You’re Invited: Join Us for Our Weekly Legislative Update Call

Every Friday during the legislative session MACo will host a conference call that will update you on the Maryland General Assembly hot topics and bills that affect local governments. Join the conversation at 3:00 pm each week as MACo explores different topics and hosts guest speakers.

This week’s topic (March 24): General Issues Update

MACo Executive Director, Michael Sanderson will discuss a number of topics, including the proposed state budget, attorneys fees, water liens, pre-trial bail, and more. Call in to hear the latest news from the General Assembly!

Conference call information: 1.877.850.5007, passcode: 2690043#

We look forward to your participation! Submit your questions in advance by e-mailing Kevin Kinnally.

Senate Debates Bail Bill, No Action in House

Bail bills hit barrier as reform advocates and bail bondsman clash over whether court rules should stand or legislative changes should be made. The Senate is debating one of the bills (SB 983) on the floor, while the House has not taken action on either set of bills(HB 1390/SB 880  or HB 1215/SB 983).

Advocates who previously supported a bill (HB 1390/SB 880) introduced to codify the new Maryland judiciary rules on the use of money bail, have switched gears and are now advocating that no bills be passed. Inaction by the General Assembly would let the court rule, which goes into effect July 1 stand. The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus voted last Thursday to take no action on any of the bail reform bills in order to let the court rule stand.

However, bail bondsman stand by their bill (SB 983) which would make changes to the bail process and, if passed, would supersede the court rule before going into effect. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted SB 983 out of committee. It is on the Senate floor and has been subject to vigorous debate.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street:

Sun Weighs in Cautions Against Pro-Bail Legislation

Court of Appeals Unanimously Approves Changes to Bail Rule 

MACo Supports Criminal Pretrial Reform

 

Bill to Offset Declining Enrollment Moving in Legislature

House Bill 684, “Education – Grant for Declining Education Aid,” has passed the full House and crossed over to the Senate. MACo supports HB 684, which would help to offset the sudden drop-off in education funding to jurisdictions with declining enrollment, ensuring school systems can offer equivalent courses and programs, even with fewer students.

The bill was amended to allow jurisdictions with declining enrollment average their student populations over three years, rather than account for single-year changes, and allow them to factor all-day pre-K student populations into total enrollment. The House Appropriations Committee also amended the bill to provide grant funding for three years instead of just for one year, as was originally proposed.

Five Jurisdictions–Baltimore City, Calvert County, Carroll County, Garrett County, and Talbot County–are slated to lose a combined $45M in state education funding in 2018. Baltimore City is the most deeply affected, with a $38m loss in year-to-year total state education funds.

From the MACo testimony,

Counties value public education as a high priority, and an essential service and benefit to the citizens and the economy. State Budgeting formulas and requirements complicate this commitment, especially because nearly all state education funding is distributed on a per-pupil basis, meaning that the more students a school system serves, the more funding it receives.

By contrast, when the number of students declines, schools can experience a sudden drop in funding. This dynamic can strain local budgets – reflecting the reality that not every dollar spent in a school system is truly a “variable cost.” A sudden drop in students across a county school system may mean some cost savings in bus transportation and meals service – but may not have any effect on “fixed costs,” which account for most system-wide expenditures on education and administration.

To learn more about Maryland’s school budgeting formula, read “Why do Five Jurisdictions Lose $45M in Education Funds?” on MACo’s Conduit Street Blog.

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

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.

“Trust Act” Limiting Local Engagement on Immigration on the Move

HB 1362, a bill that would set explicit parameters limiting state and local agencies and officials from cooperating with federal immigration efforts, has passed out of the House with amendments. It will move on to the Senate where the Judicial Proceedings Committee has not yet taken any action on the crossfile SB 835. An article in The Baltimore Sun notes Governor Hogan as saying he would veto the bill.

MACo opposed the bill at it imposes stringent limitations on local government autonomy that have far-reaching and significant consequences.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street: MACo: Don’t Impose Limitation on Local Law Enforcement

Related coverage:

Revised immigration trust act moves forward in House (The Baltimore Sun)

As counties move to help immigration officials, Maryland lawmakers weigh policy change (The Baltimore Sun)

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

Law Enforcement Training Bill Passes House

A bill that as originally introduced would have stripped funding from local law enforcement agencies if all individuals required to take specific trainings did not complete the trainings has passed out of the House with amendments.

As amended House Bill 1503 would require each local law enforcement agency to report to Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention every two years on the agencies policies and procedures on use of force de-escalation training. Provisions stripping funding for failure to complete trainings have been removed.

MACo opposed the bill as introduced out of concern that it may have the unintended consequence of stripping a law enforcement agency of nearly all its funding if even just one officer is unable to complete the training. While counties understood the need to enforce compliance with required law enforcement trainings, they did not believe that the penalty should come at the expense of public safety.

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

House Committee Votes Down Gov. Hogan’s Redistricting Bill

The House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee (which has jurisdiction over constitutional amendments, regardless of the subject matter) today killed a flagship item on Governor Larry Hogan’s legislative agenda, turning down a measure to change the way legislative districts are drawn.

HB 385 proposes a constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters in the next general election, requires the appointment of a General Assembly and Congressional Legislative Redistricting and Apportionment Commission. The commission must divide the State into consecutively numbered legislative districts that conform to existing constitutional provisions and create as many congressional districts as there are representatives in Congress apportioned to Maryland.

The cross-file to the bill, SB 252, was heard by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 3, 2017.

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