Airbnb Bill Ignites Debate Between Old Regulations and New Economies

The general assembly is grappling with a bill intended to tax and regulate short-term rental companies, such as Airbnb, in a manner similar to that of traditional hotels and bed and breakfasts.

This bill is but one of many that lawmakers across the nation are considering that challenge whether old regulations can be imposed on businesses within the burgeoning sharing economy or whether new approaches are necessary.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

As state lawmakers debate how to regulate short-term rentals, the mismatched portraits underscore one of the challenges that regulators face: how to make the old tools, long used to regulate traditional enterprises, fit new business models.

Maryland lawmakers have passed bills in recent years to clarify rules for online travel sites and the rideshare app Uber. They’re looking at Airbnb and a more aggressive online sales tax collection this year. The state’s Office of Food Protection is looking into questions around new meal and food delivery services. Federal authorities are studying online lending.

Airbnb, like Uber and other firms in the so-called sharing economy, is powered by a shifting crowd of independent contractors, such as the people who testified last week. They use online platforms to connect to consumers — in the case of Airbnb, travelers looking for accommodations — and the corporation takes a piece of any transaction.

Michael Sanderson, the executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, sees the back-and-forth over Airbnb in the tradition of wrangling over corporate regulations to keep up with technology.

But he said the dynamics of Uber and Airbnb — which have not been shy about mobilizing users to their side — have changed the flavor of debates.

Earlier changes were “sort of corporate versus corporate,” he said. “A lot of this is individual- and small-business- and citizen-driven.”

MACo supported the bill in question, SB 463, with amendments. Counties support reasonable regulation of short-term rentals in the interest of protecting the safety and welfare of their communities. However, they also wish to ensure that any regulatory scheme is developed without unintended consequences that may undermine the benefits and prevent the industry from continuing to thrive.

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun

Report: More Naloxone, Fewer Overdose Deaths

Opioid abuse and overdose deaths continues to be a major public health crisis in Maryland and across the nation. But there are at least some encouraging signs in this nationwide fight.

A new study shows that the recent increase in access to Naloxone correlates to a decrease in overdose deaths. Naloxone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help prevent overdoses by blocking opioid receptor sites, reversing the toxic effects of the overdose.

As reported on Route Fifty:

A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that these laws have in fact made an impact. Using data for the period from 1999 to 2014 available in the National Vital Statistics System multiple cause-of-death mortality files, researchers found that adoption of these naloxone access laws has been associated with up to an 11 percent reduction in opioid-involved deaths.

Results of the research suggest that perhaps that the most important thing a state can do with its Naloxone-related legislation is to remove any criminal liability associated with possessing the overdose-antagonist drug.

Eleven states adopted such measures within the period studied. In those 11 states, these laws are associated with a 13 percent reduction in opioid-related overdose deaths, whereas the effect of naloxone access laws in states without these criminal liability provisions is considerably smaller—an effect that is “statistically indistinguishable from zero,” according to the report.

For more information read the National Bureau of Economic Research report and the full article on Route Fifty.

Save Money With the New Maintenance, Repair, and Operating Supplies Contract from U.S. Communities

New MRO Contract Provides Comprehensive Solutions Making It Easier Than Ever to Get the Supplies You Need at Competitive Prices

2016 US CommU.S. Communities recently announced a new national cooperative contract for maintenance, repair, operating supplies, industrial supplies and related products and services. This contract was awarded to The Home Depot, HD Supply Facilities Maintenance, Applied Industrial Technologies, and SupplyWorks, A Home Depot Company through a competitive solicitation process conducted by the lead public agency, Maricopa County, Arizona. The contract term is for five years with the option to renew for five additional one year periods. To learn more about this new contract and the solutions available, view details below or register for a complimentary one-hour webinar.

This contract makes it easier to get the products and services you need under one contract while saving time and money. This multi-award provides public agencies these options when looking for MRO solutions.

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HD Supply: Competitively-awarded MRO products and property improvement services on a single contract.

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Webinar Dates:

Legislation Could Provide Local Schools with Flexibility on Holidays

Closing schools for Presidents’ Day could become optional for Maryland school districts under a bill (HB 400) being considered in the General Assembly.

The same could happen to Easter Monday.

Concerned about Governor Larry Hogan’s 2016 executive order requiring the state’s 24 school districts to start classes after Labor Day and end by June 15, several state lawmakers want to give local jurisdictions flexibility by removing Presidents’ Day and Easter Monday from the state’s list of mandatory public school holidays.

As reported in The Washington Post,

“These couple of days would be important to the school schedule,” said Del. Pamela G. Beidle (D-Anne Arundel), the chief sponsor of the bill.

The bill’s chances at passage are not clear. Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), vice chairman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, called the idea of canceling long-standing holidays a slippery slope.

“What’s next?,” he said. “Martin Luther King Day? Labor Day?”

Last August, Hogan (R) signed an executive order dictating the start and end of school, saying the change would benefit families and the economy. Almost every school district in the state had been starting the academic year before Labor Day.

Although the promise of a longer summer vacation earned strong support from the public, many educators and Democratic lawmakers said the change would cut into learning and test-preparation time.

Hogan’s order led to the resignation of the vice president of the state Board of Education, who accused the governor of usurping the independent board’s authority.

In the meantime, school districts scrambled to ensure that their 2017-2018 school calendars adhered to the order. Anne Arundel County cut its spring break from one week to three days. Montgomery County reduced its number of scheduled school days from 184 to 182, with just two days allotted for bad weather.

John Woolums, director of government relations for the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, said Beidle’s bill would provide “much needed” options as districts set up academic calendars, which must take into account state testing schedules, teacher in-service days and required holidays.

Current public-school holidays include Thanksgiving Day and the day after, Christmas Eve through Jan. 1, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, the Friday before Easter through the Monday after Easter, Memorial Day, and, for most counties, primary and general-election days.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said the governor is pleased that nearly all Maryland counties are moving forward with “this return to common-sense scheduling.”

She said that starting school after Labor Day is “the right thing to do for Maryland families and students” and that instead of “focusing on [canceling] holidays, school districts should focus on removing the many unnecessary union services days.”

Chasse said Hogan will decide whether to sign the Presidents’ Day/Easter Monday measure if it reaches his desk.

In addition to Beidle’s bill, Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery) has a bill that would allow a school district that has to close schools because of a state of emergency to reduce the 180-day required school year by up to five days without seeking a waiver from the state Board of Education.

The bill was requested by the Montgomery County school system, the largest in the state, with more than 159,200 students. It has the support of other school districts, as well.

Montgomery’s school board was able to meet Hogan’s requirements for the 2017-2018 school calendar, but school system spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said, “It’s going to be tough in the future.” Montgomery has scheduled 182 class days next school year.

Bob Mosier, a spokesman for Anne Arundel County Schools Superintendent George Arlotto, said the school district sought a waiver from the state board two years ago to open on Easter Monday to make up for a snow day. If the legislation passes, he said, the district could decide on its own, without needing the state’s permission, to open or close on that day and Presidents’ Day.

“It’s the flexibility that we need in the calendar with the hard start and hard stop date established by the governor’s executive order,” he said.

Pinsky, a vocal opponent of Hogan’s order, says that school districts should legally challenge Hogan over it.

Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s office issued an opinion last year that the governor may have exceeded his authority. Frosh (D) also said the legislature could overturn the executive order, but there has been no legislation introduced to do that.

Useful Links

The Washington Post Article

Previous Conduit Street Coverage on the School Calendar Debate

Trump Intergovernmental Affairs Official: ‘We Have an Open Door Policy’

The deputy director of the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs encouraged state and local officials to reach out: “Come in, meet with us, let us know what’s going on.”

The Trump administration’s intergovernmental affairs office wants to hear from state and local governments, an official from the office emphasized Thursday.

According to Route 50,

White House deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, Billy Kirkland, spoke during a meeting of secretaries of state from around the U.S. held in the nation’s capital. He said part of President Trump’s agenda “is going to be reaching out to you all individually and finding out what is important to each of your states, what is important to each of your offices.”

Kirkland did not offer new information on progress being made toward policy priorities Trump has identified—such as repealing the Affordable Care Act, changing the tax code and investing in infrastructure—which could have implications for states and localities.

He said the intergovernmental affairs team would not focus heavily on policy, that it would instead act as a liaison between state and local governments and White House policy officials.

“If they’re not getting back to you,” he told the secretaries of state, “we’ll be the ones that run over there and either knock on the door gently, or start kicking the door in, to make sure that you’re all getting the information you need in a timely manner.”

The intergovernmental affairs office, Kirkland added, would be “kind of divided into two separate silos,” with one side working mostly with governors and other statewide elected officials and the other side geared more toward local government issues.

Kirkland made his remarks during a panel discussion held as part of the National Association of Secretaries of State winter conference. During the discussion, he shared his contact information, including his personal cell phone number, with the entire audience.

“Give us a call, shoot us an email,” he said. “When you’re in town, we want you all to come in and feel like we have an open-door policy. Come in, meet with us, let us know what’s going on.”

Read the full article for more information.

Universal Pre-K Not as Easy as A, B, C

Across the country local jurisdictions  looking to expand pre-k education are finding it difficult to fund and establish “universal” programs.

As reported by Governing:

San Antonio isn’t alone in its focus on pre-K. A handful of states are pumping funds into expanded pre-kindergarten programs, with varying degrees of success and commitment. Several cities have opted to fund a more rigorous pre-K program than state funding provides. But while universal pre-K is widely admired, the prevalence of well-funded and enriching programs is highly uneven across the U.S. In 2014, of the 40 states plus the District of Columbia with state-funded pre-K programs, only nine served more than half of all 4-year-olds in the state, and 11 served less than 10 percent, according to a report in U.S. News. Overall, only “a smattering of states have dedicated time and resources to expanding pre-K programs,” says Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). “Even fewer have made it a priority through the years.”

Over the past half century, states’ interest in early education has waxed and waned. Although funding faltered during the Great Recession, states overall have been increasing their investments in pre-K programs during the past 20 years. The investments are generally popular with the public: Several studies have shown that pre-kindergarten can help kids from different cultural backgrounds and lower socioeconomic neighborhoods enter kindergarten on a level playing field with their more affluent, mainstream peers. At the same time, there has been flagging interest in some states as questions have been raised about how effective the programs are in the long run.

As more states and cities implement universal pre-K programs, they’re confronting basic questions of funding: Who will pay for it and how? But there are broader, thornier questions as well. Is high-quality universal pre-kindergarten an affordable and achievable goal? Do these programs actually accomplish what their advocates hope? So far, in the states and cities that have moved forward with pre-K programs, the answers seem to range from “absolutely” to “not so sure.”

Only three states — Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma — have what could be called truly universal programs in that they’re available to all 4-year-olds, regardless of parental income. The three states offer examples of the different ways in which the program’s funding source can affect its future.

While most state programs call themselves universal, it’s really a catch-all term with a range of meanings — from truly universal pre-K for all children regardless of parental income, to pre-K for all low-income families, to pre-K programs contingent on how much the state budget can afford that year.

For more information read the full article on  Governing

The Next Generation of the Apprentice

Apprenticeships have always been a way to provide on-the-job training for people who want to work in the skilled trades; like a carpenter or electrician.

Not so much for IT, until now.

According to WYPR,

Steve Grega, for example, has bounced around a lot of jobs in the IT industry, including computer retail, for more than 20 years. Now he has an apprenticeship with UTX, a tech company based in Cockeysville. He says he went for it because he was tired of hopping from one contract to another.

“You have a contract, it can be one week at company ‘X’ and not have anything for three or four weeks before they put you in for six months at company ‘Y,’” he said. “I’ve gotten to the point that jumping around is not really conducive to what I want to do any more.”

Grega’s apprenticeship is a full-time job with a lot of training – at least 144 hours of classroom time – and mentorship. He will even get a raise if he meets certain goals.

One recent morning Grega was listening to Iris Gold – an event designer with Zeffert and Gold Catering in Woodlawn – describe a problem she was having with her machine. Not a furnace, but the computer on her desk.

“It was kind of like a gasping out of the back; like it was trying to play catch up,” Gold said.

It was one of the rare times that he had to fix a problem on site. Most of the time; he’s solves problems over the internet.

Grega’s apprenticeship was arranged through Northeast Baltimore-based TranZed Apprentice Services, a company modeled after 3aaa, an outfit based in the United Kingdom that provides non-traditional apprenticeships.

TranZed grew out of President Obama’s call for expanding apprenticeships into non-traditional fields like IT and cyber-security.

The company partnered with The Children’s Guild after the guild expressed an interest in expanding its educational mission.

Kimberly Neal, president of TranZed, says they were able to take their first apprentices in November after a change in state regulations.

“We’ve had to work with the government and the legal system to actually amend COMAR to expand apprenticeships and allow us to bring forth this offering,” she said.

State Labor Secretary Kelly Schulz says the change in law began in 2015 when the legislature approved creating pilot youth apprenticeships for STEM careers.

“We took that opportunity with the youth apprenticeship program to really start to talk and advocate for those types of non-traditional apprenticeship programs in the registered apprenticeship program in what we would consider more of an adult traditional style program,” she said.

Schulz says the possibilities for non-traditional apprenticeships are endless. Based on her department’s website, you can start apprenticeships in Maryland for illustrator, medical assistant; even journalism.

“It really is what the industries, the businesses, the workforce system is craving is that combination between your academic and your learning environment and the on the job training.”

For companies like UTX, apprentice services offered by TransZed save time.

UTX President Ed Podowski says he was able to hire his first apprentice – Steve Grega – in two to three hours; calling the process easy compared to what he did before.

“If I’m hiring one person, I’m going to spend 10 to 20 hours going through interviews. I get 50 applications; 50 resumes,” he says. “I have to look through all of those. I have to have either myself or have someone call references; I have to do the first interviews.”

Read the full article for more information.

You’re Invited: Join Us for Our Weekly Legislative Update Conference Call

Every Friday during the legislative session MACo will host a conference call that will update you on the Maryland General Assembly hot topics and bills that affect local governments. Join the conversation at 3:00 pm each week as MACo explores different topics and hosts guest speakers.

This week’s topic (February 16): Health and Human Services / The Opioid Epidemic in Maryland

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally will be joined by MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu to discuss health and human services, with an emphasis on Maryland’s opioid epidemic. Mr. Kinnally and Ms. Mehu will discuss a number of bills introduced this session aimed at addressing opioid addiction and abuse in Maryland.

Conference call information: 1.877.850.5007, passcode: 2690043#

We look forward to your participation! Submit your questions in advance by e-mailing Kevin Kinnally.

State Approves Allegany’s Request For Pre-Labor Day Start

Allegany County public school students will report for classes in August next school year despite Governor Larry Hogan’s executive order requiring a post-Labor Day start.

The Allegany County Board of Education was granted a waiver from the governor’s order at January’s board meeting of the Maryland State Department of Education. The waiver was approved based on weather conditions in Western Maryland.

According to The Cumberland Times-News,

The local school board is expected to approve an Aug. 29 start for Allegany County students at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“We qualified for a waiver from Gov. Hogan based on our weather history,” said David Cox, Allegany County superintendent of schools. “We were one of a few school districts that applied. Garrett and Allegany counties are the only two … granted a waiver. We are the two counties that have the most severe weather.”

The local board had asked for feedback on two calendar options. One option had students reporting Aug. 22 and the second had an Aug. 29 start date.

Allegany County Public Schools average seven or eight lost days each school year due to inclement weather. Some years, schools have been closed for as many as 16 days.

“It gives us a lot of flexibility,” said Cox. “We are still required to be out by June 15, but an earlier start helps reduce some of the anxiety.”

Cox said school officials received little negative input from parents in regard to the August start.

“We didn’t get much negative feedback,” said Cox. “The most support we got was people wanting to start before Labor Day because they know we can miss so much.”

Mandated holidays for Maryland schools are Thanksgiving Day and the day after, Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Presidents’ Day, Good Friday and the Monday after Easter, Memorial Day and primary and general election days.

Cox said the idea of a pre-Labor Day start in Allegany County was thoroughly vetted.

“We’ve had a couple surveys on our website and we had a teacher roundtable,” said Cox. “You won’t get 100 percent agreement, but with our principals, teachers and staff we’ve talked about it for several months and worked through a lot of different suggestions.”

Useful Links

Cumberland Times-News Article

Previous Conduit Street Coverage on Gov. Hogan’s Post-Labor Day School Start Executive Order

Gov. Hogan Taps Veteran Democratic Campaign Operative For Vacant House Seat

Governor Larry Hogan has appointed a veteran Democratic campaign operative to a vacant seat in the House of Delegates.

Hogan announced the appointment of Jazz Lewis on Friday to the seat representing District 24 in Prince George’s County.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

Lewis was recommended by the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee to fill the vacancy.

Lewis is currently the executive director of Rep. Steny Hoyer’s campaign office. He has worked on multiple campaigns, including Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Lewis will replace Michael Vaughn, who resigned an hour before the state’s legislative session began on Jan. 11, citing health reasons.

Read the full article for more information.