Maryland-Israel Conference Highlights Water Reuse and Security Issues

The Maryland-Israel Sister State Committee and the Maryland Department of the Environment hosted a conference on water reuse and security on October 10, 2018, in College Park, Maryland. The conference focused on: (1) the current status of water security and reuse issues in Maryland and nationally; (2) State and local plans to increase water reuse and security; and (3) opportunities to partner with Israeli businesses to leverage their methods and technologies locally.

From L to R: Israel-Colorado Innovation Fund General Partner Gili Elkin, Fluence Corp. CMO Erik Arfalk, Rudy Chow, Chris Phipps, Keith Tyson, and Kando CEO Ari Goldfarb

Several presenters discussed national concerns for water security and reuse. From a security perspective, four key vulnerabilities were noted: (1) resiliency to natural or man-made disasters; (2) protection against intentional contamination and attacks; (3) protection against unintentional contamination/accidents; and (4) capacity to handle new and emerging contaminants, such as prescription medications. The presenters also stressed the importance of a water reuse strategy for Maryland. While Maryland is generally thought of as a water “rich” state, some areas already suffer from water shortages and water supplies will be further stressed in the future due to climate change and population growth.

A panel of county department of public works (DPW) directors discussed their efforts and challenges to address water security and reuse, including Baltimore City DPW Director Rudy Chow, Anne Arundel County DPW Director Chris Phipps, and WSSC Engineering/Environmental Services Manager Keith Tyson.

From L to R: Mark Belton, Ben Grumbles, Hans Schmidt, and Roy McGrath

A state panel included Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton, Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles, Maryland Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Hans Schmidt, and Maryland Environmental Services (MES) Director/CEO and Chairman Roy McGrath. Belton focused on water security issues while Grumbles stressed the importance of working with Israeli technology and local governments to move forward with water quality and affordability. Schmidt commented on the diverse water needs of Maryland’s farmers while McGrath discussed the role of MES in providing water services.

Action items generated at the Conference included: (1) funding for water security infrastructure; (2) regulatory flexibility; (3) public education; (3) regulations for use of “greywater”; (4) grants to encourage water reuse; (5) identification of common needs and the sharing of research; (6) approaching the issues from a holistic perspective; and (7) not “reinventing the wheel.”

The Conference was possible because of the Sister State relationship shared between Maryland and Negev, Israel. The University of Maryland and CONSERVE: A Center of Excellence at the Nexus of Sustainable Water Reuse, Food & Health co-hosted the Conference. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp joined various county elected officials and public works personnel in attending the Conference.

Useful Links

Maryland Sister States Program Webpage

FBI: Drones for Terror an “Escalating Threat” in US

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray has noted unmanned aircraft — or “drones” — represent a substantial and escalating threat as implements of terror or crime.

The discussion was part of a scheduled briefing, held on October 10 before the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

From a report in Bloomberg news:

Drones pose a “steadily escalating threat,” as the “unmanned aircraft systems” are likely to be used by terrorists, criminal groups or drug cartels to carry out attacks in the U.S., FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate committee.

The full “Threats to the Homeland” hearing is available online on the US Senate website.

MACo is working with multiple stakeholders in developing a report on drones, their use in Maryland, and potential public safety concerns arising from them. The report arose from 2016 state legislation that, among other things, preempted local governments from regulation or oversight of drone usage.

See previous Conduit Street coverage, Incidents of Unsafe Use of Drones Will Shape Report & Recommendations

Conduit Street Podcast: New Laws Take Effect, Internet Regs Spark Latest Clash Over States’ Rights, & More!

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally discuss a handful of new Maryland laws, which took effect this week, explain why California’s new net neutrality law sparked the latest debate over states’ rights, and examine the impact of congressional action (or inaction) on state laws.

Listen here:

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.

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

Space Limited for Free Drone Symposium

A free all-day symposium for state and local government representatives will share ideas and solutions for local transportation and public works unmanned aerial systems (UAS) applications.

UAS have potential utility for county transportation and public works departments in Maryland.

An upcoming symposium on UAS is aimed at a county government audience.

MACo and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council are coordinating a symposium to further explore this topic.

This event will bring together GIS, public works, transportation, and procurement staff from all sectors to discuss UAS and the way they can enhance local and state government operations. Topics will include how to set up a UAS program, local and state government projects utilizing UAS, and transportation applications.

This event is being hosted by Baltimore Metropolitan Council in collaboration with the Maryland Association of Counties, with generous funding support from sponsors Maryland State GIS Committee (MSGIC) and KCI.

Registration for the UAS Information Exchange Forum is now open.

Details about the symposium:

  • EVENT: Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Information Exchange Forum
  • DATE: December 4, 2018
  • PLACE: The Wilde Lake Interfaith Center in Columbia, MD
  • TIME: 9 am – 4:30 pm

If you have any questions, contact Robin Eilenberg at MACo.

A Drone To Solve a Traffic Jam

County governments may benefit from joint procurement of unmanned aerial systems as their transportation and public works applications increase.

State and local transportation departments across the country are finding utility from unmanned aerial systems.

As reported by GCN, a site dedicated to reporting technology, tools and tactics for public sector IT, 35 of 44 state transportation departments that responded to a recent survey report that they are using drone technology. From GCN,

State transportation departments are adopting drone technology largely for infrastructure inspection, but the technology can also be used to get an aerial view of traffic or analyze car accidents.

For more information, see Drones make inroads with transportation departments.

UAS also have potential utility for county transportation and public works departments in Maryland. MACo and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council are coordinating a symposium to further explore this topic.

Registration for the UAS Information Exchange Forum is now open.

Details about the symposium:

  • EVENT: Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Information Exchange Forum
  • DATE: December 4, 2018
  • PLACE: The Wilde Lake Interfaith Center in Columbia, MD
  • TIME: 9 am – 4:30 pm

The event will be a dialogue for public works/transportation, geographic information systems, and procurement staff. It will feature speakers and panels covering various aspects of municipal UAS use, including representatives of county governments with UAS programs.

If you have any questions, contact Robin Eilenberg at MACo.

Census Bureau Has a ‘Homework Assignment’ for Cities and Counties

The 2020 Census may be two years away, but the federal agency that manages the constitutionally-mandated decennial population count is in full-on preparation mode. And while city and county governments aren’t officially responsible for the tally, they do have a vital role to play in helping the U.S. Census Bureau promote a fair and accurate 2020 Census.

Census data is used to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding for education, health, transportation, housing, community services, and job training. Moreover, businesses and industries decide where to locate new facilities and services based on census data, creating new jobs and promoting economic growth.

An accurate census count, or lack thereof, has a lasting effect on counties, particularly when it comes to the distribution of federal funds. An under-counted population may lead to a significant decline in federal funding flowing to county governments or county residents.

According to Route Fifty:

“We need you to make sure [that everyone knows] how important the census is to residents,” Philip Lutz, a Philadelphia-based assistant regional census manager, told a packed convention center hall on Monday at the International City / County Management Association’s annual conference, which started this weekend in Baltimore.

Lutz noted a reality that the Census Bureau faces: some people will view federal efforts to stress the importance of responding to questionnaires with suspicion. But cities and counties are often better at communicating why the census is vital to local residents.

“Who is the right messenger in your community? That is your homework assignment,” Lutz said while discussing Complete Count Committees.

Complete Count Committees (CCC) are volunteer committees established by tribal, state, and local governments and community leaders or organizations to increase awareness and motivate residents to respond to the 2020 Census. CCCs serve as state and local “census ambassador” groups that play an integral part in ensuring a complete and accurate count of the community in the 2020 Census.

Congress did not increase funding from the 2010 Census and will be facing a tighter labor market for 2020 than during the Great Recession in 2010. The Census Bureau will hire 500,000 temporary, part-time employees to conduct home visits if Census forms from the bureau don’t receive responses after a few weeks of their March arrivals.

Because census data is vital to ensuring federal support for counties, MACo supported 2018 legislation to establish the 2020 Census Grant Program, an efficient and effective system for leveraging state and local resources to promote a more accurate 2020 Census, paving the way for a fair and equitable flow of resources to the State and its local jurisdictions. The law allows local governments and nonprofit organizations to apply for matching grant funds to promote a fair and equitable 2020 Census.

Useful Links

Full coverage from Route Fifty

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Accurate Census, Effective Government

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Preparing for the 2020 Census and the Senior Boom

MACo Testimony on SB 855

Court of Special Appeals Hears Montgomery Pesticide Preemption Case

A panel of Maryland Court of Special Appeal judges will determine whether state law preempts counties from regulating pesticide applications after hearing oral arguments in the case of Montgomery County v. Complete Lawn Care on September 11, 2018. MACo and the Maryland Municipal League, concerned about the broader local preemption issues involved in the case, submitted an amicus brief to the Court of Special Appeals on June 21, 2018. The brief argued that local governments should not be preempted in enacting public health and safety measures that go beyond state minimums.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Montgomery County Council passed a ban on the use of EPA-registered lawn-care pesticides for public and private property. The ban  covered areas such as lawns, playgrounds, recreation areas, and child  care centers but exempted agricultural usage. The ban also contained exceptions for treating noxious or invasive weed species, addressing human health concerns, or preventing significant economic damage.

In response, Complete Lawn Care and other several other businesses and county residents filed suit in Maryland Circuit Court challenging the ban. Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann issued a decision on August 3, 2017, finding that state law preempted the Montgomery County ordinance. The County appealed the Circuit Court’s decision to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

The three judges hearing the case included Donald Beachley, Alexander Wright, and Robert Zarnoch (retired). Edward Lattner from the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office argued that the County’s law was not impliedly preempted by state law as state law was primarily concerned with registration and labeling of pesticides and the licensing of applicators while the County law focused on putting further safety requirements on pesticide usage. Lattner noted that the General Assembly has three times previously considered and rejected legislation to explicitly prohibit local regulation of pesticides.

Plaintiff’s attorney Timothy Maloney and the counsel for Complete Lawn Care jointly argued that the County was impliedly preempted because there was a “very comprehensive state occupation” of the pesticide field, noting that the Maryland Department of the Environment also conducts numerous enforcement and inspection actions. They also argued that the  County ordinance essentially prohibited the use of pesticides approved for use in the state by both the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Based on questions by the judges, Zarnoch appeared the most sympathetic to the County’s argument, noting that even an approved and registered pesticide could still harm humans. Wright appeared the most skeptical, questioning whether the General Assembly’s three rejections of express preemption legislation constituted an argument against the broad regulatory authority already possessed by the State through statute.

A decision in the case could come within several months. The case could be appealed by either party to the Court of Appeals. Additionally, the federal Farm Bill currently before Congress contains a provision that would expressly prohibit all local government regulation of pesticides across the nation. If the provision were to pass, the Montgomery County case would be rendered moot.

MACo remains extremely concerned about the broad and somewhat subjective common law test used by Maryland courts to determine implied preemption. As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo has tentatively adopted addressing implied preemption as one of its 2019 Legislative Initiatives (the Initiatives will be formally adopted in January of 2019 after new and returning county elected officials are sworn in).

Useful Links

MACo and MML Amicus Curiae Brief

Circuit Court Decision – Complete Law Care v. Montgomery County (2017)

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Montgomery Pesticide Ban

Conduit Street Article on 2019 Legislative Initiatives

MACo Legislative Committee Hears Update on School Safety

John Woolums, Director of Government Relations, Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE), briefed MACo’s Legislative Committee Wednesday, September 12, 2018, on school safety initiatives.

SB 1265, Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018, passed the General Assembly on the final day of the 2018 legislative session and has been signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan. The legislation creates a variety of statewide standards and guidelines on school safety.

Along with presenting a comprehensive overview of the bill’s requirements, Woolums stressed the importance of intergovernmental collaboration and coordination in developing and implementing public school safety and security programs.

“MABE looks forward to many successful collaborations between local boards of education, local government agencies and elected officials, local law enforcement agencies, state officials, and other interested parties committed to improving school safety throughout Maryland.”

Members of the MACo Legislative Committee include representatives from Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City. The committee meets regularly on Wednesdays at the MACo office during the general assembly session. During the interim, the committee meets quarterly to develop legislative priorities for the coming year.

Useful Links

Previous Condit Street Coverage: Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018: What You Need to Know

MABE Summary of the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018

MACo Announces 2019 Legislative Initiatives

MACo to prioritize education, public health, implied preemption, and NG 9-1-1 in 2019 legislative session. 

MACo’s Legislative Committee voted at their September 12, 2018 meeting to adopt the Association’s four priorities for the 2019 Session. These issues — Continuing State Commitment to Education; Re-Prioritizing Public Health; Repeal “Implied” Preemption Doctrine; and Next Generation 9-1-1 Implementation — cover a broad range of important county concerns that MACo will proactively advocate for in front of the General Assembly.

Each year MACo adopts a slate of top legislative initiatives, typically representing the wide swath of services counties deliver to Maryland residents. The Initiatives Subcommittee meets through the summer to refine and focus a list of dozens of proposed initiatives into no more than four as required by the Association’s bylaws. The slate is then presented to the Legislative Committee for adoption. With the upcoming election in November and potential changes in local elected officials serving on the Legislative Committee, the 2019 Legislative Committee will also discuss and vote to approve the initiatives again in January.

Continuing State Commitment to Education

Maryland’s commitment to Pre-K – 12 education must continue to meet the needs of a diverse student body, and to prepare Maryland’s children for a global economy.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education will recommend major shifts in the relative role of state and local funding in each of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions. At the same time, the 21st Century School Facilities Commission and its legislative outcomes recommended an increased annual State contribution for capital projects, and required ongoing study of school construction project funding and priorities.

MACo advocates for a partnership approach to meeting the education and facility needs of Maryland’s students that fairly balances state responsibilities with local obligations, and seeks equitable and efficient solutions to meet current expenses and future goals. 

Re-prioritizing Public Health

Local Health Departments are the state’s frontline for public health services and education. Over the years, dramatic and lasting funding reductions as well as threatened cost shifts have endangered their capacity to provide these crucial services in our communities and have forced them to do more with dramatically fewer resources.

These cuts have been exacerbated by the opioid epidemic that continues to plague the state. The deadliness of the opioids that have permeated our communities makes it even more critical that local health departments and associated treatment services – beds, facilities, providers – are available to meet our residents’ needs on-demand.

MACo advocates to prioritize public health in the face of the opioid epidemic and crises to come by reviving local health department funding and targeting drug treatment funding to address demand where it is needed most.

Repeal “Implied Preemption” Court Doctrine

Maryland courts have adopted an inconsistent but growing theory of State preemption over local actions – finding that counties may be preempted even without any State law explicitly stating so. This principle was used years ago to invalidate multiple local tobacco regulations, and more recently on local pesticide oversight, and energy facility siting.

Legislation should specify that preemption should not take place in the courts by mere interpretation, but in the open and accessible lawmaking process, where all stakeholders may be heard on the merits of their arguments.

Next Generation 9-1-1 Implementation

It is time for Maryland to move to the Next Generation of 9-1-1 (NG911) service. Maryland’s current 9-1-1 Call Centers need additional support to accurately and expeditiously handle an increasing number of cell phone-based calls for emergency service. In addition, local call centers in Maryland are seeking to offer potential service enhancements for cell phone users, including video and text messaging, and improved location tracking accuracy.

Updating state laws, and the 9-1-1 financing system, to provide the flexibility and resources needed for this important step is a public safety priority affecting every part of Maryland. 


NACo Continues Push for National Flood Insurance Reauthorization

The Sustainable, Affordable, Fair and Efficient National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (S. 1368) (SAFE NFIP) would reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for six years and ensure the program is accessible and affordable for all county residents.

The National Association of Counties’ summer advocacy toolkit outlines top priorities and urges all counties to reach out to their Congressional representatives during the summer on key topics affecting their residents.

NACo’s advocacy toolkit includes policy briefs on top federal policy issues for counties.

One of those topics is the National Flood Insurance Program which is currently operating under a short-term extension.

NACo outlines the issue with a policy brief and several talking points, including:

  • Congress should enact a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP. When the federal government uses short-term funding extensions, counties are often unable to effectively plan and implement a workable budget. The NFIP is currently operating under a short-term extension that will expire November 30, 2018.
  • Congress should act now and pass the SAFE NFIP Act. The SAFE NFIP Act would reauthorize NFIP for six years and has strong bi-partisan support. The bill caps all premium rate hikes at 10 percent, provides funding for local mitigation projects and streamlines the administration of the NFIP.
  • Flood insurance policy surcharges should be limited to maintain accessibility and affordability for homeowners. New surcharges could make flood insurance unaffordable for some policyholders.

For more information about this topic and other priorities, see the complete summer advocacy toolkit from NACo.