The Finally, Final County-by-County Transportation Aid Breakdown

Thinking_Face_EmojiWe love the Department of Legislative Services’ Two-Year Charts. But, counties shouldn’t start budgeting all of the highway user revenues allotted there for fiscal 2019 just yet (unless they are Baltimore City, Baltimore County, or Howard County – they can go ahead). That sum includes the municipalities’ share, as well.

For a final county-by-county breakdown of transportation aid, with the muni share excluded and including the most recent capital grants added through the Governor’s supplemental budget, click here


Building A Culture of Health in Garrett County

Garrett County is receiving national recognition for its health-improvement efforts. The county is one of eight 2017 winners of the Culture of Health Prize awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest public health philanthropy.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,

A Community Holding Hands to Bridge its Divide

Up at Deep Creek Lake, in the heart of the county, multimillion-dollar homes and fast-multiplying condos fuel a more than $300 million tourism economy. Meanwhile, many county residents work seasonal and low-wage jobs at tourist-friendly restaurants, hotels and resorts, and the county faces a child-poverty rate of 19 percent, compared with 14 percent of all Maryland children. Dependent on industries such as health care, light manufacturing and farming, in addition to tourism, Garrett County’s median household income is about two-thirds the state average.

To address the challenges and bridge economic, cultural and health divides, Garrett County has capitalized on a deep-rooted strength: Everyone seems to know everyone, and neighbors care for each other and band together. That community spirit has brought about a robust, data-driven health planning process focused on reducing disparities in housing, education, employment, income and health care so that all residents can thrive. This small town spread across farmland and country roads has found a way to enable every high school graduate to attend community college for free and has raised $4.9 million to build a cancer center in its county seat.

The county’s health planners have drawn in the most vulnerable residents — including those struggling with intergenerational poverty, chronic disease, and housing instability — county leadership, and health care and social services partners. They are encouraging participation and tracking progress using an online planning tool, The multifaceted collaborative effort has earned the county a 2017 Culture of Health Prize.

“One of the good things about being small is we communicate very effectively,” says County Commissioner Jim Hinebaugh. “A lot of sharing goes on.”

Education, Opportunity, and a ‘Community of Caring’

When Garrett County, Maryland, native Shelley Argabrite says, “This is truly a community of caring,” she’s speaking from experience. Like many, due to unfortunate circumstances she experienced poverty as a single parent. Her resilience combined with assistance from the people in service agencies in the county helped her navigate the difficult situation, providing her family with, among other things, healthy food and a homebuyer’s grant that helped them secure a more sustainable future.

Now she’s paying it forward. As the strategic health planner at Garrett County Health Department, she’s working to address the county’s most pressing health needs, in part by gathering input from those who struggle as she once did.

That “leave no one behind” attitude pervades in Garrett County and has led to creative solutions aimed at expanding opportunities available to residents. When Commissioner Jim Hinebaugh, then the county’s director of economic development, proposed starting four scholarships at Garrett College about a decade ago, the county’s Board of Commissioners rebuffed him. But not for long.

“They said, ‘That’s going to make four people happy and a lot of people mad,’” says Hinebaugh, a county commissioner since 2014. “So I did the math. If we offered free scholarships to all for two years of community college, it would be one cent on our tax rate.”

Hinebaugh’s eureka moment generated a scholarship program that enables Garrett County residents with a high school degree or GED to attend the college for free if they study full time and maintain a 2.0 grade-point average. The program will soon expand to include non-traditional age students.

“It was absolutely instrumental to me,” says John Corbin, public affairs specialist at the Garrett County Health Department, of his scholarship, which meant he spent only $15 on a parking permit during his two years at Garrett College and graduated debt-free. “[Community college] is basically unaffordable to a lot of residents without the scholarship.”

If education is at the center of opportunity building in Garrett County — 1 in 5 residents has a bachelor’s degree or higher — so too is chipping away at poverty. The county’s 2-G, or two-generation program, which aims to improve outcomes for children and economic security for families, has been lauded by many, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. This year, he moved to create a commission that will study the approach as a model for the state.

“At the heart of the two-generation approach is the idea that you work with children and families simultaneously, but you do it in a way where your services are really integrated,” says Duane Yoder, president of Garrett County Community Action, a poverty reduction nonprofit. Families work with staff to develop a “pathway plan” that includes at least one goal related to education, employment or financial management.

To leave poverty behind, families need places to live and ways to get to work. So Garrett County Community Action and its public and private partners have developed 700 affordable, low-income, mixed-income and workforce housing units. And the county’s Wheels to Work program helps families afford a used car, since Garrett, like many rural communities, lacks traditional public transit.

In every endeavor, the people of Garrett County are important partners.

“We work as a team with families,” says Barbara Miller, vice president for family economic security at Garrett County Community Action. “We listen to what they feel they need in their lives.”

To read more about Garrett County’s efforts to to ensure all residents have the opportunity to live healthier lives, visit the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s website.

Anne Arundel Budget Proposal to Include $3M in Property Tax Relief

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh today announced that his FY2019 budget proposal will include $3 million in property tax relief. He plans to propose a property tax cut of $1.5 million in his budget, along with $1.5 million budgeted for a public safety property tax credit.

According to a press release:

We are committed to making our County an affordable place to live for our citizens,” said Schuh. “This tax relief proposal will ensure homeowners will not feel the sting rising property values as our economy continues to gain strength.”

Under the proposal, Anne Arundel County citizens would see their property taxes reduced by $1.5 million. Homeowners would see their property tax rate lowered to $0.902, which is $0.002 under the $0.904 projected property tax cap.

Public safety employees who live in the County would be able to obtain a $2,500 credit on their property taxes in addition to the proposed property tax rate cut. If enacted, the property tax cut would be the first below the tax cap in more than a decade.

The County Executive will present his full budget proposal on May 1st. The proposal is subject to County Council approval.

Read the full press release for more information.

Baltimore County Passes “Oscar’s Law” to Protect Pets from Elements

The Baltimore County Council has unanimously passed “Oscar’s Law”, a bill that sets the conditions in which it is unsafe to leave animals outdoors. The bill was introduced following the death of a dog due to hypothermia after being left alone outside.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Oscar’s Law defines “adverse environmental conditions” that are unsafe for animals to be left outside without shelter, including temperatures below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees, wind, rain, snow, ice, sleet, hail and exposure to direct sunlight or hot pavement. Under those conditions, pets would have to be brought inside within 30 minutes of the onset of those conditions.

Oscar’s Law also clarifies that either an animal control officer or a police officer can investigate animal cruelty cases.

The article notes that County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has announced the creation of a special police department unit that would manage cases of animal abuse.

For more information read:

Baltimore County Council OKs ‘Oscar’s Law,’ outlining unsafe outdoor conditions for animals (The Baltimore Sun)

Learn the Language of the General Assembly

Frederick News-Post article (2018-04-12) recounted the linguistic take-aways from a reporter covering Session for the first time. There are numerous coded phrases that those who participate in the legislative process hear regularly and understand but those outside of the process may not fully appreciate. The article summarized the reporter’s seven favorite phrases – here are two:

“It’s a simple bill.” This extremely common preamble to an explanation of a proposed law is designed to instill confidence in colleagues and signal something along the lines of “hey, let’s just pass this thing because it ain’t that complicated.”

“A second bite at the apple.” This fruit-themed phrase is often used to express humility when given the chance to speak twice or ask repeated questions on the same issue on the floor, as in “Thank you, Speaker, for allowing me a second bite at the apple.”

The article also briefly covered the increasingly contentious Frederick County Executive republican primary race between Frederick County Council Member Kirby Delauter and Maryland Delegate Kathy Afzali.


A Century of Innovation: Celebrate with WSSC

wsscJoin WSSC on May 1, 2018 for the WSSC Water Symposium: A Century of Innovation. This event focuses on the future of innovation in the water industry and recognizes WSSC’s 100 years of service. You will hear from WSSC GM/CEO Carla Reid and other industry leaders, as well as experts in energy, resource recovery and technology.

Highlights include four, interactive panel discussions about the latest innovations, current research and what’s on the horizon. Topics include smart water technology, adapting to climate change, resource recovery and WSSC’s upcoming Bio-Energy Project.

We look forward to this dynamic event designed for water industry professionals to come together to learn, discuss and collaborate. Let’s share best practices and develop partnerships to provide the residents of the National Capital Region with life’s most precious resource. A Centennial reception will immediately follow the program.


Review the agenda and register at

Student Assessment Scores Hold Steady, Exclusion Rates On the Decline

Maryland student assessment scores held steady on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 2017, which included a significantly higher participation rate from students with disabilities (SD) and English language learners (ELL).

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.

NAEP policy guidelines include specific inclusion goals for NAEP samples. At the national, state, and district levels, the goal is to include 95 percent of all students selected for the NAEP samples, and 85 percent of those in the NAEP sample who are identified as SD or ELL.

Courtesy of MSDE

According to an MSDE press release:

Long criticized for a high number of students excluded from the NAEP testing population, Maryland has dramatically changed course. For the first time, the State met federal participation targets for both students with disabilities and English learners for each subject in both tested grades. Just four years ago, some exclusion rates were above 60 percent.

Fourth Grade Reading

The percentage of Maryland students scoring at or above the proficient level is at 40 percentage points, an increase of 8 percentage points since 2003. Nationally, scores improved six percentage points since 2003. The average fourth grade reading score in Maryland improved two points on the 500-point scale since 2015, from 223 to 225. Since 2003, the average Maryland public school score is up six points. This compares to a national increase of five points, rising from 216 to 221.

Eighth Grade Reading

The percentage of Maryland students scoring at or above the proficient level has increased seven percentage points since 2003 compared to a national improvement of five percentage points. The percentage of Maryland students scoring at or above proficient improved one point between 2015 and 2017. The average Maryland eighth grade reading score fell one point between 2015 and 2017 to 267, while the national average score increased one point to 265. Maryland’s average public school score has increased five points—from 262 to 267—since 2003, compared to a national score increase of four points—261 to 265.

Fourth Grade Mathematics

The percentage of Maryland students scoring at or above the proficient level in fourth grade math has improved 11 percentage points since 2003, from 31 percent to 42 percent, compared to national improvement of nine percentage points. The average Maryland public school test score on fourth grade mathematics improved from 239 to 241 since 2015. Since 2003, the average Maryland score has increased eight points. This compares to the average national score improvement of five points, from 234 to 239.

Eighth Grade Mathematics

The percentage of Maryland students scoring at or above the proficient level on the eighth grade mathematics exam has increased three percentage points since 2003, from 30 to 33 percent, compared to national improvement of seven percentage points. The average Maryland public school score fell two points between 2015 and 2017, from 283 to 281. Since 2003, the average Maryland score has increased three points. This compares to an increase in the average national score of six points, from 276 to 282.

Read the full press release for more information.

For detailed data on NAEP assessment scores, and to see how Maryland ranks nationally, visit the NAEP website.

Prince George’s Sheriff’s Office Earns National Law Enforcement Accreditation

The Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office recently earned its national accreditation from one of the nation’s most prestigious law enforcement evaluation agencies. The accreditation process included a comprehensive review of the sheriff’s office’s policies and practices.

According to The Washington Post:

It is the first time the sheriff’s office has received such a certification from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies in the agency’s 321-year history. The colonial governor of Maryland appointed the county’s first sheriff in 1696.

“We passed with a 100 percent compliance,” Chief Assistant Sheriff Darrin C. Palmer said last week, after the agency announced the certification was officially awarded in March. “These standards are considered best practices for where law enforcement is now. They run the full gambit of policies from use of force, to the way you handle complaints, to field operations.”

Though such accreditation is not mandatory, law enforcement agencies consider the certification a benchmark for law enforcement standards across the country.

Read the full article for more information.

County Fellowship Aims to Develop “Pipeline of Talent”

The Allegany County Commissioners are set to provide on-the-job training to teach local college students about careers in local government. The 12-week fellowship program, which begins in May, is available to students at Frostburg State University and Allegany College of Maryland.

According to Cumberland Times-News,

“We’ve taken on county interns in the past, but not in this coordinated effort,” said Brandon Butler, the county administrator who will direct the program.  “I think this is a great opportunity,” Commissioner Bill Valentine said.

“This community has the rap of ‘My kid has to go somewhere else to get a good opportunity,’ and that is something I’m interested in busting,” he said.

“I’m looking to raise up young people who care about their communities, who have a passion to make a difference and have an an opportunity for them right here in Allegany County,” Butler said.

More than a unique opportunity for area students, the fellowship creates a “pipeline of talent,” as a way for local officials to spot potential government employees, Butler said.

To apply, college students must be either a junior or senior (at least 30 credits for ACM students) and have at least a 2.7 cumulative GPA.

Read the full article for more information.

Baltimore Sun’s Winners & Losers of the 2018 Session

The Baltimore Sun editorial board opines their winners and losers of the 2018 Session in a photo gallery.

Winners included:

  1. Governor Larry Hogan
  2. Bipartisanship
  3. Senator Richard Madaleno
  4. Delegate Meagan Simonaire
  5. Delegate Cheryl Glenn
  6. #MeToo

Losers included:

  1. Comptroller Peter Franchot
  2. Senator Bryan Simonaire
  3. Clean energy
  4. The NRA
  5. The residents of the 41st District
  6. Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh

Two of the Sun’s quotes on Hogan and Madaleno:

Gov. Larry Hogan avoided damaging fights with the legislature and can credibly claim a record of accomplishment this year on health care, economic development, gun control and more as he heads into his re-election bid. …

Richard Madaleno is only sitting member of the legislature running for governor, and this was his opportunity to make a mark. He did, getting fifteen bills for which he was the primary sponsor through the legislature — including pro-union measures, and expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, gun control and more. All that on top of his usual role as one of the legislature’s most influential voices on the budget.