Unpaid State Officials Sue Treasurer, State

Dennis Schrader and Wendi Peters, Governor Larry Hogan’s secretaries for Health and Planning, respectively, have filed suit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court against State Treasurer Nancy Kopp and the State of Maryland seeking a declaratory judgment on their right to receive their paychecks, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

Governor Larry Hogan withdrew his appointees’ nominations during the legislative session, preventing the State Senate from voting on their confirmations. The General Assembly passed budget language that prohibits the use of State budget funds to pay the salaries of certain secretaries and other high-ranking officials who did not receive Senate confirmation during the 2017 session. In response to the budget language, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp announced last month that should would not pay the secretaries at the start of fiscal 2018 year on July 1.

The Daily Record  quotes Governor Hogan:

The attorney general gave both the legislature and our office the opinion that they’re legally serving in their positions so it would be illegal for us not to pay them.

Sears further reports:

The attorney general, in two different advisories, said Hogan could legally reappoint secretaries whose names he withdrew before a vote. But in a separate advisory, the office said that the language in the budget barring the payment of Schrader and Peters was also legal under the Maryland Constitution.

From the Letter To Senator Ferguson from the Office of the Attorney General (June 27, 2017):

The reappointment of Ms. Peters and Mr. Shrader after the close of session raises significant constitutional concerns because the practice of making recess reappointments of withdrawn nominees tends to circumvent the Senate’s constitutional confirmation role. But in the absence of any constitutional provision addressing the practice, our Office’s position has been that a governor may reappoint a withdrawn nominee after session so long as the nominee was not rejected by the full Senate. As for the budgetary restriction, I believe it is a constitutionally permissible exercise of the Legislature’s power to impose conditions on the expenditure of appropriated money, particularly as applied to the positions of Secretary and Acting Secretary.

Although a reviewing court might disagree with one or both of these conclusions, it likely would not resolve the reappointment and budgetary issues in a way that would allow a governor to systematically circumvent the Senate’s confirmation role. Instead, it would either invalidate the reappointment of the withdrawn nominees, or, more likely, conclude that the budgetary restriction is a constitutionally valid means of ensuring the integrity of the Senate confirmation process. Thus, even if Ms. Peters and Mr. Shrader were valid recess appointments, they may not receive a salary as Secretary, Acting Secretary, Deputy Secretary, or Assistant Secretary as of the budgetary restriction’s July 1 effective date.

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Kirwan Commission Discusses Equity in Education, Maryland’s ESSA Draft Plan

The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting today in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the Commission focused on addressing the impact of poverty on public education, resources for at-risk students, community schools, and Maryland’s ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) draft plan.

Paul Reville, Francis Keppel Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, gave a presentation on education reform in Massachusetts. The goal of the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA) was to create adequacy, equity, and stability in the state’s school finance system. According to Reville, “The business of providing schools with adequate resources to educate children is not a local responsibility. It’s a state system, and thus the state is responsible for providing resources to adequately educate children.” Accordingly, MERA doubled state funding for K–12 education from $1.3 billion in 1993 to $2.6 billion in 2000.

The Commission also heard testimony from Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy. Mr. Tucker gave a brief summary of school funding in Maryland and how it compares to school funding in top performing states and countries. Mr. Tucker also discussed per-pupil funding formulas, funding formulas for at-risk students, and equity in education funding.

The Maryland Department of Education (MSDE) presented its draft Consolidated State Plan for ESSA, a federal law passed in December 2015 that governs K-12 public education policy. According to MSDE, the purpose of ESSA “is to provide all students the opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.” MSDE began its work on the draft plan in February 2016 and will submit its final plan to the U.S. Department of Education by September 18, 2017. Click here to view MSDE’s draft Consolidated State Plan.

The Commission also heard testimony from advocates for community schools, publicly funded schools that serve as both educational institutions and a center of community life.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission. MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation.

Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Wednesday, August 30, 2017; 9:30 am-5:30 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

Click here to view today’s meeting materials.

For more information, contact Kevin Kinnally at MACo.

Kirwan Commission Discusses Teachers, Instructional Systems

The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting last week in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the Commission focused on developing world-class, highly coherent instructional systems and creating clear gateways for students through the system, with no dead ends.

One interesting takeaway came from Jack R. Smith, Superintendent of Montgomery County Schools. Dr. Smith discussed efforts to improve the teaching profession and stressed that the Commission “should not blow up the system,” and that any changes should be gradual and well-thought-out. Dr. Smith suggested implementing “authentic career ladders that involve higher education in ongoing professional development of both teachers and teacher educators.”

The Commission also heard testimony from Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy. Mr. Tucker discussed Maryland’s standards, assessments, and curriculum. According to Mr. Tucker, “Maryland’s standards, assessments, and curriculum supports compare favorably to those of many if not most American states [and] Maryland is far ahead of many other states in providing support to teachers to help them teach to the new standards and in providing support in high school to students who fail to reach high school standards.”

However, Mr. Tucker recommended setting up a system that allows all students to take the
courses they need to meet the college and career standards at the end of 10th grade, not 11th
grade. According to Mr. Tucker, implementing this system would ensure more students would be ready for success in Maryland’s community colleges, increasing enrollment and greatly improving completion rates. Furthermore, because many Maryland students would be ready to take a full two-year degree program in grades 11 and 12 of high school, Maryland families would save a great deal of money.

Click here to view the meeting materials from last week’s meeting.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission. MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation.

Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

The Commission’s next meeting, which will focus on resource equity, will be held on Monday, July 26, 2017; 9:30 am-5:30 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

For more information, contact Kevin Kinnally at MACo.

The 2017 General Assembly’s Effect on Education Policy

The Maryland Association of Boards of Education releases its presentation on the implications of the most recent legislative session.

The Maryland Association of Board of Education’s bill-by-bill review of major legislative enactments is intended as a briefing for local boards of education. The information, however, may also be of help to county government officials.

Screenshot 2017-06-29 14.22.15
Legislation relating to the opioid crisis is covered in MABE’s presentation.

From the Maryland Association of Counties:

MABE Conducts Workshop on Policy Implications

The recently completed 2017 Maryland legislative session generated an unprecedented number of laws and newly required policy items impacting Maryland education. Stephen C. Bounds, Esq., Director of Legal & Policy Services, and John R. Woolums, Esq., Director of Governmental Relations, presented a workshop detailing each of the laws and pertinent information board members and school system staff need for the resulting policies required. The extended session drew a large group of 27 board members and staff from 15 Maryland school systems.

The entire presentation is available on the MABE website, and includes contact information should more information be needed.

Saturday Marks Beginning For New Tax Laws

While most legislation passed by the General Assembly this past session becomes effective October 1st, a few new tax laws – including a noteworthy income tax deduction bill that will erode both state and county income tax revenues – become effective on July 1st.

Senate Bill 597/House Bill 100, referred to colloquially as the “Hometown Heroes Act” and substantially similar to the Administration’s Senate Bill 322/House Bill 388 of that name, provides for a subtraction modification for the first $15,000 of retirement income for individuals at least 55 years of age who are retired law enforcement officers or fire, rescue, or emergency services personnel. MACo opposed this legislation on the grounds that it would cause local revenues to decrease by $2.5 million in FY 2018 and by $2.8 million in FY 2022. After many years of consideration by the legislature, the bill passed this year and the Governor signed it – making the tax deduction available for the 2017 tax year.  Bill Information | MACo Coverage

A new law repealing the requirement that local governments reimburse the Local Income Tax Reserve Account for overpayments of local income tax revenue distributions made by the Comptroller also goes into effect July 1. Senate Bill 397/House Bill 1433 allows for funds to be drawn from the Account, rather than local government budgets, to rectify errors for which they are not responsible. The Governor signed the bill on May 25. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

In addition, a new law proposed by Comptroller Franchot aimed at protecting taxpayers against fraud and identity theft becomes effective July 1. The Taxpayer Protection Act strengthens the Comptroller’s enforcement powers against fraudulent tax filers. MACo did not take a position on Senate Bill 304/House Bill 424. Bill Information

Dozens of other bills also take effect July 1, including new laws to foster opioid education programs, increase the barrel limit for craft breweries, and ensure state funding for Planned Parenthood in the event that the federal government cuts its own support. The Frederick News-Post covers the slew of new laws going into effect this weekend.

 

Delegate Aumann Bows out of Md. Senate race, Re-Election Bid

Delegate Susan Aumann, Courtesy of Maryland Manual Online

Baltimore County state Del. Susan Aumann is leaving elected office after four terms, the Republican confirmed in a statement Tuesday.

“Serving in the General Assembly is an incredible honor. To help our communities and to have had many successes over the last fifteen years has been an experience of a lifetime,” Aumann said.

WBAL reports,

Aumann represents District 42B, which includes much of northern Baltimore County. She was floated as a contender for Democrat Jim Brochin’s 42nd district state Senate seat. Brochin is considering a run for county executive in 2018.

“This past year has been challenging on a personal level with health concerns and deaths in my family that have required more time and focus,” Aumann said. “I want you to know that I will not be seeking election to either the House or Senate in 2018 so I may dedicate more attention to my family.”

The Daily Record, which broke the story of Aumann’s exit, reports she’s leaving elected office to care for her 90-year-old mother. She will complete the rest of her term.

She highlighted achievements of her time in office, including improvements at Towson University, air conditioning at Ridgely Middle School and restrictions on off-track betting at Timonium Fairgrounds.

“I am truly grateful to work on your behalf through these projects and others, too many to list,” Aumann said. “Thank you for your trust in me.”

Read the full article for more information.

MACo Seeking 2018 Legislative Initiative Ideas

MACo is currently welcoming suggestions for legislative initiatives for the 2018 legislative session.

Each year, MACo adopts up to four topics to forward as initiatives — working with supportive legislators to get those bills introduced and enacted. Past years have seen a wide range of MACo focus — from major budgetary topics to legal clarifications to public health measures.

County governing bodies, individual elected officials, MACo’s professional affiliate groups, MACo chapter organizations, and others within the county community are welcome to suggest topics for consideration. Suggestions may be submitted by email to MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson by July 7.

MACo has an Initiatives Committee that meets through the interim period to review and evaluate the various proposals. The Committee typically presents its recommendations to the MACo Legislative Committee in the fall for the slate of initiatives to be adopted for the year ahead. From that point on, the membership and staff begin work on engaging supportive legislators, connecting with other interested players, and drafting the proposed statutory language needed.

Submit your suggestions to MACo for a 2018 MACo Initiative by July 7!

Speaker Busch Undergoes Liver Transplant

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch, one of the state’s most powerful political leaders, underwent a liver transplant Thursday to resolve ongoing health problems he has attributed to skin cancer medication.

In a brief interview with The Capital on Wednesday, the Annapolis Democrat said his health had taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks.

As reported in The Capital Gazette,

Busch’s physicians at the University of Maryland Medical Center diagnosed him with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a form of liver disease, and determined in May that it was progressing.

At that point, Busch said he and his doctors decided on a liver transplant through the hospital’s living donor program. His sister provided the donation.

The speaker’s chief of staff, Alexandra Hughes, said Thursday evening that Busch was out of surgery and recovering.

Busch, 70, downplayed his health problems earlier this month when he filed to run for re-election as a delegate in District 30A. He said Wednesday his doctors told him he can expect a seven-week recovery period.

The speaker was upbeat about his surgery and the prospects for regaining his health. One of his daughters recently graduated from college and the other has completed her freshman year. Both are planning to spend the next few months at home with Busch and his wife, Cindy, during his recuperation.

“It’s good that they’ll be home this summer,” he said.

As word of the apparently successful surgery spread Thursday night, those who know Busch wished him well. His office sent an email with details to members of the House of Delegates just before 7 p.m.

“Liver surgery is obviously very serious,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said. “My understanding is that it went very, very well, and in fact it could not have gone better.”

Busch’s fellow presiding officer, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, sent him well wishes.

“I wish him the very best and hope for a speedy recovery,” Miller said in a statement.

Busch, who is the longest-serving speaker in Maryland history, had previously brushed aside concerns about his health. He has lost a significant amount of weight in the last year, a complication from what he described as internal bleeding caused by medication prescribed to treat skin cancer on his legs.

When he filed paperwork to seek another term May 19, Busch said he was on the mend and hoped to be back to full strength by the fall.

In a statement released by his office Thursday, Busch acknowledged the situation has changed. He said he remained lethargic after a brief hospitalization last fall. In the final days of the General Assembly session in April, he could be seen taking brief breaks from floor proceedings.

Even in announcing the surgery, Busch made a political point in a veiled reference to ongoing Republican efforts in Washington to roll back the Affordable Care Act.

“Major surgery of this nature is always daunting,” he said in the prepared statement. “Unlike many in our state and our country, I am fortunate to have good health insurance and access to the best medical care in the country. This is the first significant medical issue I have had in my life and it does force you to reflect on those who may not have the same quality of care that many of us are blessed with.”

Read the full article for more information.

Governor Hogan Vetoes Sick Leave Bill

Governor Hogan today announced he will veto HB 1 / SB 230, Labor and Employment – Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, a bill that would have required employers with 15 or more full-time employees to provide workers with at least five days of sick and safe leave per year.

Hogan had proposed a rival bill that would require paid sick and safe leave for businesses with 50 or more employees and provide tax incentives to smaller businesses that provide leave. Democrats rejected that approach, noting that large businesses typically already provide employees with paid sick leave.

The bill was passed by veto-proof margins in both the Senate and House of Delegates. But unless the vetoed bill is taken up in a special session of the legislature, sick and safe leave advocates will have to wait until the Assembly reconvenes in January for a potential veto override vote.

Governor Hogan announced that his administration will submit a “common sense paid sick leave proposal” as emergency legislation on the first day of the next session. He also said he will issue three executive orders. The first will create a study to examine all aspects of sick leave in Maryland, the second will extend paid sick leave to all contractual employees of the executive branch of state government, and the third will give employers that offer paid sick leave a preference in seeking state government contracts.

The legislation would have also required 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 HB 1

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Maryland General Assembly Gives Final OK to Democrats’ Sick Leave Bill

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Right-sized Sick Leave, a Goldilocks Debate

Hogan Plans to Sign More Than 200 Bills Today. Paid Sick Leave is Not Among Them

Governor Larry Hogan will sign 209 bills today in what is believed to be his eighth and final bill signing of the 2017 legislative session.

The list includes a package of measures to address the state’s growing heroin epidemic. But missing from the hundreds of bills are several high-profile measures that are awaiting action from Hogan, including a top priority of Democratic legislative leaders that requires employers to provide paid sick leave benefits to their workers.

The Washington Post reports,

Hogan also has yet to take action on several other measures, including one that gives the attorney general the power to take legal action against drug companies that dramatically increase the price of off-patent or generic drugs; a bill that allows pharmacists to dispense contraceptives and a piece of legislation that prohibits public and private colleges and universities from including questions about criminal history on their applications.

The governor has 30 days to take action on bills presented to his office. The clock runs out on the paid sick leave bill on Saturday, May 27.

“Too many families know all too well that even if you are lucky enough to have affordable health care if you can not afford to take a day off to see a doctor,” Liz Richards, the director of the Working Matters Coalition, said in a statement. “Governor Hogan has the power to make this smart policy change for a stronger, healthier Maryland by signing” the bill.

Hogan’s office would not comment on whether he plans to veto the paid sick leave bill or if he plans to let the bill become law without his signature.

If Hogan refuses to sign the bill, it won’t be the first time he has allowed a socially progressive piece of legislation to become law without his signature.

Earlier this year, the governor allowed a bill to become law without his signature that commits state funds to reimburse Planned Parenthood clinics for their services if Congress defunds the organization. Hogan also let a measure move forward without his signature that gives additional state money to the attorney general’s office to help it sue the Trump administration over health care, environment and immigration.

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

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Maryland General Assembly Gives Final OK to Democrats’ Sick Leave Bill

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Right-sized Sick Leave, a Goldilocks Debate