State Launches “Know Your Zone” Hurricane Preparedness Campaign

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), in partnership with local emergency managers, is rolling out a new hurricane and severe weather evacuation system designed to ease evacuation in areas subject to tidal floods and storm surge. The evacuation plan is the result of the Maryland hurricane evacuation study, which concluded earlier this year.

According to a press release:

The study identified 3 large areas in Maryland subject to tidal flooding. Know Your Zone aims to bring awareness of the evacuation zones to the forefront of Marylanders’ summer plans and make evacuation notices easier to disseminate.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released its forecast for the upcoming season and predicted near- to above-normal activity. However, it only takes one storm hitting the mid-Atlantic area to seriously affect Maryland.

The first year of the program will encourage Maryland residents to know the evacuation zone of their residence, business or vacation site. The zones are designated by letters A, B and C.

Zone A areas are the most likely to be impacted by severe flooding in the event of a major storm or hurricane. In future years, the program will focus on refining evacuation routes away from the affected areas. “Proper and timely messaging for evacuations saves lives,” said MEMA Executive Director Russ Strickland. “This new system is designed to make it easier for local emergency managers to evacuate areas by encouraging Marylanders to Know Your Zone before a storm hits.”

The three evacuation zones only affect areas subject to tidal flooding or storm surge – communities at or near the Atlantic Ocean, the Coastal Bays, and the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. That covers 16 Maryland counties along with Annapolis, Baltimore City and Ocean City.

“Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was a wake-up call for the mid-Atlantic region; it could have been Maryland,” said Strickland. “Working with local and federal partners, and using technology that until recently was not available, we studied updated flooding and surge patterns caused by more powerful storms to develop these new evacuation plans.”

If local officials feel an evacuation is needed to protect lives, they will issue the order by zones instead of having to define specific geographic areas. This program is similar to one rolled out last year in neighboring Virginia.

Read the full press release for more information.

MACo Partners with State & Local Boards of Elections to Improve Election Security

The Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) is pleased to announce a partnership with the State Board of Elections (SBE) and Local Boards of Elections (LBEs) to maintain the integrity of state and local election systems and data. Counties administer and fund elections at the local level, overseeing polling places and coordinating poll workers every two years.

MACo’s Information Technology Affiliate, SBE, and LBEs will hold a conference call later this week to identify steps that can be taken to enhance security for the upcoming Primary Election. This collaborative effort will promote best practices and information sharing to protect the systems and data we use to conduct elections.

Federal officials warned earlier this year that Russia remains interested in disrupting elections after a multipronged effort to interfere two years ago. Although United States Department of Homeland Security notified Maryland that is was one of 21 states with suspicious online activities before the election, there’s no evidence that Maryland’s election systems or voter data were breached or compromised.

While it is likely that this working group will discuss technical matters, Election Directors, Deputy Directors, County Information Technology staff, and LBE Information Technology staff are invited to participate in the kick-off conference call. Contact Kevin Kinnally at MACo for more information.

Ellicott City: Howard’s to Handle

After suffering its second episode of inundating, historic, “1,000-year” flooding within two years on Sunday, Howard County officials are bracing, once again, for more storms on Friday, reports the Baltimore Sun.

In Ellicott City, Howard County officials have removed 100 truckloads of debris from Main Street in recent days, hoping to clear a path for any downpours in coming days. ….

Storms with heavy rain could hit Maryland on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, causing more flooding on ground that is already heavily saturated. A flash flood watch is in effect Thursday afternoon and evening, with chances for downpours of as much as 2 inches to 4 inches of rain.

According to the Ellicott City Partnership’s website:

Founded in 1772, Old Ellicott City is a unique town full of surprises.

While that may be true, it deserves noting that Ellicott City is not, actually, an incorporated municipality. In fact, Howard does not have any incorporated municipalities at all. For this reason, Howard County bears all local government responsibility for disaster recovery and repair to the “town” – just like it did two years ago, and just like it does every day. From NACo’s coverage:

The county assisted about 300 residents May 27 and about 30 of those were water rescues, County Fire Chief John Butler said. The county’s 911 center fielded more than 1,100 phone calls during a six-hour window. …

[County Executive Allan] Kittleman’s news conferences were aired live on the county’s Facebook page and archived there; the press conference May 28 saw 12,000 views and received nearly 300 comments. The county is also getting the word out via its Twitter channel.

The county also set up a special page on its website with continuous updates with information on how to volunteer, a hotline phone number and where people could find cars swept away by the flood currents. Information was also available on storm debris removal, counseling for residents and a disaster assistance center that was opened. …

For those wanting to make donations, the county is sending people to the Community Foundation of Howard County website.

Video Posted by Howard County Government’s Official Youtube Channel.

At this year’s annual MACo Summer Conference, attend Batten Down the Hatches! Weathering a Water Crisis to learn how Maryland counties are collaborating with industry professionals to ensure that comprehensive crisis management plans are in place to address floods and other water-related emergencies efficiently.

The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

 

Why Abuse Victims Are Calling County Finance Officers…

County finance offices might start receiving requests for help – from victims of domestic abuse, to shield their real addresses on their tax records.

Last session, the General Assembly passed HB 633, Secretary of State – Address Confidentiality Programs – Shielding of Real Property Records. Among other things, the bill authorizes a participant in the Address Confidentiality Program for victims of domestic violence or the Human Trafficking Address Confidentiality Program (referred to collectively as ACP) to request the shielding of real property records under specified circumstances. Real property records explicitly include locally maintained property tax records. SAHLogo

The Secretary of State has administered the Maryland Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) for years. The goal of the ACP is to help protect relocated victims of domestic violence and human trafficking from being located by their abuser. As currently operated, the ACP provides substitute addresses for victims and free confidential mail-forwarding services.​

As amended by the bill, beginning January 1, 2019, an ACP participant may request that a county shield their real address on their tax records. To do so, according to the law, the participant must submit specified documentation to the county finance office from the Secretary of State, including an intake sheet and program notice. Upon receipt of the information, the county may not disclose the identity of the ACP participant in conjunction with that person’s actual property.

The Secretary of State is tasked with promulgating regulations to effectuate the new law.

The clerks of the court are currently at work developing a uniform way of privately storing the actual property records, and then recording the public records with fictitious names. The clerks will then provide the counties and appropriate State agencies with the records showing the fictitious names.

It is the ACP participant’s obligation to notify the county if their real name and address must be known to avail themselves of certain benefits – like, for example, certain county-provided tax credits. The counties will be able to verify the information with the Secretary of State’s office.

The new law is the result of recommendations by the Task Force to Study Recording Deeds for Victims of Domestic Violence, created by Chapter 602, Acts of 2016.

More information about the ACP is available at the Secretary of State’s office: 410-260-3875 o​r by email at safe.athome@maryland.gov.

Free Webinar Shares Best Back-up Practices in Light of Ransomware Threats

Ransomware attacks on counties can suspend government services, create taxpayer costs, and jeopardize data security, sometimes with immediate public safety implications.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that allows hackers to deny a government access to its own information, or threaten publishing sensitive information, until a ransom is paid to the hacker.

Governing  is offering a free webinar to help confront this threat, which has already manifested in one Maryland jurisdiction.

Governing states,

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates more than 4,000 ransomware attacks have occurred every day since the beginning of 2016, and government is a prime target. Given such risks, a robust disaster recovery and data protection plan is critical for any state or local government organization.

Webinar details:

  • May 24
  • 2:00 p.m. ET

Register online or Contact Brittany Roberts of Governing with any questions.

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MACo’s Summer Conference will also feature a session on cybersecurity, including presentations on free resources available to county governments through federal partners.

The session will be part of the MACo Summer Conference, August 15-18, 2018. For more information, and to register click here.

Registration is not required to attend the Maryland County Information Technology Officers Meeting. Registration is required to attend the Tech Expo. A separate Wednesday registration may be purchased.

 

MACo’s Summer Tech Expo – Wednesday, August 15, 2018

 

10 am—11 am               Meeting of the Maryland County Information Technology Officers
11 am – 4 pm                   Tech Expo Exhibits Open
11 am – noon                  Educational Session: Surf’s Up! Small Cell Tsunami
noon – 12:45 pm            Lunch–Visit the Tech Expo Exhibits!
12:45 – 1:45 pm              Educational Session: All Hands on Deck: Cybersecurity for County Governments
1:45 – 2:00 pm                Break–Visit the Tech Expo Exhibits!
2:00 – 3:00 pm                Educational Session: Anchor Your Local Economy with Biotech
3:00 – 4:00 pm                Visit the Tech Expo Exhibits!
3:15 – 4:15 pm               

 

Educational Session: Still Waters Run Deep: Dive Into Your Dark Data Potential

 

 

 

 

Baltimore City Commissioner Resigns Amidst Tax Charges

Baltimore City Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa has resigned, following the announcement that federal prosecutors have charged him with failure to file federal income tax returns from 2013 to 2015. Mayor Pugh has announced a national search for his replacement, while Deputy Commissioner Gary Tuggle will serve as acting commissioner.

It has not been reported whether De Sousa also failed to file his state income tax returns, but it seems a logical assumption – meaning he also failed to pay income taxes to Baltimore City.

Reports the Baltimore Sun

Despite De Sousa’s admitting to not filing his tax returns, his attorneys have pushed back against prosecutors, saying De Sousa was not given the opportunity other taxpayers receive to explain or file missing returns before being charged criminally.

“Criminal charges are usually a last resort by the government after the tax payer has ignored the government’s warning,” attorney Steven Silverman wrote in a statement.

Reporters and government officials took to Twitter with responses.

Sun Reporter Scott Dance pointed out the irony that the Governor signed SB 1099/HB 561, Baltimore City Police Department – Commission to Restore Trust in Policing and Audit Review, essentially at the same time that De Sousa announced his resignation. The bill establishes the Commission to Restore Trust in Policing, which is tasked with reviewing, investigating, and making recommendations relating to the Baltimore Police Department:

 

Supreme Court Allows States to Legalize Sports Betting

The United States Supreme Court today struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the federal law that barred states from legalizing sports betting. In a 7-2 decision, the high court sided with New Jersey in the case, Murphy v. NCAA, and reversed a ruling from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

PASPA, enacted in 1992, forbids state-authorized sports betting in all but four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon. Nevada is the only state to allow single-game wagering.

New Jersey challenged the PASPA before the Supreme Court, arguing the law is a violation of the 10th Amendment, calling it a “dramatic, unprecedented” usurpation of New Jersey’s authority. “Just as Congress lacks the power to order a state legislature not to enact a law authorizing sports gambling, it may not order a state legislature to refrain from enacting a law licensing sports gambling,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote on behalf of the court.

While the decision effectively opens the door for Maryland to legalize sports betting, it’s unlikely to do so, at least not any time soon. According to the Maryland Constitution, the General Assembly may only authorize additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming if approved through a referendum by a majority of the voters in a general election.

A 2018 bill to legalize sports betting via a referendum failed to pass the General Assembly. That effectively halts the state from legalizing sports wagering in the short term. Even if the state were to pass a bill in 2019, it would still require the approval of voters in the 2020 presidential election.

Top of the List–National Report on IT Priorities and Maryland’s Tech Expo

Route Fifty releases a national report on County priorities in information technology, MACo finalizes line-up for Summer Tech Expo and meeting of the Maryland Association of County IT Officers.

 

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Click to download the new report from Route Fifty.

Route Fifty, a publication specializing in innovative ideas for state and local government, has released a special report offering a handful of stories from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers Midyear meeting. According to Route Fifty, topics include:

  • Broadband,
  • Cybersecurity,
  • Disaster preparedness and recovery,
  • Economic development, and
  • Interviews with state technology leaders from Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

For more information, download the full report for free from Route Fifty.

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Also, its time to save the date for the summer meeting of the Maryland Association of County Information Technology Officers and the MACo Tech Expo. The Association is still building its meeting agenda, but exhibitors are already crowding in to register for the technology focused exhibit hall, and topics featured in the Tech Expo’s educational session will include small cells, cybersecurity, biotech, and dark data.

  • Place: MACo Summer Conference
  • Location: Roland Powell Convention Center, Ocean City, MD
  • Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2018
  • Time: 10 am – 4:15 pm

 

 

MACo’s Summer Tech Expo – Wednesday, August 15, 2018

 

10 am—11 am               Meeting of the Maryland County Information Technology Officers
11 am – 4 pm                   Tech Expo Exhibits Open
11 am – noon                  Educational Session: Surf’s Up! Small Cell Tsunami
noon – 12:45 pm            Lunch–Visit the Tech Expo Exhibits!
12:45 – 1:45 pm              Educational Session: All Hands on Deck: Cybersecurity for County Governments
1:45 – 2:00 pm                Break–Visit the Tech Expo Exhibits!
2:00 – 3:00 pm                Educational Session: Anchor Your Local Economy with Biotech
3:00 – 4:00 pm                Visit the Tech Expo Exhibits!
3:15 – 4:15 pm               

 

Educational Session: Still Waters Run Deep: Dive Into Your Dark Data Potential

These events are part of the MACo Summer Conference, August 15-18, 2018. For more information, and to register click here.

Registration is not required to attend the Maryland County Information Technology Officers Meeting. Registration is required to attend the Tech Expo. A separate Wednesday registration may be purchased.

 

 

Incidents of Unsafe Use of Drones Will Shape Report & Recommendations

The Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center has gathered incidents of unmanned aircraft systems or UAS required by legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2015.

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MACo is grateful to the MCAC, Maryland’s intelligence fusion center, for their help gathering incidents of unlawful use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

MACo is participating in the work group to develop incident reports of unauthorized use of UAS (commonly called a drone), into a report for the legislature that includes recommendations for any changes to law needed to support local enforcement.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research, Development, Regulation, and Privacy Act of 2015, required that the Department of State Police, the Maryland Aviation Administration, local law enforcement officials, and other appropriate local government officials shall:

  1. Review the state of unmanned aircraft system recreational use in the State in an attempt to document incidents or patterns of the unauthorized or unsafe use of unmanned aircraft systems, including use that interferes with State or local public safety efforts or sensitive areas or facilities; and
  2. On or before December 31, 2018, report to the Governor and, in accordance with § 2–1246 of the State Government Article, the General Assembly on their findings and recommendations regarding changes to State law or local regulatory authority needed to support governance or enforcement efforts related to unmanned aircraft systems.

At a meeting at MCAC headquarters yesterday, the MCAC shared a report on the incidents reported to them from state and local law enforcement and other agencies over the past several years. MACo is grateful to the MCAC for assisting in this coordination role.

Based on the work group’s review of the documented incidents in Maryland of UAS interfering with public safety efforts or sensitive areas or facilities, the work group discussed:

  • Coordination between state, local, and federal agencies, including local law enforcement, the Federal Aviation Administration, and State law enforcement.
  • Enforcement options for local and state law enforcement to unsafe and unauthorized UAS use based on current law
  • The possible need for changes to state law to allow local regulation that supports local law enforcement’s ability to stop unsafe uses
  • Opportunities for education of law enforcement officers regarding how to stop unsafe and unauthorized use of UAS
  • Continued streamlined reporting of incidents of unsafe and unauthorized UAS use

The work group plans to meet monthly through December 2018, when the final report is due.

Contact Robin Clark Eilenberg at MACo for more information on this project, or with any interest in participating on behalf of local governments.

Hard to Count the Amount of Data in this Local Government Report

The annual Overview of Maryland Local Governments, prepared by the Department of Legislative Services for the General Assembly, also contains a wealth of information for Maryland counties.

The Overview of Maryland Local Governments, Finances and Demographic Information is released in January of each year, but the information can provide a helpful reference throughout the following year, too.

As Research Director of the Maryland Association of Counties, the Overview is the external source that I reference most frequently in response to research inquiries that come to the MACo office.

Sections of the report include:

  • Structure of Local Governments
  • Demographic Indicators
  • Local Government Finances (county and municipal)
  • Tax Rates for Local Governments
  • Local Revenue Growth
  • County Salary Actions
  • Public School Funding and Student Enrollment
  • Local General Fund Balances
  • Balance of State Payments

While some of the information is from the previous fiscal year, the many charts in the report provide an at-a-glance for various demographic and financial factors.  Find one on economic indicators below.

For more information see the complete Overview of Maryland Local Governments, Finances and Demographic Information.

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One of the many charts of included in the Maryland Department of Legislative Service’s 2018 report shows a 1.9% increase in median home prices and a 0.2% decline in unemployment across counties from census and fiscal years 2016 to 2017.