Washington Post Op-Ed: Bring 911 Into the 21st Century

An opinion piece in The Washington Post calls for the Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan to include modernizing the nation’s 9-1-1 system. Specifically, the Op-Ed stresses the importance of moving to Next Generation 9-1-1, 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.

According to The Washington Post:

Even as an estimated 240 million 911 calls continue to be placed annually, the systems that service them have grown obsolete, unable to handle photos, video, downloads, precise geo-locating and even, in most places, simple text messages. That’s a threat not just to public safety but also to national security.

Worryingly, no one seems quite sure how to pay for a modernization to what’s known as Next Generation 911 (“NG911” in industry parlance), whose cost could exceed $20 billion. This week, as hundreds of public-safety and industry officials gather in the District for their annual 911 conference, many will have one main question on their minds: Why not prioritize an upgrade as part of the Trump administration’s national infrastructure project?

In Maryland, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat alarmed at the deaths of constituents in her district involving 911 breakdowns since 2006, has introduced legislation to help localities start the transition to NG911.

Advancing Maryland Next-Generation 9-1-1 Systems is one of MACo’s 2018 Legislative Initiatives. Maryland citizens demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows. Maryland must accelerate its move toward Next Generation 9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers. MACo urges a concerted statewide effort to guide this critical transition, harnessing the expertise and needs of front-line county managers.

Senate Bill 285/House Bill 634 – “Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland – Establishment” creates a Commission to examine at 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.

MACo is in strong support of SB 285 and HB 634, you can read the MACo testimony here.

Useful Links

The Washington Post Op-Ed: Here’s an idea for infrastructure week: Bring 911 into the 21st century

MACo Initiative: Next Gen 9-1-1 Commission Would Guide MD Forward

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.

 

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.

Conduit Street Podcast: New Tax Analysis, Paid Leave Dilemma, Fiscal Outlook, and More!

The Comptroller’s Office on Thursday held a briefing on its analysis of the impact of federal legislation on Maryland revenues. Meanwhile, Governor Larry Hogan unveiled his plans to protect Marylanders from state and local tax increases resulting from the recent federal tax overhaul.

On Monday, the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) delivered its annual fiscal briefing to the General Assembly budget committees. Occurring right on the heels of the federal government shutdown, the tone was markedly different from the Governor’s budget proposal announcement.

Also this week, Senate Finance Chairman and chief sponsor of a new law requiring most employers to provide workers with sick leave, Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton introduced a bill to delay enforcement of the new law. While most state legislators would seemingly support the legislation, its passage is far from certain.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson break down the Comptroller’s report, analyze the latest news on paid leave, examine the fiscal plan for the year ahead, highlight hot-button budget issues, 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.

Maryland Receives Federal Approval of New School Improvement Plan

The U.S. Department of Education has approved Maryland’s plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal law requiring state action on school improvement.

According to a press release,

Allowing states more flexibility in how they deliver education to students is at the core of ESSA. Each state crafted a plan that it feels will best offer educational opportunities to meet the needs of the state and its students.

The following are some of the unique elements from Maryland’s approved plan as highlighted by the state:

  • Awards credit for elementary school students completing a well-rounded curriculum as measured by the percentage of students passing social studies, fine arts, physical education and health.
  • Supports low-performing schools through innovative strategies based on collaboration between local school districts and the state, including providing access to leadership coaches for school leaders at low-performing schools in order to give guidance on the implementation of school improvement strategies.

“Maryland’s efforts, built on strong stakeholder input, are based on the belief that each child is important and deserves the highest quality education program,” said Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon. “We appreciate the support of the U.S. Department of Education, and we will continue our school improvement work with a focus on preparing every student for college and career.”

Read the full press release for more information.

Conduit Street Podcast, Episode #9 – The General Assembly Is in Session!

The Maryland General Assembly is now in session. The 438th session convened in Annapolis onWednesday. Notwithstanding the pageantry, ceremony, pomp, and circumstance, lawmakers got off to a fast start. On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson recap the week in Annapolis and discuss some of the key issues likely to be addressed between now and sine die.

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.

Kirwan Commission Finalizes Preliminary Recommendations

High-profile school commission wraps up preliminary report

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 is charged with reviewing and assessing current education financing formulas and accountability measures.

After a series of marathon meetings, which featured expert testimony, consultant reporting, and citizen input, the Commission has reached consensus around key policy areas and preliminary recommendations. The Commission was originally set to complete its work in time for the 2018 session of the General Assembly, but last October asked for an extension when it became clear the deadline was not realistic.

Call to Action

The preliminary report begins with a “Call to Action,” which stresses that, despite a significant increase in State and local funding over the past 15 years, Maryland students still perform in the middle of the pack within the United States, which is in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the world. In order to compete with the best school systems, the report calls for Maryland to make a sustained, statewide commitment to systematic change.

Preliminary Recommendations

The commission frames its recommendations around five policy ideas: improving early childhood education, increasing quality in teachers, more pathways for college and career readiness, providing more resources for at-risk students, and more effective governance and accountability standards.

Next Steps

The Commission will break into a workgroup for each of the five policy areas, and, working with Commission staff, education consultants, and other experts, develop greater specificity for each of its preliminary recommendations in order to determine the fiscal impact of each proposal.

Legislation this session

Although the Commission will not complete its work until later this year, it will propose a modest package of bills during the 2018 session, including:

  • Extending the Commission’s deadline through 2018
  • Improving and funding a teacher scholarship program that exists in current statute
  • Creating a career and technical education (CTE) work group to determine how Maryland can develop a world-class CTE program
  • Expanding pre-kindergarten grants as a stop-gap until final recommendations are complete
  • Funding after-school and summer programs for schools with high concentrations of poverty
  • Increasing training for tutors and providing more resources for struggling students

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

Materials from the Commission’s multiple meetings this year are available on the General Assembly website, and the meetings are all viewable online by searching the House Appropriations Committee room on the dates of each meeting.

Useful Links

Draft Preliminary Report

Previous Conduit Street Coverage 

Hogan Announces $2.5M to Help Heat City Schools, Calls for More Accountability

Governor Larry Hogan today announced the state will spend $2.5 million in discretionary funding from the state’s Catastrophic Event Account to support emergency repairs to heating and cooling system in Baltimore City Schools. The Maryland Department of General Services will oversee how the money is spent.

Governor Hogan also proposed legislation that would require the Maryland State Department of Education to employ an independent investigator appointed by a commission including the governor, state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

The appointed investigator, which would need the General Assembly’s endorsement, would have subpoena power, the authority to summon people to public hearings and a bully pulpit to shame local school systems.

In response to the governor’s announcement, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh released the following statement:

I applaud and thank Governor Larry Hogan for this additional allocation of $2.5 million from the State’s emergency discretionary fund to help us ensure that our schools are heated sufficiently and provide the environment worthy of our young people. They, who represent our future, deserve and require only the very best environment in which to learn, interact and develop their potential.

The circumstances of the past few days have revealed a woeful lack of attention over many years to dealing with the infrastructure issues that required the Baltimore City Public School System to close schools due to frigid temperatures. We can and must do better by our children while at the same time being fully transparent about how taxpayer dollars are being spent to provide our children the very best path to success.

Hogan also announced he will propose a bill to change the schools-accountability plan the General Assembly approved over his objections last year.

Read the full article for more information.

Conduit Street Podcast, Episode #8 – Session 101

With the 2018 Session right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to review the legislative process, define some popular legislative lingo, and highlight dates of interest. On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson present a timely refresher on what to expect when the General Assembly convenes next week.

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

Listen here:

Hogan Declares State of Emergency for Lower Shore

Order Issued in Anticipation of Blizzard Conditions, Dangerous Temperatures, High Winds

Governor Larry Hogan today signed Executive Order 01.01.2018.01 declaring a state of emergency in Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties beginning Wednesday, January 3rd in anticipation of heavy snowfall, winds, and freezing temperatures.

According to a press release:

The executive order will allow the state to efficiently coordinate support and provide additional assistance to those counties.

“I urge all Lower Shore residents – and all Marylanders – to stay warm, stay safe, and avoid unnecessary travel. Freezing temperatures and heavy winds mean increased danger on our roads, even after the snow has stopped falling,” said Governor Hogan. “The state stands ready to offer any and all necessary resources to impacted counties.”

The Hogan administration has directed state agencies to stand ready to respond to the effects of this storm, including the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Wintry weather and dangerous conditions may continue throughout Thursday, January 4th.

Read the full press release for more information.