MACo’s PIA Initiative Bill Clears Senate Committee

MACo’s legislative initiative to “Modernize the Public Information Act” passed its Senate Committee on Tuesday, March 13, clearing its first of several hurdles toward passage.

SB 788 passed the Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee without any “NO” votes, after the Committee spent time during its voting session discussing the bill’s application and effects. At the time of this writing, the bill sits on the floor of the Senate awaiting a second reader vote, and the addition of technical amendments.

MACo is working with multiple other stakeholders – representing law enforcement, victim’s rights groups, school systems, and others – in arguing that the bill provides needed balance to laws generally dictating that public records and documents be shared with the public. Other groups that frequently oppose measures that limit public distribution of such documents (the MD/DC/DE Press Association, and Common Cause of Maryland) have indicated their comfort with this bill’s balance, and did not raise such objections to the bill (into which they contributed very substantial input).

The bill faces opposition on the Senate floor and may be subject to multiple attempts to lessen its scope or effects via floor-offered amendments. Its elements regarding footage from body cameras and similar devices are the central target of this opposition. Some legislators have expressed concern that the bill retains too much direction to provide records of body camera footage. Others have been advised by a limited group of advocates that denying such records compromises accountability in troubling circumstances like police officer misconduct (although the bill explicitly does not change the law regarding such records).

Other bill provisions include tightened assurances that personal identification information such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth should not be released, and that passive subscribers to government newsletters and mailing lists should not have their personal information released under the PIA.

Follow the progress of MACo’s initiative bill through MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.

General Assembly Puts the Brakes on Speed Camera Legislation

The Maryland House of Delegates has reported unfavorably on two bills creating new restrictions or requirements for local speed camera programs (HB 1151 and HB 1365).

HB 1151 of 2018

HB 1151 was sponsored by Delegate Terri Hill and would require speed camera images to show linear distance traveled by a vehicle, expand a current annual calibration requirement, require a law enforcement officer who signed the citation or the technician who conducted the annual calibration to be present in court if a defendant requests it, and creates a rebuttable presumption regarding information requests.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to the bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 1, noting that most of the bill’s provisions have been previously considered and rejected by the General Assembly. From MACo’s testimony:

HB 1151 requires a speed camera image to show an accurate representation of the linear distance traveled by a motor vehicle between each time-stamped image. This requirement was considered and rejected during discussion of the 2014 legislation. More accurate speed camera technologies, such as the laserbased LIDAR systems, rely on continuous sampling over a distance and the photographs taken by the system are designed to show that the vehicle is in motion. The images cannot be utilized to accurately show linear distance traveled over time.

Similarly, the General Assembly has consistently rejected expanding the annual calibration requirement. The current calibration process typically takes several weeks as the camera is taken out of service; packaged and shipped to an independent laboratory; taken apart, inspected, and reassembled by the laboratory; and then shipped back to the local jurisdiction. This detailed process ensures the camera is functioning correctly and accurately.

The bill’s requirement that the law enforcement officer who signed the citation or the technician who performed the annual calibration check be present and testify at trial with just 10 days of written notice is impractical, costly, and in some cases, may be impossible to meet. This is particularly true regarding the laboratory technician, who is not under the direct control of the local jurisdiction and may be located a significant distance from the jurisdiction (or even in another state).

Finally, as the bill’s fiscal note indicates, the rebuttable presumption provision will encourage citation recipients to request additional information from the local government and go to trial in District Court in the hopes of having the citation voided due to the presumption. Current law already provides for the admission of relevant evidence, including the recorded images taken by the camera, the certificate of annual calibration, and the camera’s daily self-test and set-up logs. Furthermore, all local jurisdictions must have a speed camera “ombudsman” to answer questions. Any written questions received and the ombudsman’s response are available for public inspection. The bill’s provision is excessive and unnecessary.

Joining Knapp was Montgomery County Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit Manager Richard Hetherington. Representatives from Baltimore City, the Maryland Municipal League, and the Maryland Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs’ Associations also testified in opposition to the bill.

HB 1365 of 2018

HB 1365 was sponsored Delegate William Wivell and would have altered the operational hours of speed cameras in school zones, limited the cameras to the road adjacent to the school that has the most student traffic, required a real-time posting speed limit sign next to school zone signs, and limited speed camera vendors to 30% of the total revenues generated by the program.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to the bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 2. From MACo’s testimony:

HB 1365 would limit the use of a school zone speed camera from 1 hour before to 1 hour after instructional hours on days when school is in session. This Committee has considered and rejected limiting the hours of operation in such a manner. The current Monday through Friday, 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, operational time is consistent and easy-to-understand. The current rule incorporates the primary times when most school and after-school activities occur. HB 1365’s language would create a confusing patchwork, as different jurisdictions’ schools operate on different schedules and may be closed at different times for in-service or training days.

Current law provides for rational criteria as to where speed cameras can be located within a school zone: road segments where students are walking and bicycling to or from school or where they are being picked up or dropped off by school vehicles. However, this bill would narrowly and illogically restrict speed cameras to a highway that fronts the main entrance of the school or the entrance that experiences the greatest amount of student and bus traffic. The school itself may not be the location where speeding poses the greatest risk to students, which is why the current law covers areas where the students may be traveling to and from the school.

The bill also requires that if a local jurisdiction has a school zone speed camera program, each school zone sign must be next to a device that displays a real-time posting of the speed at which the driver is traveling. This is costly and unnecessary. Current law already requires specific signage that is compliant with State Highway Administration standards. Drivers are provided with reasonable notice to check their speed.

Joining Knapp was Montgomery County Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit Manager Richard Hetherington. Representatives from the Maryland Municipal League, and the Maryland Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs’ Associations also testified in opposition to the bill.

Useful Links

HB 1151 of 2018

MACo Testimony on HB 1151

Delegate Terri Hill Webpage

HB 1365 of 2018

MACo Testimony on HB 1365

Delegate William Wivell Webpage

General Assembly Passes MACo 9-1-1 Initiative

The General Assembly today took a major step towards advancing Next Generation 9-1-1 in Maryland. Senate Bill 285, sponsored by Senator Cheryl Kagan, passed the Senate unanimously on February 20. Its cross-file, House Bill 634, sponsored by Delegate Michael Jackson, passed the House of Delegates unanimously on March 15. SB 285/ HB 634 is a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative.

Maryland citizens demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows. Maryland must accelerate its move toward Next Generation 9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers.

The bill establishes the Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland. The Commission will look at the strategic aspects of Next Generation 9-1-1 implementation in coordination with the Emergency Numbers Systems Board’s (ENSB) existing efforts, particularly ensuring that those areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB are addressed. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of Next Generation 9-1-1 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Initiative: Next Gen 9-1-1 Commission Would Guide MD Forward

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Washington Post Op-Ed: Bring 9-1-1 Into the 21st Century

Conduit Street Podcast: 9-1-1 Takes Center Stage, Huge Drop of Bills Introduced, Sick Leave Law Looms, and Senate Changes Afoot

MACo testimony on Senate Bill 285

Pretrial Programs Avoid Unnecessary Incarceration

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified in support of House Bill 447, “Pretrial Services Program Grant Fund – Establishment”, before the House Judiciary Committee on March 13, 2018.

This bill would establish pretrial programs in counties that do not already have through a grant fund operated by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP). The grant is funded by proceeds from the state police sales of forfeited property, in addition to any governor appropriations, grants, or other sources. The bill would alleviate the concerns of starting a pretrial program, and maintains some flexibility for counties to tailor the program to their specific jurisdiction.

From MACo Testimony:

The bill mitigates cost concerns of starting a pretrial program, providing local governments a source for start-up grant funding. This funding supplements but does not supplant existing sources of funding, enabling counties to leverage other opportunities to help fund the launch and continued support of pretrial programs. While the bill has some evidence-based requirements, it keeps the eligibility requirements flexible enough for counties, who are best situated to determine the parameters of their pretrial programs based on the needs of their communities, to do so without mandating a “one size fits all” model.

The fund established under HB 447 to help expand the establishment of pretrial services in county jails will help advance the efforts to address the operational and societal costs of incarceration.”

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

First in the Fight: Counties Continue Battle Against the Opioid Epidemic

Counties led the fight to protect “first responders” administering emergency anti-overdose medications, and support this year’s proposed refinements that continue to fill in gaps.

The number of opioid overdoses has steadily skyrocketed in all corners of the state over the past five years, and State and local officials have sought any and all solutions to the myriad of problems that the opioid epidemic presents. With the implementation of the Overdose Response Program and expansion of access to naloxone, local officials have fully committed to reducing the number of overdoses and subsequent deaths.

Part of that commitment is to emergency medical service personnel and first responders who are on the frontlines of the battle against opioid overdoses. The care that they provide saves lives and is integral to reducing deaths and giving overdose victims a chance to seek treatment and overcome addiction.

MACo has strongly supported measures to provide immunity protections to those responding to individuals believed to be suffering from an opioid overdose. As part of MACo’s legislative initiatives in 2015, counties championed legislation that established initial protections for law enforcement and EMS personnel that have training and authorization to administer naloxone.

From MACo Testimony on House Bill 368 in 2015:

Law enforcement or emergency medical services are often the first to arrive on the scene of a drug overdose. Therefore, strides have been made to train and equip law enforcement and first responders with naloxone, a life-saving medication that reverses an opioid overdose by restoring the breathing of a person who has overdosed on heroin or prescription opioid such as oxycodone or morphine. HB 368 incorporates immunity protections for law enforcement and first responders trained and authorized to administer the medicine to an individual experiencing or believed to be experiencing a drug overdose.

There is, properly, a bipartisan statewide and nationwide effort to combat the scourge of heroin and reduce overdose deaths. As one part of this effort, appropriate civil immunity protections should be in place for law enforcement and first responders who are taking the initiative to be trained and certified to carry and administer life-saving treatment for an overdose.”

Since then, MACo has consistently supported common sense measures that ensure first responders are protected and are free to act without hesitation when using their best judgment to assess an overdose situation.

Those on the frontlines have encountered increasingly difficult and powerful opioid analogs that are in some cases causing an immediate overdose. Many overdoses caused by potent opioids, such as fentanyl, often require multiple doses of naloxone to reverse the effects and revive an individual. MACo supports bipartisan legislation this year sponsored by Delegate William Folden and Senator Kathy Klausmeier, House Bill 924 and Senate Bill 1222, to extend protections for first responders when giving multiple doses of naloxone is deemed necessary.

The fight against opioid overdoses is ever-changing, and relentlessly protecting those that save lives as this public health crisis evolves is essential.

For more on opioid-related legislation this year, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Useful Links and Resources:

Overdose Prevention in Maryland

2018 House Bill 924 and Senate Bill 1222

2018 House Bill 1764





Wicomico Appoints New Director of Corrections

Wicomico County has appointed Ruth Coulbourne to serve as the new Director of the County Department of Corrections.

The Office of County Executive Bob Culver announced that Ms. Coulbourne returned to Wicomico County after most recently serving as Warden of the Caroline County Detention Center. She previously worked at the Wicomico Detention Center from 1988-2008.

Ms. Coulbourne received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Salisbury University. She has served as President of Caroline County Local Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council and was instrumental in establishing the detention center as a Level 1 Substance Use Disorder Outpatient Treatment Center.

Visit Wicomico County to learn more.

Pretrial Cost Recovery is Critical to Provision of the Service

MACo submitted written testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 484, “Criminal Procedure – Pretrial Release – Fees”, to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on March 8, 2018. This would prohibit local jails from placing fees on any pretrial services. Many of these fees are charged simply to compensate for costs on providing these services and no profits are made off of the fees imposed. This prohibition would potentially undermine and imperil developing pretrial service programs.

From MACo Testimony:

This bill sets a broad prohibition on the ability of local jails to impose fees for pretrial services, which may result in unintended consequences affecting the ability to provide pretrial services.

Pretrial services help to mitigate the fiscal and human cost concerns with unnecessary incarceration. These programs support safety and efficiency by ensuring that the appropriate high-risk individuals are incarcerated while the appropriate low-risk individuals are released. Pretrial conditions for release may include reminder calls, electronic monitoring, and drug testing, as well as mental health or substance abuse treatment or counseling.

It is important to note that pretrial services do not always include fees, and when fees are assessed they frequently merely help to recoup some share of actual service costs. They are not imposed for profit. Additionally, there are often requirements for the fees to be waived if a defendant is indigent and cannot afford to pay.”

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Proper Alarm System Registration Helps Counties Marshal Resources

Senate Bill 927 would allow counties to impose penalties onto alarm system contractors that fail to register or have failed to renew an alarm system. As introduced, the bill contained a provision that forces counties to wait 10 days before penalizing a contractor, which could significantly affect a jurisdiction’s ability to combat false alarms and allocate police resources effectively.

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified in support of SB 927, “Alarm Systems – Registration and Renewal – Penalties”, before the Senate Education and Health and Environmental Affairs Committee with amendments worked out with the bills stakeholders that address the outlined concern.

From MACo Testimony:

Proper and prompt registration of an alarm system is an important tool for local governments to combat false alarms and the drain of valuable police time and resources that accompany them. Registration and renewals help ensure that local governments are able to quickly identify and contact alarm users prior to the dispatch of police resources.

Improper or missing registrations can result in confusion and dangerous delays of police response. For instance, Baltimore City and Baltimore County share 15 different zip codes. Without proper registration, calls may come into the wrong jurisdiction for police dispatch, delaying prompt police response.”

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Calvert Commissioners: School Safety Is Top Priority

The Calvert County Commissioners are considering a series of proposals in response to the mass shooting at a Florida high school triggered an outcry for accountability and reform. The Commissioners plan to introduce a motion to allocate $2 million in school safety upgrades in the upcoming fiscal 2019 budget. Commissioners’ Vice President Tom Hejl also called on the local board of education to contribute matching funds.

According to The Calvert Recorder,

“It sickens us to pause to acknowledge yet another senseless massacre,” Calvert County Commissioners’ President Evan Slaughenhoupt said Tuesday, in the wake of the mass school shooting on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and faculty where killed by a gunman.

Slaughenhoupt said if society truly wants to make a real difference, it should address what appears to be common themes surrounding the perpetrators. He then recommended everyone take the time to hear the many views and accept that overall societal and cultural improvements are needed for solutions more so than favorite single topics.

Slaughenhoupt said County Administrator Terry Shannon has already reached out to Calvert’s school system to obtain a list of security devices and changes needed at schools, as well as pricing information.

Slaughenhoupt said County Administrator Terry Shannon has reached out to the Calvert County Board of Education to obtain a list of security devices and changes needed at schools, as well as pricing information. The Commissioners previously allocated $5 million for school safety enhancements in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Because any appropriations would be used for a one-time purchase, the funds would not be calculated into the state-mandated maintenance of effort, nor would they be included in the education funding formula. Slaughenhoupt said the effort ultimately falls under the authority of the board of education, which direct responsibility for managing funds provided by the county.

Governor Hogan announced that the administration would commit an additional $125 million to accelerate and enhance safety improvements in schools, including secure doors and windows, metal detectors, security cameras, panic buttons, and other capital improvements, as well as an additional $50 million in operating funds each year for new school safety grants, which could be used for school resource officers, counselors, and additional safety technology.

The governor also announced that he will submit emergency legislation to create Maryland’s first statewide school safety standards, including required training and certification for all school resource officers and security staff. As an immediate step to activate the emergency legislation, the governor announced that he will submit a supplemental budget on Friday, March 2, that provides an additional $5 million for the Maryland Center for School Safety, an increase in funding of 600 percent.

Read the full article for more information.

Mandate Across Counties Establishes an Unpredictable Fiscal Impact

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified before the House Appropriations Committee on February 27, 2018 in support with amendments of House Bill 1515, Public Safety – Length of Service Award Programs – Statewide Service”.

This bill would remove a mandate and authorize counties to create additional terms for length of service awards programs (LOSAPs). Counties generally prefer the ability to opt-in to programs that give local jurisdictions the independence to adapt the terms of the program to that specific area.

However, this bill includes a requirement that would make it difficult for counties to estimate the fiscal impact. MACo submitted an amendment that would remove the requirement of counties to consider active time served by volunteers in other counties.

It is difficult to estimate how many individuals would become eligible through this provision because it is difficult to approximate how many would move into the county. Removing the requirement and making this consideration optional would satisfy the concerns put forward by counties.

From MACo Testimony:

The bill creates a level of fiscal uncertainty that counties cannot prepare for. Counties that offer these programs budget in advance for the awarding of benefits. Local governments must calculate annually how many individuals will be reaching eligibility in the next year and reserve funds to ensure they can sufficiently
cover the expenses of the benefits for the number of individuals anticipated to retire in a certain year. Counties would be unable to properly budget and reserve funds for volunteers that transfer into their counties.

Mandating the criteria for consideration also usurps local authority and potentially undermines the stability of the programs. LOSAPs operate under the discretion of the county offering the benefits. The local government decides whether the benefits would be offered and what the benefits would be. This bill undermines those local decisions and erodes the authority of counties to operate the program in the best interest of their volunteers. Mandating what were discretionary benefits could lead the counties to reduce the existing scope of benefits offered or dissolve the programs entirely.”

For more information on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.