General Assembly Puts the Brakes on Speed Camera Legislation

The Maryland House of Delegates has reported unfavorably on two bills creating new restrictions or requirements for local speed camera programs (HB 1151 and HB 1365).

HB 1151 of 2018

HB 1151 was sponsored by Delegate Terri Hill and would require speed camera images to show linear distance traveled by a vehicle, expand a current annual calibration requirement, require a law enforcement officer who signed the citation or the technician who conducted the annual calibration to be present in court if a defendant requests it, and creates a rebuttable presumption regarding information requests.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to the bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 1, noting that most of the bill’s provisions have been previously considered and rejected by the General Assembly. From MACo’s testimony:

HB 1151 requires a speed camera image to show an accurate representation of the linear distance traveled by a motor vehicle between each time-stamped image. This requirement was considered and rejected during discussion of the 2014 legislation. More accurate speed camera technologies, such as the laserbased LIDAR systems, rely on continuous sampling over a distance and the photographs taken by the system are designed to show that the vehicle is in motion. The images cannot be utilized to accurately show linear distance traveled over time.

Similarly, the General Assembly has consistently rejected expanding the annual calibration requirement. The current calibration process typically takes several weeks as the camera is taken out of service; packaged and shipped to an independent laboratory; taken apart, inspected, and reassembled by the laboratory; and then shipped back to the local jurisdiction. This detailed process ensures the camera is functioning correctly and accurately.

The bill’s requirement that the law enforcement officer who signed the citation or the technician who performed the annual calibration check be present and testify at trial with just 10 days of written notice is impractical, costly, and in some cases, may be impossible to meet. This is particularly true regarding the laboratory technician, who is not under the direct control of the local jurisdiction and may be located a significant distance from the jurisdiction (or even in another state).

Finally, as the bill’s fiscal note indicates, the rebuttable presumption provision will encourage citation recipients to request additional information from the local government and go to trial in District Court in the hopes of having the citation voided due to the presumption. Current law already provides for the admission of relevant evidence, including the recorded images taken by the camera, the certificate of annual calibration, and the camera’s daily self-test and set-up logs. Furthermore, all local jurisdictions must have a speed camera “ombudsman” to answer questions. Any written questions received and the ombudsman’s response are available for public inspection. The bill’s provision is excessive and unnecessary.

Joining Knapp was Montgomery County Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit Manager Richard Hetherington. Representatives from Baltimore City, the Maryland Municipal League, and the Maryland Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs’ Associations also testified in opposition to the bill.

HB 1365 of 2018

HB 1365 was sponsored Delegate William Wivell and would have altered the operational hours of speed cameras in school zones, limited the cameras to the road adjacent to the school that has the most student traffic, required a real-time posting speed limit sign next to school zone signs, and limited speed camera vendors to 30% of the total revenues generated by the program.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to the bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 2. From MACo’s testimony:

HB 1365 would limit the use of a school zone speed camera from 1 hour before to 1 hour after instructional hours on days when school is in session. This Committee has considered and rejected limiting the hours of operation in such a manner. The current Monday through Friday, 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, operational time is consistent and easy-to-understand. The current rule incorporates the primary times when most school and after-school activities occur. HB 1365’s language would create a confusing patchwork, as different jurisdictions’ schools operate on different schedules and may be closed at different times for in-service or training days.

Current law provides for rational criteria as to where speed cameras can be located within a school zone: road segments where students are walking and bicycling to or from school or where they are being picked up or dropped off by school vehicles. However, this bill would narrowly and illogically restrict speed cameras to a highway that fronts the main entrance of the school or the entrance that experiences the greatest amount of student and bus traffic. The school itself may not be the location where speeding poses the greatest risk to students, which is why the current law covers areas where the students may be traveling to and from the school.

The bill also requires that if a local jurisdiction has a school zone speed camera program, each school zone sign must be next to a device that displays a real-time posting of the speed at which the driver is traveling. This is costly and unnecessary. Current law already requires specific signage that is compliant with State Highway Administration standards. Drivers are provided with reasonable notice to check their speed.

Joining Knapp was Montgomery County Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit Manager Richard Hetherington. Representatives from the Maryland Municipal League, and the Maryland Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs’ Associations also testified in opposition to the bill.

Useful Links

HB 1151 of 2018

MACo Testimony on HB 1151

Delegate Terri Hill Webpage

HB 1365 of 2018

MACo Testimony on HB 1365

Delegate William Wivell Webpage

First in the Fight: Counties Continue Battle Against the Opioid Epidemic

Counties led the fight to protect “first responders” administering emergency anti-overdose medications, and support this year’s proposed refinements that continue to fill in gaps.

The number of opioid overdoses has steadily skyrocketed in all corners of the state over the past five years, and State and local officials have sought any and all solutions to the myriad of problems that the opioid epidemic presents. With the implementation of the Overdose Response Program and expansion of access to naloxone, local officials have fully committed to reducing the number of overdoses and subsequent deaths.

Part of that commitment is to emergency medical service personnel and first responders who are on the frontlines of the battle against opioid overdoses. The care that they provide saves lives and is integral to reducing deaths and giving overdose victims a chance to seek treatment and overcome addiction.

MACo has strongly supported measures to provide immunity protections to those responding to individuals believed to be suffering from an opioid overdose. As part of MACo’s legislative initiatives in 2015, counties championed legislation that established initial protections for law enforcement and EMS personnel that have training and authorization to administer naloxone.

From MACo Testimony on House Bill 368 in 2015:

Law enforcement or emergency medical services are often the first to arrive on the scene of a drug overdose. Therefore, strides have been made to train and equip law enforcement and first responders with naloxone, a life-saving medication that reverses an opioid overdose by restoring the breathing of a person who has overdosed on heroin or prescription opioid such as oxycodone or morphine. HB 368 incorporates immunity protections for law enforcement and first responders trained and authorized to administer the medicine to an individual experiencing or believed to be experiencing a drug overdose.

There is, properly, a bipartisan statewide and nationwide effort to combat the scourge of heroin and reduce overdose deaths. As one part of this effort, appropriate civil immunity protections should be in place for law enforcement and first responders who are taking the initiative to be trained and certified to carry and administer life-saving treatment for an overdose.”

Since then, MACo has consistently supported common sense measures that ensure first responders are protected and are free to act without hesitation when using their best judgment to assess an overdose situation.

Those on the frontlines have encountered increasingly difficult and powerful opioid analogs that are in some cases causing an immediate overdose. Many overdoses caused by potent opioids, such as fentanyl, often require multiple doses of naloxone to reverse the effects and revive an individual. MACo supports bipartisan legislation this year sponsored by Delegate William Folden and Senator Kathy Klausmeier, House Bill 924 and Senate Bill 1222, to extend protections for first responders when giving multiple doses of naloxone is deemed necessary.

The fight against opioid overdoses is ever-changing, and relentlessly protecting those that save lives as this public health crisis evolves is essential.

For more on opioid-related legislation this year, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Useful Links and Resources:

Overdose Prevention in Maryland

2018 House Bill 924 and Senate Bill 1222

2018 House Bill 1764





Conduit Street Podcast: Call If You Can, Text If You Must. Sunshine Laws, Attorney’s Fees, #LIFT4MD, & Beer Wars

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss the announcement of a statewide Text to 9-1-1 system, examine Maryland’s Public Information Act (and why it needs an update), break down the “Access to Public Courts Act,” preview #LIFT4MD day in Annapolis, and explain the beer battle in Maryland.

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.

Aligning Public Access Laws with Modern Technologies

Maryland’s Public Information Act creates a balanced framework for guaranteeing public access to open information, while protecting sensitive and private material. The rapid ascension of new technologies has strained the implementation and effect of these laws – potentially chilling their otherwise beneficial use. SB 788/HB 1638, Public Information Act – Revisions, clarifies and reframes the Maryland Public Information Act to better accommodate citizen electronic engagement, personal surveillance footage from first responders and other county officials, and the release of sensitive personal information.

Attorney’s Fees

MACo this week testified in opposition to HB 1270/SB 1042. In theory, the bill seeks to ensure there is adequate legal representation for low-income individuals asserting a constitutional claim in State courts. In practice, the bill would trigger a rush of litigation and costs for the State and local governments and create a profoundly unbalanced system that favors plaintiffs over defendants.

Text to 9-1-1

Governor Larry Hogan this week announced the Board of Public Works’ approval of a new Text to 9-1-1 technology for Maryland, helping to update 1960s-era emergency systems with life-saving technology. This new Internet-based infrastructure allows citizens to send a Short Message Service (SMS) text message to 9-1-1. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that more than 70 percent of all 9-1-1 calls now come from cellular users.

Text to 9-1-1 supports 160 characters per message, but no multimedia messaging, such as photos or video. The total cost of the 2-year contract is approximately $2.2 million.

Text to 9-1-1 is a component of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911), an initiative aimed at updating the 9-1-1 service infrastructure to improve public emergency communications services in a wireless mobile society. NG911 will improve and enhance the handling of 9-1-1 calls from cell phone users with technology that will increase response times, location accuracy, and allow text, photo, and video data to be shared by callers to First Responders on their way to the emergency.

Advancing NG911 is a priority for county governments. SB 285/HB 634, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative, establishes the Commission to Advance Next-Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland. The Commission will examine the strategic aspects of Next Generation 9-1-1 implementation in coordination with the Emergency Numbers Systems Board’s (ENSB) existing efforts, particularly ensuring that those areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB are addressed. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of Next Generation 9-1-1 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.


A perennial MACo initiative, counties have called for the return of their fair share of transportation-sourced revenues to fund their roadwork for years. This year, MACo’s initiative calls for a Local Infrastructure Fast Track – a #LIFT4MD – to bring local governments back their historic 30 percent share of transportation revenues from the State’s Transportation Trust Fund. It also calls for an assessment of the state of local infrastructure in Maryland, and for the State to share any additional federal infrastructure funds with counties and municipalities.

After discussing the topic with a myriad of stakeholders, MACo decided instead to introduce a consensus bill, with terms appealing to not only counties, but municipalities and the Administration. Therefore, House Bill 1569, as introduced, restores highway user revenues to counties and Baltimore City in eight years, and municipalities in two years.

The hearings on MACo’s Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland Act are scheduled for Wednesday, March 7 at 1 pm in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and Friday, March 9 at 1 pm in the House Environment and Transportation and Appropriation Committees.

MACo calls on representatives from all levels of county governments to join us for these hearings to show your support – it’s time to find a way to give local infrastructure a LIFT.

Beer Wars

Maryland lawmakers are considering a bill by Comptroller Peter Franchot that would repeal some of the state’s regulations on craft beer breweries. In 2017, Franchot proposed the Reform on Tap Act of 2018, a bill to relieve regulatory burdens on craft beer production and sales.

The Comptroller’s bill would remove the state’s limits on how much beer breweries are allowed to sell on-site. It would also allow breweries to sell directly to retailers instead of requiring them to make franchising agreements with distribution companies. Currently, Maryland craft breweries are allowed to sell up to 3,000 barrels of beer, or about 500,000 pints, directly to consumers each year.

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

Senate JPR Committee Kills Comparative Fault Legislation

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted unfavorably on legislation that would have created a comparative liability standard for pedestrians and bicyclists who were suing vehicle drivers on February 8, 2018. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp joined with numerous other governmental, business representatives, and defense groups in opposing the bill.

SB 465, sponsored by Senator Susan Lee, would establish a comparative fault standard in civil actions involving a plaintiff who was a pedestrian or driving a nonmotorized vehicle, such as a bicycle, and a defendant who was driving a motor vehicle at the time of the accident. The bill is based on a recommendation from the Task Force to Study Bicycle Safety in Maryland.

From MACo’s testimony:

The bill would upset Maryland’s long-established and carefully constructed contributory negligence system – a system that has been reaffirmed by the Maryland General Assembly approximately 40 times since 1966. Maryland’s adherence to a contributory negligence standard is a sensible public policy that promotes responsible citizen behavior and provides a clear legal standard for jury

Maryland’s successful contributory negligence system is built around several critical statutory and case law “support structures.” These supports are inextricably linked with contributory negligence principles and must be addressed as part of any move away from contributory negligence and toward comparative fault. They include: (1) joint and several liability; (2) the “last clear chance” exception; and (3) laws relating to seatbelts.

Knapp was joined by Maryland Municipal League Governmental Relations and Research Manager Bill Jorch and Skip Cornbrooks, representing the Local Government Insurance Trust. Bill supporters included Bike Maryland and other bicyclist associations.

There is no House cross-file to SB 465.

Useful Links

SB 465 of 2018

MACo Testimony on SB 465

Senator Susan Lee Webpage

Accelerate Placement of Defendants With Mental Illness

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified in support of House Bill 385, “Criminal Procedure – Incompetency and Criminal Responsibility”, before the House Judiciary Committee on February 6, 2018.

This bill helps to expedite the movement of defendants into mental health facilities from jails after the determination has been made that they are suffering from severe mental illness. By requiring the Maryland Department of Health to place these individuals in a mental health facility within 21 days of a commitment order from the courts, the length of time that the defendants are unnecessarily and unethically left in county jails will be minimized.

From MACo Testimony:

While some progress has been made by the State to address internal processing issues and the lack of beds, more must be done. The State must continue to build on the progress made and take steps to ensure the crisis is abated now and for the future. Due to the severity of their mental illness, holding these inmates in jail longer than absolutely needed is unconscionable. County jails cannot continue to be de facto mental health facilities. Placements must be made in the shortest possible timeframe.”

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

New Standard Would Upend Longstanding Contributory Negligence Principle

MACo Policy and Legal Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to Senate Bill 465, “Civil Actions – Motor Vehicle Accidents Involving Pedestrians or Nonmotorized Vehicles – Comparative Negligence”, before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 6, 2018.

This bill would upend a part of Maryland’s long-established contributory negligence standard as it seeks to create a comparative fault standard for accidents involving nonmotorized vehicles (such as bicycles). It would also create a system of unbalanced liability and create significant burdens on local governments.

From MACo Testimony:

Maryland has considered and rejected moving to a comparative fault system numerous times. SB 465 is yet another proposal that does not address the related support structures that make contributory negligence work, but would instead lead to an unbalanced comparative fault system.”

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



Conduit Street Podcast: #FixtheFund, Opioid Litigation, Wave of HUR Bills, Local Aid Intrigue, and more!

Maryland lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a plan to amend the state constitution to ensure that taxes on casino revenues set aside for education are used to supplement, not supplant state funding for public schools.

Also this week, Baltimore City became the latest jurisdiction to announce plans to file lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, doctors, and so-called “pill mills,” in an effort to stem the drug abuse epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year.

Could a compromise be in the works for the restoration of local highway user revenues? A new wave of bills may be pointing in that direction.

Finally, the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) has released their annual report detailing state aid to local governments and local effects of the state budget. The report includes details on virtually every component of state aid to local governments in the proposed FY 19 budget.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson break down the plan to place casino revenues in an education “lockbox,” analyze the possible outcomes of opioid litigation, discuss the new wave of highway user revenue bills, highlight some interesting tidbits from the DLS report, 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.

City Files Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers, Distributors and Local Doctors

Baltimore City has become the latest Maryland jurisdiction to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors for their role in creating the opioid crisis.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

In announcing the lawsuit, filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, City Solicitor Andre Davis said he would personally be part of the team handling the case. Davis, a former federal judge, said the companies marketed the pills knowing they would be “destructive of lives.”

“They were reckless, they were intentional, it was marketing, it was greed,” Davis said.

The City’s lawsuit alleges the defendants funded unethical research, the spread biased and false information, and the failed to report suspicious pill orders. It names Purdue, Cephalon, Janssen, Actavis,  Endo Health Solutions, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, as well as two local doctors that operate pain clinics as defendants.

For more information read The Baltimore Sun

Supreme Court Ruling on Internet Sales Tax Expected By June

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to take up the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair and revisit its previous holding that a state can only require retailers to collect sales tax if the retailer has an in-state physical presence. While Maryland counties do not directly benefit from the State’s sales tax, a favorable outcome would have significant positive economic benefits for the State. The Court’s decision is expected by June of 2018.

The following analysis of the issue was prepared by State & Local Legal Center Executive Director Lisa Sorenson and is reprinted with permission:

In November 2017 a Government Accountability Office report estimated that states and local governments could “gain from about $8 billion to about $13 billion in 2017 if states were given authority to require sales tax collection from all remote sellers.”

In January 2018 the Supreme Court agreed to decide South Dakota v. Wayfair. In this case South Dakota is asking the Supreme Court to rule that states and local governments may require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax.

This case is huge news for states and local governments. This article describes how we got here and why it is likely South Dakota will win.

In 1967 in National Bellas Hess  v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, the Supreme Court held that per its Commerce Clause jurisprudence, states and local governments cannot require businesses to collect sales tax unless the business has a physical presence in the state.

Twenty-five years later in Quill v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the physical presence requirement but admitted that “contemporary Commerce Clause jurisprudence might not dictate the same result” as the Court had reached in Bellas Hess.

Customers buying from remote sellers still owe sale tax but they rarely pay it when the remote seller does not collect it. Congress has the authority to overrule Bellas Hess and Quill but has thus far not done so.

To improve sales tax collection, in 2010 Colorado began requiring remote sellers to inform Colorado purchasers annually of their purchases and send the same information to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The Direct Marketing Association sued Colorado in federal court claiming that the notice and reporting requirements were unconstitutional under Quill. The issue the Supreme Court decided in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl (2014), was whether the Tax Injunction Act barred a federal court from deciding this case. The Supreme Court held it did not.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl describing the devastating economic impact of Quill on states and local governments. Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill for many of the same reasons the SLLC stated in its amicus brief. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states and local governments have been unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors.

Following the Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed laws requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax in clear violation of Quill. South Dakota’s law was the first ready for Supreme Court review.

In September 2017 South Dakota’s highest state court ruled that the South Dakota law is unconstitutional because it clearly violates Quill and it is up to the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule Quill. In October 2017 South Dakota filed a certiorari petition asking the Supreme Court to hear its case and overrule Quill. The SLLC filed an amicus brief supporting South Dakota’s petition. The Supreme Court ultimately agreed to decide the case.

It seems likely the Supreme Court will rule in favor of South Dakota and overturn Quill for a number of reasons. It is unlikely the Supreme Court accepted this case to congratulate the South Dakota Supreme Court on correctly ruling that South Dakota’s law is unconstitutional. Said another way, if the Supreme Court wanted to leave the Quill rule in place it probably would have simply refused to hear South Dakota v. Wayfair.

It is easy to count at least three votes in favor of South Dakota in this case. First, Justice Kennedy of course. Second, Justice Thomas. While he voted against North Dakota in Quill he has since entirely rejected the concept of the dormant Commerce Clause, on which the Quill decisions rests. Third, Justice Gorsuch. The Tenth Circuit ultimately decided Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl ruling that Colorado’s notice and reporting law didn’t violate Quill. Then-judge Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion strongly implying that given the opportunity the Supreme Court should overrule Quill.

That said, the Supreme Court, and the Roberts Court in particular, is generally reticent about overturning precedent. The Quill decision illustrates as much. The Supreme Court looks at five factors in determining whether to overrule a case. One factors is whether a rule has proven “unworkable” and/or “outdated . . . after being ‘tested by experience.’” This factor weighs strongly in favor of overturning Quill. As Justice Kennedy pointed out in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl: “When the Court decided Quill, mail order sales in the United States totaled $180 billion. But in 1992, the Internet was in its infancy. By 2008, e-commerce sales alone totaled $3.16 trillion per year in the United States.”

The Court will hear this case this term meaning it will issue an opinion by the end of June 2018.

Useful Links

State & Local Legal Center Website

Planning Commissioner Court Challenge Against Calvert County Commissioners Dismissed

Calvert Recorder article (2018-01-03) reported the dismissal of a circuit court case challenging the ability of county commissioners to remove members of planning commissions or other county boards. The case was filed against the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners by two former Planning Commission members (former chair Maurice Lusby and vice-chair Michael Phipps) after the County Commissioners removed them from their positions. Retired Maryland Court of Special Appeals Judge James P. Salmon dismissed the case on December 22, 2017.

The County Commissioners moved to suspend Lusby and Phipps in November of 2016 over alleged procurement and fiscal procedure violations, an open meetings violation, and failure to address a proposed zoning amendment. From the article:

“The Court, in essence, concluded that the County Commissioners have the right to impose reasonable limitations on the Planning Commission’s expenditures for legal fees and the Order & Opinion states that Messrs’ Lusby’s and Phipps’ refusal to comply with that directive constituted misconduct under Maryland law,” explained County Attorney John Norris to The Calvert Recorder in an emailed statement. …

Commissioners’ President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) said the commissioners made a very difficult decision to suspend the commission heads and believes the late December court ruling proves their decision correct. Slaugenhoupt told the Recorder the commissioners were well within their legal rights to remove the chairs. …

Norris said the court also dismissed a variety of other causes of action simply because they are not viable under Maryland law or under the facts and circumstances of this case.

The article also noted that Lusby and Phipps are deciding whether to appeal the dismissal order to the Court of Special Appeals or request a reconsideration of the order.