Skills to Pay the Bills: Chamber Partners With Schools to Address Workforce Shortage

As part of a joint effort with Garrett County Schools, the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce today announced the creation of a Work Ethic Diploma program. The purpose of the program is to ensure that the State is graduating skilled workers ready to take on the jobs offered by employers and industry.

According to Cumberland Times-News:

By meeting established criteria, local students will earn a work ethic diploma upon graduating that will guarantee them job interviews and better wages.

“The concept for a regional Garrett County work ethic initiative was brought to the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce by employers that felt students were not completing high school with the soft skills needed to be successful employees,” said Nicole Christian, chamber president and CEO. “With the input of area educators, business leaders and post-secondary representatives, standards were developed to measure work ethic in students.

To qualify for the diploma, students must earn a minimum of points in discipline standard, attendance standard, absence standard, work experience, community service/internship project standard, overall GPA standard, team work standard, drug free (optional) and exit interview (seniors only).

By meeting established criteria, local students will earn a Work Ethic Diploma upon graduating which will guarantee them job interviews and better wages.

Read the full article for more information.

Click here to learn more about the Work Ethic Diploma program.

County Fellowship Aims to Develop “Pipeline of Talent”

The Allegany County Commissioners are set to provide on-the-job training to teach local college students about careers in local government. The 12-week fellowship program, which begins in May, is available to students at Frostburg State University and Allegany College of Maryland.

According to Cumberland Times-News,

“We’ve taken on county interns in the past, but not in this coordinated effort,” said Brandon Butler, the county administrator who will direct the program.  “I think this is a great opportunity,” Commissioner Bill Valentine said.

“This community has the rap of ‘My kid has to go somewhere else to get a good opportunity,’ and that is something I’m interested in busting,” he said.

“I’m looking to raise up young people who care about their communities, who have a passion to make a difference and have an an opportunity for them right here in Allegany County,” Butler said.

More than a unique opportunity for area students, the fellowship creates a “pipeline of talent,” as a way for local officials to spot potential government employees, Butler said.

To apply, college students must be either a junior or senior (at least 30 credits for ACM students) and have at least a 2.7 cumulative GPA.

Read the full article for more information.

Conduit Street Podcast: Post-Crossover Roundup, School Construction, School Safety, and More!

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson provide listeners with a roundup of MACo’s 2018 Legislative Initiatives, as well as a host of other bills MACo has weighed in on this year, discuss the latest on school construction, and examine the debate on school safety. MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

State Announces New Apprenticeship Program With CVS Health, Expands Modern Apprenticeship Opportunities

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation today announced a new registered apprenticeship program with CVS Health, and expanded opportunities for Maryland workers in other non-traditional apprenticeship occupations and industries. At the March meeting of the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Council (MATC), six new sponsors became part of the state’s apprenticeship program, three reactivated their programs, and three expanded their existing programs into new occupations.

According to a press release:

“Apprenticeship is a smart workforce development program that works for any industry,” said Labor Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. “While the skilled trades have been the predominant force in apprenticeship – and continue to be an effective career development tool in those fields – we are seeing a solid shift into non-traditional trades, such as healthcare and information technology. Today’s announcement exemplifies that shift, with new occupations in emerging fields.”

Having become the nation’s first employer to start a U.S. Department of Labor registered apprenticeship program for pharmacy technicians in 2005, CVS Health is also the first to sponsor a program in Maryland for pharmacy technician and pharmacy managers. Apprentices will receive structured training through the CVS Health Regional Learning Centers in the District of Columbia and District Heights, Maryland, to maintain the high levels of skills needed in the pharmacy field, and will be eligible to apply for a position at one of more than 220 locations in the state.

In addition to CVS Health, Cooper Electrical Services, ConnectWork, LLC, Maryland Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, Npower, and the Education Foundation for Baltimore County Public Schools became new apprenticeship sponsors, while Allstate Floors, W.L. Gore and Associates, Inc., and Worthington Armstrong Venture reactivated their programs, bringing the total of Maryland’s active apprenticeship sponsors to 136.

1199 SEIU League Training and Upgrading Fund, the Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH), and the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MD MEP) expanded their existing programs. These expansions included new occupations, such as BACH’s surgical technologist and MD MEP’s additive manufacturing technician 3-D printing. MEP’s additive manufacturing occupation is not just a first for Maryland, but is, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the first in the nation.

Apprenticeships are full-time jobs that include on-the-job training and classroom instruction, allowing apprentices to earn while they learn. Anyone 18 or older can be a registered apprentice, while high school students can pursue youth apprenticeships. Businesses and job seekers interested in apprenticeships are invited to contact or call 410-767-2246.

Read the full press release for more information.

$20M TIGER Grant Will Spur Job Growth In Baltimore County

Baltimore County has been awarded a $20 million federal grant for infrastructure improvements and expansion of aging marine facilities at Tradepoint Atlantic. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant will be matched by private investment from Tradepoint Atlantic, developer of 3,100 acres at Sparrows Point.

According to a press release:

“This public/private infrastructure investment will ignite job creation in Baltimore County and the entire region by speeding up the turnaround of Sparrows Point from a shuttered steelmaking site into a modern hub for global commerce,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

With funding from the TIGER grant, Tradepoint Atlantic will make structural upgrades to the East-West Berth, modernize it for efficient movement of 21st century cargo, strengthen bulkheads, perform maintenance dredging to allow deep water ships access to the marine terminal, and other necessary improvements designed to leverage existing rail and highway systems on the site.

The investments in dredging, a stronger berth, and short line rail track will facilitate efficient and safe loading and unloading, reducing handling costs for shippers using the facility.

The project will expand the region’s bulk handling capability by restoring an obsolete regional marine asset to a state of good repair. The modernization program expands bulk cargo handling capability at Tradepoint Atlantic and does not introduce container cargo handling to the site.

The grant projects will span four years. The TIGER grant is led by the Baltimore County Department of Economic and Workforce Development.

A recent economic impact report projects Tradepoint Atlantic will generate 17,000 jobs in the Baltimore region, plus another 21,000 jobs during construction. Economic impact is projected to top $3 billion when development of the 3,100 acre site is completed in 2025, according to the Sage Policy Group study.

“There are more than 17,000 jobs on the horizon at full development, but jobs already are coming back to Sparrows Point from world class companies including FedEx Ground, Amazon and Under Armour,” added Kamenetz.

Read the full press release for more information.

A Supreme Court Decision Could Shrink Unions’ Power

Last week the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. At stake are agency fees — public sector unions can collect fees for service from employees who refuse to join the union that represents them, which Janus argues is an unconstitutional act of compelled speech.

Mark Janus, an employee of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, has about $46 deducted from his paycheck every month to cover the collective-bargaining expenses of AFSCME, the union that represents employees at his state agency. Although Janus is not a union member, by law he receives all the rights and benefits under the contract the union negotiated for workers at his agency.

The union and government employer argue that Janus is trying to be a “free rider,” obtaining the benefits of union representation without paying his fair share of the costs. While some workers may disagree with the union’s goals, many others fully support the union’s goals of higher wages and better benefits but still hope to free-ride by having others rather than themselves pay the union dues.

It’s already possible for public employees to “opt-out” of paying that portion of their dues that fund explicitly political activity. But Janus argues that all dues paid to public sector unions are political because the consequences of collective bargaining in the public sector impact taxes, government debt, budgets and spending priorities. Janus contends that the agenda of public sector unions, including collective bargaining, is inherently political.

While a ruling is not expected until later this year, The Washington Post warns that a ruling in favor of Janus could have widespread unintended consequences, even for those who support the plaintiff’s case.

According to The Washington Post,

What the Janus backers (and most commentators) miss is that agency fees are not just compensation for the financial costs of representation, but for the political costs of representing all the members in the bargaining unit and maintaining labor peace. As AFSCME’s attorney pointed out in his oral arguments, the agency fee is routinely traded for a no-strike clause in most union contracts. Should those clauses disappear, employers will have chaos and discord on their hands.

The combination of exclusive union representation, mandatory agency fees, no-strike clauses and “management’s rights” are the foundation of our peculiar labor relations system. No other country structures its labor relations system quite like this. Knock one part out, as the Janus plaintiffs aim to do with agency fees, and the whole system can fall apart. Employers will not like the chaos that this will bring.

The piece argues that if Janus prevails, thousands of contracts that would have to be renegotiated in a climate where an agency fee is no longer a trade for a no-strike pledge, which could lead to significant labor unrest across the country.

The United States Supreme Court has issued several opinions relating to the right of a public sector exclusive representative to collect service fees from nonunion members. In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), the court found that, while an exclusive representative could collect a fee from nonunion members, the fee revenues could not be used to support ideological causes not germane to the organization’s duties as the collective bargaining representative. In another case, the Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292 (1986), the court held that, in order to protect nonunion members’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech and association, the union’s collection of agency fees must “include an adequate explanation of the basis for the fee, a reasonably prompt opportunity to challenge the amount of the fee before an impartial decision maker, and an escrow for the amounts reasonably in dispute while such challenges are pending.”

There is no State law that generally allows all local government employees to engage in collective bargaining; rather, it is within the powers of the counties and municipalities in Maryland to pass local laws granting collective bargaining rights to their employees.

Several counties have exercised that authority and have some kind of collective bargaining for employees. Some allow collective bargaining for most rank and file employees. Others allow for collective bargaining for a specific group of individuals, such as police officers, sheriffs, or emergency medical personnel.

The extent to which a county’s code includes collective bargaining measures varies drastically from robust sections in the Montgomery and Prince George’s counties codes to Washington County, which simply states collective bargaining is authorized and strikes are prohibited.

Read the full article for more information.

Conduit Street Podcast: County Collaboration on Tax Reform, Lockbox Redux, Employer Mandates, and Bad Docs

The MACo Legislative Committee formally adopted a statement this week to express its views on broad-based tax reform proposals pending before the General Assembly, designed to react (in various ways) to the recently enacted federal tax reforms. Absent state action, some Maryland taxpayers would see an increase in their state and county tax liability — the potential means to offset these changes sit before the legislature in multiple variations of changes to deductions, exemptions, rates, and brackets — each with distinct distributional effects.

Governor Larry Hogan this week announced a “lockbox” proposal to ensure that taxes on casino revenues set aside for education are used to supplement, not supplant state funding for public schools. Last month, legislature leadership announced a plan to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The ballot question would ask voters to approve of putting a “lockbox” on casino money (around $500M per year), requiring it to be used for education above the amount set by state formulas. The Governor’s proposal would not require a referendum, it would be done through statute.

The House Economic Matters Committee voted down SB 304, Maryland Healthy Working Families Act – Enforcement – Delayed Implementation, which would have delayed implementation of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act until July 1. The vote was 12-11. The focus now turns to a new wave of employer mandate proposals.

A proposal to strengthen Maryland’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is likely to spur a debate over who should have access to the database and under what circumstances. As heroin and opioid deaths continue to skyrocket in Maryland, County Health Officers could play a vital role in sharing vital information and best practices with identified prescribers, and increase awareness and improve intervention efforts in cases of patients who may be doctor shopping.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson break down MACo’s position on broad-based tax reform proposals, discuss the competing education “lockbox” initiatives, examine employer mandate proposals, preview the looming debate on Maryland’s PDMP, and more!

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

If you are having trouble using this media player, listen on our website.

House Committee Kills Bill to Delay Implementation of Paid Sick Leave Law

The House Economic Matters Committee voted down SB 304, Maryland Healthy Working Families Act – Enforcement – Delayed Implementation, which would have delayed implementation of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act until July 1. The vote was 12-11.

The Senate approved the legislation last week, after Senate Finance Chairman and chief sponsor of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton introduced the bill to delay enforcement of the new law. MACo testified in support of the bill.

The General Assembly passed HB 1 last year with veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate. Governor Hogan vetoed the bill, but the General Assembly overrode the veto in the early days of the 2018 legislative session. The law, which requires employers with 15 or more full-time employees to provide workers with at least five days of sick and safe leave per year, took effect on February 11, 2018— 30 days after the legislature overrode the veto.

The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act requires 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.

MACo has received several requests from county governments regarding the law’s provisions. At the same time, county governments are receiving questions about the law from members of the business community.

By law, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry will carry out this provision. The Governor’s Executive Order of January 15 created the Office of Small Business Regulatory Assistance, which will assist with implementation of the Act.

In the meantime, for general information about the law’s provisions, see this HB 1 – Summary.

For more information, contact Kevin Kinnally at MACo.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Senate Passes Bill to Delay Implementation of Paid Sick Leave Law

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Governor Hogan Vetoes Sick Leave Bill

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: New Proposal Seeks to Delay Enforcement of Sick Leave Law

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Conduit Street Podcast: 9-1-1 Takes Center Stage, Huge Drop of Bills Introduced, Sick Leave Law Looms, and Senate Changes Afoot

Conduit Street Podcast: 9-1-1 Takes Center Stage, Huge Drop of Bills Introduced, Sick Leave Law Looms, and Senate Changes Afoot

Both county and municipal governments, still feeling the permanent effects of devastating cutbacks to state roadway funding, have made restoring Highway User Revenues a perennial legislative priority.  HB 1569, introduced today, represents a compromise between counties and municipalities, whereby all local governments would have their local share of Highway User Revenues fully restored.

A law requiring employers to provide employees with sick leave will go into effect on Sunday, despite a veto last year from Governor Larry Hogan and a last-ditch effort by the state Senate to delay its implementation. The law requires employers with 15 or more full-time employees to provide workers with at least five days of sick and safe leave per year.

The Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) (SB 285/HB 634), one of MACo’s 2018 Legislative Priorities, had a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee this week. Counties from across the state sent public safety professionals to stress the importance of advancing NG911 in Maryland.

The General Assembly is on pace to introduce more than 4,000 bills in 2018. With “crossover” just five weeks away, legislators are scrambling to meet the deadline.

Senator Ed Kasemeyer, Chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, announced he does not intend to seek re-election to another term. His decision would leave yet another member of the powerful fiscal panel uncertain for the next four-year term.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson break down the compromise on Highway User Revenues, discuss the paid sick leave law, recap the NG911 hearing, preview big changes on the horizon for the Maryland Senate, and more!

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

If you are having trouble using this media player, listen on our website.


Counties Support Expanding Tech Internship Programs

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified before the House Appropriations Committee in support of HB 527, “Higher Education – Maryland Technology Internship Program – Alterations,” on February 8, 2018. The bill enables counties to participate in the Maryland Technology Internship program.

Currently, the Maryland Technology Internship Program connects college and university students, recent graduates, and veterans with small innovative businesses in the high-growth technology sector through internships. The Program incentivizes businesses to participate by offering a stipend of up to 50% for each paid intern. HB 527 would expand the current Program by authorizing the State and local governments to participate in the same way as technology-based businesses.

From the MACo testimony:

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 encourage high-achieving students at Maryland institutions of higher education to remain in the state after graduation.

The bill properly leaves the decision for establishing a program in the hands of local governments, 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 costs for paid interns, disbursing financial burdens and ensuring that the State is equally invested in the advancement of its students and workforce.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.