The Last Day: How Did Counties Fare?

With several issues coming down to the final day of the 2017 legislative session, here’s a quick wrap-up of their final disposition. As is almost always the case, the final results are a mixed bag of successes and disappointments.

ENERGY SITING BILL PASSESHB 1350 included a final compromise to grant counties greater input into the certificate process to approve large-scale energy generation facilities.

ATTORNEYS FEE LEGISLATION DEFEATED ON SENATE FLOORSB 705, a bill that spent most of the last three weeks of the session on the Senate floor, was defeated after several more “special order” motions to delay its consideration. MACo had opposed the bill, citing its broad effects and costs from lawsuits well beyond the targeted “access to justice” sphere.

NEXT-GEN 911 COMMISSION AND FLEXIBILITY BILL DIES IN HOUSE COMMITTEESB 466, an amended-down version of legislation to advance Maryland 9-1-1 call centers toward “next generation” technology failed to receive a vote in its House Committee, and was defeated. MACo had supported the modest bill, but questions kept the Health and Government Operations Committee from taking the bill up on Monday.

ELECTION SCANNERS COST SPLIT FAILS – A late session effort (SB 406) to codify the 50/50 state/county cost split passed the House, but failed to progress through its final procedural steps and was defeated as time ran out.

STORMWATER COMPROMISE STALLS IN SENATEHB 656 was a bill MACo initially opposed, but committed to lengthy negotiations and developed into a compromise to fairly apply government stormwater charges on properties owned by other governments. The House approved the compromise, but the Senate was unable to gather the support from the dually assigned committees, and the bill died. The framework of the bill, however, may offer a roadmap for county/municipal agreements in the future, even without passage.

AT&T Gets $6.5B to Build Nationwide Public Safety Network

AT&T has been hired by the U.S. Department of Commerce to build and manage a nationwide broadband network for public safety communication between first responders.

The $46.5 billion high-speed network aims to equip police, firefighters and emergency medical services with the tools they need for real-time communication during crises, such as natural disasters or shootings. It will cover all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories.

According to Ars Technica,

The First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, was authorized by the federal government in 2012 and operates as an independent authority within the US Department of Commerce. AT&T has just been selected by FirstNet to build the wireless network and said that construction will begin later this year.

“FirstNet will provide 20MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the network buildout,” AT&T said in its announcement. FirstNet’s spectrum is located in the 700MHz band often used for consumer LTE networks.

The Federal Communications Commission raised $7 billion to fund the network in a spectrum auction that concluded in January 2015. Some of that money came from AT&T itself, as the company led all bidders with $18.2 billion of winning bids.

AT&T’s contract with FirstNet is 25 years long. “AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the life of the contract to build, deploy, operate and maintain the network, with a focus on ensuring robust coverage for public safety users,” the company said. AT&T will also connect FirstNet users to the company’s existing network.

FirstNet will solve a few problems, AT&T said. First responders currently use the same commercial networks used by consumers and businesses for mobile Internet service. “That can be an issue when a significant public safety crisis happens and commercial networks quickly become congested. It makes it difficult for first responders to communicate, coordinate and do their jobs,” AT&T said.

Overall, “first responders use more than 10,000 networks for voice communications,” and “these networks often do not interoperate, which severely limits their ability to communicate with each other when responding to a situation,” AT&T said.

FirstNet will cover all 50 states, five US territories, and the District of Columbia, including coverage for rural and tribal lands, AT&T said. Besides basic voice and Internet service, AT&T expects the network to be used for applications “providing near real-time information on traffic conditions to determine the fastest route to an emergency.” The network will also help enable technology such as wearable sensors and cameras for police and firefighters, “and camera-equipped drones and robots that can deliver near real-time images of events, such as fires, floods or crimes.”

Read the full article for more information.

Gov. Hogan Appoints Lourdes Padilla Head of DHR, DoIT Secretary Resigns

Governor Larry Hogan has appointed Lourdes Padilla as secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR), effective Feb. 8th.

According to a press release,

Ms. Padilla has more than 28 years of experience in the human services field. She currently serves as the Deputy Secretary for Income Maintenance at the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, a role she is leaving to join the Hogan-Rutherford administration. In this capacity, she oversees operations for five bureaus under the agency, including Child Support Enforcement, Program Support, and Program Evaluation. She manages over 90 field offices with over 7,000 employees, and is responsible for an operating budget of more than $2 billion.

Governor Hogan also announced the departure of Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT) Secretary David A. Garcia, who tendered his resignation in order to attend to family and personal issues. He will remain in his position through the end of January, during which time a search will be conducted for his replacement.

Read the full press release for more information.

Riemer Snares FCC Advisory Appointment

Montgomery County Council Member Hans Riemer will serve as one of two local government advisors to the Federal Communications Commission.

From the FCC website, The Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States’ primary authority for communications laws, regulation and technological innovation.

The FCC maintains an Intergovernmental Advisory Committee to:

…provide guidance to the Commission on issues of importance to state, local and tribal governments, as well as to the Commission. The IAC is composed of 15 elected and appointed officials of municipal, county, state, and tribal governments. The IAC provides ongoing advice and information to the Commission on a broad range of telecommunications issues of interest to state, local and tribal governments, including cable and local franchising, public rights-of-way, facilities siting, universal service, broadband access, barriers to competitive entry, and public safety communications, for which the Commission explicitly or inherently shares responsibility or administration with local, county, state or tribal governments.

From the Montgomery County press release:

I am honored to serve on the FCC advisory committee, and I intend to use this role to advocate for a more competitive and robust marketplace for broadband deployment,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “Local governments have a positive role to play in broadband deployment, and I look forward to bringing Montgomery County’s experience to the Commission.”

Vice President Riemer was nominated to serve by the National Association of Counties (NACo). In his letter recommending that Vice President Riemer serve on the committee, Matthew Chase, the executive director of NACo, wrote: “His experience and background uniquely qualify him to serve on the IAC. He is currently a member of both the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, as well as the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, for Montgomery County, Maryland. Through his work on these committees, he is responsible for oversight and the development of Montgomery County’s information technology and telecommunications infrastructure.”

LGIT Helps After St. Mary’s “Ransomware” Attack

Following a recent cyber attack on St. Mary’s County government, county professionals were aided by the Local Government Insurance Trust (LGIT) in the reaction. LGIT offers its members a no-cost Cyber Insurance Program, reacting to a demand from governments who are all too often targets of cyber threats.

stm-it-quoteCoverage of the cyber attack ran earlier this month in the St. Mary’s County Times, indicating “ten employees… were involved throughout the weekend (after Thanksgiving) and into the following week trying to restore the system.” The county reported that while the cyber attack managed to encrypt certain government computers, systems were successfully restored from backups and “no data was accessed from any of our servers.”

Read the full St. Mary’s County County Times article online.

In correspondence with LGIT, St. Mary’s County representatives noted “In this recent ransomware event, the Adjuster and Privacy Counsel was involved immediately to advise and prepare the appropriate notification required for County Employees and the citizens of St. Mary’s County, whether a regulatory requirement or voluntary notice.”

The County, by virtue of belonging to LGIT for its primary liability coverage, received numerous coverages:

  • A 24-hour data breach hotline
  • Immediate access to engage a privacy attorney to determine legal actions and response
  • Computer forensics
  • Public Relations or crisis communications professionals, if needed
  • Establishing a call center, if needed
  • credit or identity theft monitoring, if needed
  • Enrollment in the coverage also includes many pre-event services including resources, regulatory information, and articles on Cyber Risk.

    LGIT-logo-CLGIT is a member-owned association authorized by state law, wholly owned and managed by its local government members. The Trust’s main purpose is to provide joint self-insurance programs or pools for towns, cities and counties in the State of Maryland. The concept is simple – rather than paying premiums to buy insurance from an insurance company, local governments contribute those premiums into a jointly owned fund. The money in that fund is used to pay for the members’ claims, losses and expenses.

    MACo co-founded LGIT in 1987, and LGIT continues to support MACo as a Gold Corporate Partner.