EPA Unveils New Waters of the United States Definition

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) unveiled a new proposed "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS) definition on December 11, 2018. The WOTUS definition under the federal Clean Water Act determines what waterways are subject to the Act's protections and permitting requirements. The proposed definition will replace a controversial 2015 change to the definition that caused concern for many local governments and agricultural interests. History of WOTUS Definition…

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Maryland Counties Receive Millions in VA Benefits

Thirteen Maryland counties were among the 664 counties nationwide that each received more than $50 million in VA benefits in 2017 within their jurisdictions.  A majority of Maryland counties received more than $50 million in VA benefits, according to the National Association of Counties Analysis of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Data from 2017. Almost all Maryland counties received more than average amounts of VA benefits in 2017 compared to other counties in the US. Here…

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Carbon Tax Bill Introduced in House of Representatives

A Sustainable Cities Network article (2018-12-04) reported on the introduction of a bipartisan bill in the United States House of Representatives that would set a nationwide price and refund system for carbon emissions. Many climate change advocates support a carbon tax as a market driven approach to address climate change. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2018 (H.R.7173) is sponsored by Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL), Francis Rooney (D-FL), Charlie Christ (R-FL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Anna…

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Virginia Empowers Local Responders to Protect Airspace Around Emergencies

While a work group in Maryland reviews unsafe use of unmanned aerial systems (also called UAS and commonly referred to as drones), Virginia passed a law granting authority to local first responders to stop UAS interference during emergencies. In 2015, Maryland passed a law that preempted the county or municipal governments from law, specifically, the law "preempts the authority of a county or municipality to prohibit, restrict, or regulate the testing or operation of unmanned…

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When Green Fades to Gray: Workplace Standards in the Cannabis Era

The Maryland Association of Human Resources Officers, an affiliate of the Maryland Association of Counties, sponsors an educational session about cannabis and county employment issues at the MACo Winter Conference. The use of medical cannabis, now legal under State law, may create a gray area within county government personnel policies. Traditional health and safety polices – especially important for county government roles that involve operating utility equipment, supervising children, and protecting public safety – are…

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Medicaid Waiver to Help States Expand Inpatient Mental Health Treatment

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has announced that states may apply for waivers to the "IMD exclusion" law in order to expand in patient mental health treatment using Medicaid. ABC News reports: A longstanding federal law has barred Medicaid from paying for mental health treatment in facilities with more than 16 beds, to prevent "warehousing" of the mentally ill at the expense of federal taxpayers. Azar said states will now be able to…

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FCC Proposal Threatens County Cable Franchise Fees

Proposed FCC Rule could cost counties millions in franchise fees by allowing cable companies to deduct the fair market value of public benefits, such as setting aside channels for county council or school board broadcasts, from the fees.  The potential effects of the order are vast. Nationwide there are approximately 1,500 public, education, and government (PEG) stations and 3,000 channels that could be impacted. From NACo County News: In some smaller jurisdictions, [Mitsuko] Herrera noted,…

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Congress’s “Lame Duck” Session — What Does It Mean for Counties?

A conference call for county elected officials and their staff, hosted by the National Association of Counties Northeast Regional Caucus, focuses on the possible effects of the United States Congress's "lame duck" session on county governments. The National Association of Counties hosts monthly calls for county elected officials in the Northeast Region of the United States to discuss federal issues with a particular effect on county governments in the northeast region. This month's call will…

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Federal Agencies Unveil Resource Guide for Rural Opioid Crisis

The guide provides a comprehensive listing of federal programs available to help support grassroots strategies in rural communities for tackling the opioid crisis. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) have released the Federal Resources for Rural Communities to Help Address Substance Use Disorder and Opioid Misuse. The report is one piece of a multi-prong effort by the USDA to provide resources to rural communities struggling with the…

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NACo’s 2019 Legislative Conference

The National Association of Counties (NACo) is hosting its 2019 Legislative Conference, March 2-6, 2019 in Washington D.C. WHAT? This annual conference brings together over 1,500 elected and appointed county officials. WHEN? This annual conference will be held March 2-6, 2019. WHERE? Elected and appointed county officials will convene at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C. COST? NACo County Members (all Maryland counties are members of NACo) Early Bird (by 12/20/18): $490 Advance (by…

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