collective bargaining bill that would affect all Maryland community colleges. HB 871 / SB 652 failed to move prior to yesterday’s “crossover” deadline, and bills passed out from now on go to the Rules Committee of the second chamber, a procedural hurdle impeding their chances of final passage.

Counties oppose the one-size-fits-all approach of HB 871 / SB 652, 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. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.

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

Local Collective Bargaining Mandate Misses “Crossover” Deadline

A bill that would require all counties to extend collective bargaining rights to all of their employees – except for supervisory, managerial, or confidential employees, or elected or appointed officials, has not moved out of the House Appropriations Committee. HB 1370 failed to move prior to yesterday’s “crossover” deadline, and bills passed out from now on go to the Rules Committee of the second chamber, a procedural hurdle impeding their chances of final passage.

MACo opposed the bill, as it mandates a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all design that would expand collective bargaining rights in a third of Maryland’s counties.

From the MACo testimony,

Maryland county governments vary in many ways. They come in different forms of government, including charter, commission, and code home rule. They are different sizes, ranging from less than two hundred employees to more than ten thousand. And, they have different levels of collective bargaining rights. Some authorize collective bargaining for all the employees described in HB 1370, some have it for public safety employees, and others do not currently have collective bargaining agreements.

Requiring even Maryland’s smallest county governments and any municipal governments in Maryland that have more than 20 employees to authorize collective bargaining to almost all their employees will create a new administrative burden, and could also create additional personnel costs. The low threshold and broad application of HB 1370 puts pressure on some of the state’s smallest jurisdictions, which may be least able to accommodate additional administration and costs.

Useful Links

2016 Bill: HB 736

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

Local Preemption Bill Dies in Committee

A bill that would prohibit counties and municipalities from increasing wages and benefits above state levels has died in the House Economic Matters Committee.

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

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

Sick Leave Legislation Heading to Conference Committee

Both the House and Senate have passed sick and safe leave legislation with veto proof majorities. The bills would require Maryland employers to provide paid sick and safe leave for many of their employees. However, since SB 230 and HB 1 are not identical, the differences are likely to be worked out in a conference committee in the coming days.

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 about 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 SB 230

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

President Trump’s Budget Proposal Carries Big MD Effects

President Trump’s proposed federal budget has triggered a wide range of reactions, including some local concerns about effects on the Maryland workforce, environment, and numerous other areas. While federal actions are far from certain, this debate does carry over into the state political arena in several ways.

A Baltimore Sun article covers the story, with significant focus on federal funds for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts, but touches on the wider picture as well:

In Maryland, a state where the economy is closely tied to federal spending, the $1.15 trillion budget could put thousands of civilian government employees out of work but also boost defense activity in the state. Urban development and road projects in Baltimore could be put on hold while additional money may be set aside for addiction treatment.

The proposal, which faces opposition in Congress, underscores the administration’s desire to limit the federal government’s reach into housing, the environment and safety-net programs, while vastly increasing investments in the military and homeland security — all of which reflect promises Trump made during his campaign.

The federal budget process is dramatically different than that in Maryland State government. While the state and many larger counties use what is often referenced as an “Executive Budget” system, where the General Assembly may cut but not add funding, the federal government’s budget process is more legislatively-driven. The President’s proposals represent the Administration’s priorities, but are not materially binding on the Congress. Debate on the budget plan, and the multiple appropriations bills that represent the federal budget, will extend for months.

Wide coverage of multiple news sources discussing the Maryland and political effects of the proposed budget can be found on the Maryland Reporter site, which offers a daily harvest of Maryland news and political coverage.

Senate Passes Sick Leave Bill With Veto-Proof Majority

The Senate has passed SB 230, “Labor and Employment – Maryland Healthy Working Families Act” with a veto-proof majority. The vote was 29-18. The bill would require Maryland employers to provide paid sick and safe leave for many of their employees.

The bill has significant differences from the House version and needs to be reconciled before it can be sent to Governor Hogan, who has promised to veto the bill. Most notably, the Senate version provides for 5 days of paid sick and safe leave, the House version provides for 7 days.

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 about 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 SB 230

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

Proposed $15 Minimum Wage Would Have Costly Impact on County Budgets

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, submitted written testimony opposing the $15 minimum wage by 2023 (SB 962). Counties are concerned this legislation will have significant fiscal and operational impacts on local governments.

MACo’s testimony states,

Counties employ thousands of Maryland residents, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, and grant-funded employees. Full-time and grant-funded employees are generally paid on a salary basis. However, part-time and seasonal employees may be paid on an hourly basis. According to the bill’s fiscal note, raising the minimum wage in such a drastic fashion will cost local governments millions of dollars per year.

As a rule, MACo resists state policies that result in costly or burdensome local implementation. SB 962 would place a significant fiscal burden on county governments. Under state law, counties have no choice but to fund these costs – competing for limited local funds against education, public safety, roadway maintenance, and other essential public services.

Many part-time and seasonal employees work in community services, such as after-school activities, summer camps, and community services for vulnerable populations. Accommodating this legislation could result in significant cuts to those programs.

SB 962 was heard by the Senate Finance Committee on March 15, 2017. The cross-file, HB 1416, was heard by the House Economic Matters Committee on March 7, 2017. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 Legislative Session here.

MACo Opposes Statewide Community College Collective Bargaining, Could Cause Unsustainable Costs for Counties

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally testified to the Senate Finance Committee on March 9, 2017, in opposition to Senate Bill 652 “Education – Community Colleges – Collective Bargaining”.

Counties oppose the one-size-fits-all approach of SB 652, 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 MACo’s 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. The cross-file to the bill, HB 871, was heard by the House Appropriations Committee on February 21, 2017. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.

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

Congressional Committee Chair Plans Broad Agenda Affecting Federal Workers

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, plans a broad and far-reaching committee agenda that includes measures to fire feds faster, pay some feds more and change the retirement system for new hires, of whom there would be fewer.

Maryland is home to some 300,000 federal workers and several agencies. That’s why it’s concerning to hear that Rep. Chaffetz wants agencies to consider locating more government operations outside the nation’s capital in an effort he dubbed “Divest DC,” a move that could be consequential for Maryland and its economy.

The Washington Post summarized some of Rep. Chaffetz’ plans in a recent article.

According to The Washington Post,

Federal employee retirement: Chaffetz wants retirement plans for new federal employees to move away from pensions, or “defined benefit” programs that rely on employer contributions, and lean more on employee funding through a system in which the government would make a “defined contribution.” Uncle Sam could even chip in more than he does to the 401 (k)-like personal investment program for federal staffers. Utah adopted this, he said, saving “billions and billions of dollars.” That may be good for Uncle Sam’s bottom line, but it probably means that individual workers would pay more out of pocket.

Hiring freeze: “We have good-quality federal workers,” [Chaffetz] said, “but we have too many of them.” Compared with the nation’s population, however, the size of the workforce has declined significantly since the 1960s. Chaffetz is considering legislation that would allow agencies to hire only one employee for every two or three who leave. But he said some agencies, such as the Secret Service, are understaffed.

Federal pay: This is one item of good news for a limited segment of federal employees. “There are some areas where we are probably going to have to pay people more money,” [Chaffetz] said, citing in-demand workers such as cyber experts in a very competitive market. Last year, Congress approved his legislation to provide back pay for previously uncompensated Secret Service overtime.

Divest D.C.: Chaffetz suggested that Congress could easily pass a measure pushing agencies to do a cost-benefit analysis comparing the costs of placing operations in the District with other locations. This, he added, could lead to a “more reflective government” and save money because the District is expensive, while helping local economies elsewhere.

“Everything in the federal government doesn’t need to reside in Washington, D.C.,” he said. Everything isn’t. About 85 percent of federal employees are outside the greater Washington area.

Read the full article for more information.

MACo: Counties as a Whole Can’t Afford $15 Minimum Wage

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, submitted written testimony opposing the $15 minimum wage by 2023 (HB 1416). Counties are concerned this legislation will have significant fiscal and operational impacts on local governments.

MACo’s testimony states,

Counties employ thousands of Maryland residents, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, and grant-funded employees. Full-time and grant-funded employees are generally paid on a salary basis. However, part-time and seasonal employees may be paid on an hourly basis. According to the bill’s fiscal note, raising the minimum wage in such a drastic fashion will cost local governments millions of dollars per year.

As a rule, MACo resists state policies that result in costly or burdensome local implementation. HB 1416 would place a significant fiscal burden on county governments. Under state law, counties have no choice but to fund these costs – competing for limited local funds against education, public safety, roadway maintenance, and other essential public services.

Many part-time and seasonal employees work in community services, such as after-school activities, summer camps, and community services for vulnerable populations. Accommodating this legislation could result in significant cuts to those programs.

HB 1416 was heard by the House Economic Matters Committee on March 7, 2017.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 Legislative Session here.