Calvert to Hire Paid EMS — A First for the County

Calvert County will go from a 100% volunteer EMS and first responder corp to phasing in some paid personnel. 

The Calvert County Board of Commissioners has unanimously voted to phase in paid EMS personnel.

The decision was made in order to help address the challenges of a growing number of emergency calls, timely response to all parts of the county, and difficulties recruiting and retaining volunteer fire, rescue and emergency medical services teams. The county has historically relied on a 100% volunteer corp.

The Calvert Recorder reports:

To supplement existing volunteer ALS staff, the committee recommended the future placement of a paramedic ambulance staffed with a paramedic and emergency medical technician at fire departments in Solomons, Prince Frederick and North Beach, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition, the committee recommended the placement of one ALS chase car, staffed with an EMS supervisor lieutenant and EMT, running at large around the clock daily.

The future supplemental staffing is estimated at $3.3 million annually. The cost for the fiscal 2019 hiring of a career EMS supervisor is anticipated somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000.

The move to phase in paid personnel does not come at the expense of the long-standing volunteer corp that county has historically relied on. To help recruit and retain volunteers the committee recommended offering targeted property tax, homebuying assistance, and day care incentives, changing eligibility requirements for tuition assistance programs, and implementing a billing program that would help capture insurance revenue.

For more information read the full article in The Calvert Recorder

 

Hogan Proposes Suit Against Drug Manufacturers, Jail into Treatment Center

As part of the continued effort to tackle the opioid crisis the Hogan Administration has announced a new package of initiatives.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun the package included possibly turning the former Baltimore City jail into a treatment center:

The administration said it would order a feasibility study on repurposing the Civil War-era jail, which Hogan closed in 2015 because of its decrepit condition. The study would be conducted by a consultant chosen by three state agencies.

The feasibility study will help determine, among other things, the level of security needed for this type of therapeutic facility and recommended programming for mental health, substance abuse and medical treatment, Chasse said.

Additionally, The Washington Post reports the governor would also like for the Attorney General to pursue litigation against drug manufacturers. However the characterization and funding for that directive was challenged by the AG:

The governor’s announcement directed Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) to consider lawsuits against opioid companies, without naming any, and to direct any settlement proceeds generated by those suits to addiction prevention and treatment programs.

But Frosh said his office is already involved in a 41-state investigation into opioid companies and doesn’t need the governor’s permission to sue them.

To learn more:

Hogan opioid plan would possibly turn closed Baltimore jail into a treatment center (The Baltimore Sun)

Hogan wants Md. to sue opioid manufacturers, turn jail into treatment center (The Washington Post)

Maryland FiRST Receives Funding in Governor’s Proposed Budget

The Governor’s FY 2019 Capital Budget includes $32,240,000 for the public safety communications system.

As described in Governor Hogan’s 2019 Capital Budget, his allocation of funds to the Department of Information Technology include $10,500,000 to continue construction of a statewide unified public safety radio communications system, and $21,740,000 to complete construction of a statewide unified public radio system.

 

Screenshot 2018-01-21 21.16.26.png
MD FiRST coverage map courtesy of the Department of Information Technology.

MACo has advocated for continued funding for the MD FiRST program in the past. The system is critical for several Maryland counties that use it on a daily basis as their primary public safety radio network. It will also be essential for all counties statewide to communicate with each other, the state, and regional and federal partners during response to regional emergencies.

More information about MD FiRST

Prior coverage: MACo Asks Governor To Fully Fund Lingering Budget Items (2016)

The Capital Budget Process

The General Assembly may add or subtract funding from the capital budget. The General Assembly may not take final action on the capital budget until they have passed the operating budget. Following the General Assembly’s passage of the capital budget, the capital budget bill must be signed by the Governor and is subject to the Governor’s line-item veto power.

As described by the Department of Legislative Services:

Unlike the operating budget, in acting on the capital budget bill, the legislature
may amend the budget to add and delete projects from the capital bond program. The legislature may also increase project funding and add contingent, conditional, or restrictive language to the bill regarding how the funds may be applied.

For more information, see Maryland’s Budget Process from the Department of Legislative Services and the FY 2019 Governor’s Budget.

Here is a direct link to the Governor’s Proposed 2019 Capital Budget.

 

 

 

 

 

Mayor Pugh Appoints New Police Chief

Citing the need to reduce violence and restore citizen confidence, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh on Friday announced she is replacing Commissioner Kevin Davis as head of the City’s police force.

Deputy Commissioner Darryl D. DeSousa, the top commander in the police department’s patrol bureau, will take Davis’ place, effectively immediately.

According to a statement from Mayor Pugh:

“The fact is, we are not achieving the pace of progress that our residents have every right to expect in the weeks since we ended what was nearly a record year for homicides in the City of Baltimore. As such, I have concluded that a change in leadership is needed at police headquarters.

I firmly believe that Commissioner-Designate DeSousa has the ideas, approach and demonstrated track record that will enable him to lead an accelerated effort to get criminals off our streets, reduce violence and restore safety – and peace of mind – throughout our neighborhoods.

As one who has come up through the ranks, Commissioner-Designate DeSousa is widely respected by his fellow officers. Moreover, I have come to know him well during this past year given his leadership role in implementing the Violence Reduction Initiative and through our numerous other interactions.

I am grateful to Commissioner Davis for all that he has done to implement the initiatives underway to address violent crime at it root causes. I speak for the entire community in expressing our admiration and gratitude for his service to Baltimore and for his leadership of the women and men who put their lives on the line to serve and protect our citizens.”

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Hawaii’s False Missile Alert: Lessons Learned (Part 1 of 2)

Image result for Hawaii images map

Washington Post article (2018-01-13) reported that the state of Hawaii issued an emergency alert on January 13, 2018, that warned of an incoming ballistic missile attack. The alert turned out to be a false alarm but briefly caused a public panic until the alert was retracted 38 minutes after it was sent. While it was ultimately determined that the alert was caused by human error and failures in Hawaii’s emergency alert procedures, initial speculation raised the possibility that Hawaii’s emergency alert contact lists had been hacked or compromised.

MACo will examine the Hawaii alert situation and discuss how it is relevant to both Maryland and its counties in a two part blog article. Part 1 (this part) will discuss what happened and highlight the importance of protecting the contact information of residents. Part 2 will explore the shortcomings in Hawaii’s emergency alert system and provide lessons learned for Maryland’s local governments.

WHAT HAPPENED

The article noted that at approximately 8:07 am, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent the following cellphone alert: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The alert appeared to have been accidentally activated by an Agency employee during a shift change. While the Agency tweeted that there was no actual missile threat at 8:20 am, a second text alert retracting the previous alert was not sent until 8:45 am. The article stated that the message caused a brief panic in some residents and tourists while others appeared to have no idea what was happening. From the article:

“I literally sent out ‘I love you’ texts to as many family members as I could. It was all kind of surreal at that point,” [Honolulu resident Noah] Tom, 48, told The Washington Post. He made the difficult decision of turning the car toward home, where his two youngest children were. “I figured it was the largest grouping of my family.” …

 

Back on shore, there was no panic, just vacationers and others wondering why there was no immediate coverage on restaurant televisions or local radio.

THE AFTERMATH
Unsurprisingly the false alarm resulted in calls for a thorough investigation from both state and local Hawaii officials. The article indicated that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also plans to conduct an investigation. Both the Agency and other emergency management agencies throughout the United States plan on reviewing their alert procedures and if necessary making changes to avoid a similar situation. Part 2 of this series will examine the procedural and communication lessons the Hawaii incident poses to county emergency management agencies.
PROTECTING EMERGENCY ALERT CONTACT INFORMATION
While the cause in this particular incident was human error, it is also critical for states and local governments to protect their emergency contact information. As part of their 2018 legislative initiatives, both MACo and the Maryland Municipal League are introducing legislation to prohibit the release of an individual’s personal contact information (street address, email address, or telephone number) under the Maryland Public Information Act where that information was solely provided or gathered to create an alert, notice, or news distribution list. This prevents residents from being spammed with unwanted messages,  or worse, false alerts that are made to look like official notices. MACo believes this makes sense from both a security and privacy perspective.

 

Briefing Highlights Progress Since Court’s Bail Rule Reform

The Maryland Judiciary briefed general assembly members on the status of implementation of the new pretrial release rules.

Some key findings highlighted in an article in The Baltimore Sun include:

  • 53% of defendants are released from custody by a district court commissioner — up from 44%
  • 20% of defendants are being held without bail by a district court commissioner — up from 7.5%

The Sun article elaborates on explanations from the judiciary panelists and others that testified at the briefing as to the overall success of the rule change and what is driving some of these trends:

Paul B. DeWolfe, the state’s public defender, called the statistics “positive results” and proof that “the rule is doing what it set out to do.” Bail is intended to ensure defendants appear in court, not to be used as a tool to hold them in jail.

Judges testified that the increase in defendants held without bail could be attributed to the fact that judges were no longer setting astronomically high bail to keep defendants deemed to be at high risk of committing another crime or threatening communities off the street. Instead they are just simply holding those individuals without bail.

The hearing stemmed from a 2017 change to the state’s court rules governing the use of bail and pretrial release conditions. The rule change was intended to prevent defendants from being held in jail pretrial simply because they cannot afford bail.

Visit The Baltimore Sun for more information.

Related prior coverage from Conduit Street:

Court of Appeals Unanimously Approves Changes to Bail Rules

Towson Lawmakers’ 2018 Session Package: Sex Offenders, Septics, Predatory Loans & Business Taxes

Baltimore Sun article (2018-01-03) reported on the 2018 legislative initiatives for state legislators who represent the Towson area in Baltimore County. Highlights include legislation on sexual offenders, use of best available technology for nitrogen removal (BAT) septic systems, curtailing predatory loans, and lowering business taxes.

Senator Jim Brochin

[photo, James Brochin, Maryland State Senator]
Source: Maryland Manual
The article noted that Brochin is not running for Senate again and instead run for Baltimore County Executive.

Sexual Predators – Admissibility of Prior Acts: The article stated that Brochin’s top priority will be the Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act. The bill would allow evidence of prior sexual misconduct to be admitted as evidence in cases showing a pattern of sexual assault or child molestation. Previous versions of the bill have passed the Senate three times but have never passed in the House.

“There have been horror stories of the same perpetrators getting away with stuff like this for years, and I think it’s time to balance the scales of justice,” Brochin said. “We have put safeguards in the legislation to protect the accused, and we think we can get it through the Senate again, but the tricky part will be getting it past the House.”

Juvenile Sentencing: Brochin will also be sponsoring legislation that allows a juvenile convicted of a crime other than murder or rape the option of entering into a diversionary program rather than serving a sentence. The program would provide classes, group counseling, and psychiatric services.
Pharmaceutical Company Lawsuits: Brochin will also support legislation allowing Maryland to sue pharmaceutical companies for price gouging.

Delegate Steve Lafferty

[photo, Stephen W. Lafferty, Maryland State Delegate]
Source: Maryland Manual
Use of BAT Septic Systems: The article indicated that Lafferty would introducing legislation concerning the use of BAT septic systems. One potential proposal would require BAT septics for new construction within 1,000 feet of an impaired stream or waterway. Current law requires BAT septics within the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Areas.

Funding for Community Development Groups (CDCs): Lafferty is also working on creating a funding mechanism for CDCs for housing and park revitalization.

 

“The idea is to set up a fund in a state agency that would make funds available to community development groups,” he said. “Money would not go to individuals but to established organizations.” The money could be used for such community-based efforts as housing repair and renovation, improving parks, or providing job training or child care.

Delegate Susan Aumann

[photo, Susan L. M. Aumann, Maryland State Delegate]
Source: Maryland Manual
The article noted that Aumann will not be running for re-election.

Predatory Lending Practices: Aumann plans on introducing legislation to lower the maximum interest rate an in-state institution may charge on a loan from 34 percent to 28 percent.

The Republican lawmaker, who is a member of the Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission, said she will work with the attorney general to rein in out-of-state lenders’ rates as well, which, she said, can sometimes reach triple figures.

“People need to know what they’re getting into,” she said, adding that some lenders “take rates to astronomical levels.”

Delegate Chris West

[photo, Christopher R. West, Maryland State Delegate]
Source: Maryland Manual
The article stated that West is running for Brochin’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat.

Juvenile Sentencing: West will be cross-filing the same bill that is being introduced by Brochin.

Homeowner Association Covenants: West also plans to introduce legislation that would eliminate racially exclusive covenants for homeowner associations. This would require existing covenants to be amended.

Lower Corporate Taxes: West will have legislation incrementally lowering the corporate tax rate from 8.25 percent to 6 percent over 9 years.

“I’m trying to close the gap between Virginia and Maryland,” said West, who lives in Towson. “Too many times corporations moving into the area relocate to Virginia because it has a lower corporate rate. We want to take that part out of the decision-making process so that Maryland will be on an equal footing with Virginia.”

Physician Certification: Finally, West will be introducing a bill prohibiting hospitals from denying privileges to physicians that are not certified by a national organization so long as they were certified by the Maryland Medical Association

Useful Links

Senator Jim Brochin Webpage

Delgate Steve Lafferty Webpage

Delegate Susan Aumann Webpage

Delegate Chris West Webpage

Congressmen Speak on Cyber, Critical Infrastructure, and Counties

Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland addresses the National Association of Counties State Association Directors on the importance of local government and the threat of cyber attacks on the energy grid.

At the National Association of Counties annual meeting of state county association executives, NACo hosted Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland and Congressman John Carter of Texas, two former county officials who are currently co-sponsoring a bill that would examine the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of energy infrastructure.

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NACo Executive Director Matt Chase speaks with Congressman Carter of Texas and Congressman Ruppersberger of Maryland.

The Congressmen spoke about their working relationship as an example of bi-partisanship and the strong ties they keep to local officials in their home districts.

Speaking about Maryland, Congressman Ruppersberger shared how his district, the 2nd Congressional District in Maryland is home to the National Security Agency and Fort Meade.

He spoke about what keeps him up at night, topics that include the threat of nuclear attack, and the use of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. He described how cyber attacks on American businesses weaken the national economy by billions of dollars a year, and how a cyber attack on the energy grid could be used against the U.S.

Noting his regular communication with local officials, and referencing his service as Baltimore County Executive and former President of MACo, Ruppersberger acknowledged that local government encompasses the concerns of constituents  whose priorities are their homes, their school, and their safety.

For more information, see Ruppersberger Introduces House Companion to Senate Energy Grid Security Measure.

Baltimore County to Sue Opioid Companies and Distributors

Baltimore County has joined the ranks of counties within the state and nationwide suing pharmaceutical drug manufacturers and distributors for their role contributing to the nation’s opioid crisis. The suit, filed in federal court, seeks monetary damages.

A county news release states:

“The opioid crisis has led to a significant increase of overdoses from heroin and prescription drug abuse,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “We believe that the pharmaceutical industry pressured and cajoled physicians into prescribing opioids for chronic pain, and vastly misrepresented the risk of addiction. The desire to increase profits on the part of drug companies is a leading cause of our nation’s health crisis, and we must fight back.”

In the first six months of 2017, Baltimore County had 187 substance-related deaths. The County has incurred expenses relating to first-responder intervention, drug and alcohol counseling programs, employee prescription expense, and loss of economic revenue to the County, among other costs.

For more information:

Baltimore County to Sue Pharmaceutical Companies and Distributors over Opioid Distribution (Baltimore County news release)

“Fighting the Opioid Epidemic” Event in Annapolis, January 23

 County officials are invited to attend an event focused on finding solutions to the opioid crisis in Annapolis on January 23rd. 

Speaker Mike Busch and Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh are co-hosting an event entitled, “Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: Lifesaving Solutions for Our Community,” and encourage all county officials to attend.

Attendees will hear from experts and have open discussions about effective policies and future actions for ending the epidemic. The event will be held Tuesday, January 23, 2018 from 2 pm – 4 pm in the Baltimore City Delegation Room of the Lowe House Office Building.

No registration is required. County officials are invited to stop by the MACo offices during your visit to Annapolis for the event.