An article in Stateline, a publication of Pew Charitable Trusts, highlights the ways that truckers and hotel workers can help tip off police to possible cases of human trafficking. For more information see How Truckers, Hotel Workers Can Fight Sex Trafficking, from Pew Charitable Trusts.
This year’s General Assembly is considering legislation to require the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to expand its curriculum to include special training on the criminal laws concerning human trafficking, including services and support available to victims and the rights and appropriate treatment of victims. SB 220 has passed the Senate unanimously and is now in the House of Delegates.
According to analysis by the Department of Legislative Services,
The various local government agencies that conduct police entrance-level training and in-service training may need to modify existing training programs to meet the bill’s requirements. Some local governments can modify their training programs with existing resources, while others may incur some additional minimal costs.
Maryland has recorded its first cold weather-related death of the winter season, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH).
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner says the victim, an adult female, died from hypothermia last week in Baltimore City. No additional details will be released, to protect health privacy.
“Temperatures can drop quickly across the state, and it’s critical to prepare before a system of winter weather hits,” says DHMH Secretary Dennis R. Schrader. “Stock your family’s emergency kit for home and for your car. Be sure to include extra blankets, food, water and a first aid kit.”
In the 2015-2016 winter season, 20 hypothermia-related deaths were reported in Maryland.
Maryland residents in need of housing or energy assistance to keep warm this winter should call 2-1-1 to see if there are resources available to help. For more information on emergency preparedness, visit http://preparedness.dhmh.maryland.gov.
At this year’s MACo Winter Conference, attendees learned how local jurisdictions are utilizing year-round data collection and assessments to strengthen partnerships and collaborate on best practices in order to provide safety and warmth to the homeless throughout the year, especially during cold weather months. Click here to read a summary of MACo’s “Winter is Coming: Fortify Your Shelters for Frosty Weather” workshop, which was held on December 8, 2016.
MACo’s Winter Conference – “An Ounce of Prevention” – on December 7-9, 2016, focused on how counties can prepare to best serve and protect their residents across many different areas of county service. Sessions covered public health, maintaining infrastructure, and strategies to be sure counties are ready for possible emergency scenarios, developing trends, and long-term changes. View the full conference program.
498 attendees and 52 exhibiting companies participated, engaging in educational sessions, briefings, and forums. Read more blog coverage about this event.
Save the date for MACo’s next Winter Conference: December 6-8, 2017, at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, MD.
Every year’s winter conference lands at just the right time to hear of plans ahead for the legislative session. As usual, a large crowd gathered to hear four prolific leaders offer their views for the 2017 session. Here are a few key items that were raised that seem to set the tone for counties and other Conduit Street readers.
#1 – Budget Uncertainty: Well, That Escalated Quickly
Both Senate President Miller and House Speaker Busch dwelt on economic issues, noting the recent write-down in state revenues and speculating on the effects for the coming year’s budget. President Miller spoke of making “real cuts to programs,” but ruled out tax increases as a component of the solution for the year ahead. Without much specificity, it seems clear that the last two years’ relative fiscal comfort (and even a year without the need for a reconciliation bill!) have given way to a tougher task for FY 2018. The on-the-margin budget decisions are going to gather more attention in the 2017 session than the first two years of this Administration’s tenure.
Expect attention on the state’s revenue forecasting methods, a potentially tougher road for tax reduction proposals, and more general engagement from service recipients.
#2 – Eyes On Washington
Maryland has multiple reasons to be focused on Washington DC for policy reasons. That strong connection – and currently its own uncertainty – was evident during the panel discussions as well.
Maryland has a heavy reliance on the federal workforce, as the state houses multiple major federal agencies, and hosts thousands of other federal employees as state residents. So, any changes in federal employment policies or overall workforce will have an outsized effect on the local economy. As America awaits clarity on the incoming federal Administration’s priorities – if “drain the swamp” translates to a meaningful reduction in federal workforce – expect the Maryland economy to be among the first ripple effects.
The Chesapeake Bay is also under multiple federal mandates for cleanup, as a declared “impaired waterway.” The future federal role in enforcement and oversight of Watershed Implementation Plans is another unknown. An earlier roundtable discussion at the conference focused on this in detail — but the fiscal and policy effects on state and county governments are substantial. Counties are already underway with a variety of cleanup efforts, and what trajectory makes sense for the years ahead is not yet clear.
#3 – Pieces of the Governor’s Agenda Are Coming Into View, And It May Indeed Be “Robust”
Governor Hogan’s Special Adviser Keiffer Mitchell commented on the Governor’s pending package of legislative proposals, and even the broad outlines suggest this will be the Administration’s most aggressive year before the legislature. The Governor has announced plans to introduce “family leave” legislation for private employers, which will likely help shape a high-profile debate in the year ahead. Mr. Mitchell also spoke of the transportation “scorecard” legislation from 2016, and reiterated the Governor’s intent to pursue its repeal (as the Governor himself had indicated at the MACo Summer Conference).
The Governor also plans to pursue incentives for manufacturing employers in the state, with “a focus on areas that have not been able to grow their jobs as much,” according to Mr. Mitchell. This proposal is likely to include multi-year tax incentives in economically distressed areas. Coupled with the Governor’s very visible outreach to the incoming leadership in the City of Baltimore, a focus on redevelopment and longtime “One Maryland” may be its own 2017 motif.
#4 – Nothing About Medical Marijuana Is Going To Be Mellow
While the state licensing process is not a central issue for county government, the panelists at the forecast session all recognized its gravity and spoke to it. Couple that with a standing-room-only audience at a workshop on medical cannabis earlier during the three-day conference — it’s clear that the topic remains very lively.
The takeaway? This is far from over. The licensee system, and resulting controversy, will surely trigger legislative action. And the eventual implementation of the full spectrum of growers, manufacturers, retailers and the associated questions of zoning, public safety, and security will keep this topic bubbling for the foreseeable future.
The membership of the Maryland Association of Counties voted into office its new slate of Officers and Directors on December 8, 2016. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz accepted the office of President:
I am both proud and humbled to become President of MACo, where we will articulate the budgetary, education, land use and transportation needs of each county.
Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford installed MACo’s Officers and Board as part of the Inaugural Ceremony and Awards Banquet at the Winter Conference in Cambridge, MD, later that same evening. More than 300 people were present at the Banquet to celebrate the Association’s award winners and welcome the newly installed Board.
President Kamenetz noted as part of his acceptance remarks:
As we all know, this past election season has opened up divisions among a lot of people in political life. It has gotten easy to focus on our differences.
Sure, there are differences. But in this room… in this organization… we obviously have a long list of areas where we need one another, and want to work together.
Whether you’re a rural County Commissioner, or an urban County Council Member, whether this is your fourth term or your first week – we are all in this together.
MACo brings all that together. Look at the issues we are talking about at this conference – it’s all right there. Infrastructure. Public Health. The Environment. Our Workforce. Responsible Budgeting.
That’s the bread and butter of local government. And very little of that has an R or D label on it.
MACo’s Board of Directors comprises 16 elected officials, representing the different regions and constituencies of Maryland’s 23 county jurisdictions and Baltimore City. The Board is elected by the membership to serve a one-year term and is installed as part of the Association’s Winter Conference.
Attendees to the MACo Winter Conference session “Winter is Coming: Fortify Your Shelters for Frosty Weather” learned how local jurisdictions are utilizing year-round data collection and assessments to strengthen partnerships and collaborate on best practices to provide safety and warmth to the homeless. While these activities occur throughout the year, they are especially critical during cold weather months.
Heather Sheridan, the Director of Homeless Services for the Department of Human Resources started off the panel by providing data and background information from the 2016 Annual Report on Homelessness and discussing the work of the Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Next, Jodie Ostoich, Executive Director for Reach of Washington County, discussed faith based, low barrier sheltering. She discussed the safety net services such as cold weather sheltering, homeless services, and rapid rehousing, as well as the self sufficiency services such as case management, financial education, and open table, that her organization provides.
Carroll County Director of Citizen Services, Christine C. Kay, and Community Preparedness Coordinator for MEMA, Jessica Nusbaum jointly presented on a pilot emergency preparedness program for the homeless population in Carroll County. They discussed the collaborative effort at work to implement plans for sheltering, communication, transportation, education, and emergency supply kits. The overall goal is to create a toolbox other jurisdictions can tweak and replicate.
The session was moderated by Carroll County Commissioner Stephen A. Wantz and held from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm on December 8.
The MACo Winter Conference was held December 7-9, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “An Ounce of Prevention.”
Public health has the power to prevent disease, prolong life, and promote the wellbeing of all residents. Public health officials serve on the frontline of protecting communities against the perils of epidemic threats, infectious diseases, addiction, mental illness, poverty, and violence.
At the MACo Winter Conference general session “The Power and Perils of Public Health” presenters discussed the broad scope of health and human services related issues state and local health officials are grappling with. Including the importance of delivering a network of high quality services and improving the overall well-being of our communities.
Dr. Howard Haft, Deputy Secretary of Public Health at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and Dr. Gregory Branch, Baltimore County Health Officer, presented on big picture health related issues the state and counties are dealing with.
Dr. Haft highlighted the strategic plan for the department and focused the remainder of his presentation on health equity issues and the transformation of health care delivery. He stressed the need to look past traditional borders and see how social determinants of health, such as adequate nutrition to income, housing and education, significantly impact our overall well-being. Dr. Haft also talked about the close relationship between DHMH and the local health departments who are the boots on the ground.
“Public health is on the job”. Dr. Branch launched his presentation with a discussion of how public health touches a nearly all facets of our daily lives from clean drinking water to emergency preparedness. In discussing specific challenges faced in Baltimore County, Dr. Branch focused opioid overdose deaths and a surge in STIs specifically syphilis. Citing successes he shared about the reduction in tobacco sales to minors and an increase in services for owned and unowned animals.
Chair of the Maryland Association of Youth Service Bureaus, Liz Park, presented on the mental and preventative health challenges facing at risk youths and their families, as well as how Youth Service Bureaus help provide services and bridge gaps in the delivery of that care. Ms. Park also discussed the importance of state and local partnerships to address the broad range of prevention and early intervention needs.
Last but not least, J.B. Moore, a member of NAMI Maryland’s Board of Directors, called attention to the specials needs of veterans through the moving story of the marine Clay Hunt who lost his life to suicide after a decorated military career. Ms. Moore stressed the importance of suicide prevention and quality mental health care; noting the gaps in services and ways local governments can help.
The session was moderated by Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton who shared his own insights from his position as the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee which hears much of the health related legislation that is introduced. The session was held on Thursday, December 8.
The MACo Winter Conference was held December 7-9, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort in Cambridge, Maryland. This year’s conference theme was “An Ounce of Prevention”.
The 2016 MACo Winter Conference concluded on December 9 with the well-attended panel, Session 2017: Path to Success. The panel presented an overview of each of MACo’s four 2017 Legislative Initiatives and made one “ask” of the attendees to help move each initiative forward. Each initiative discussion included the perspective of a MACo staffer and a local government official.
Re-invest in Local Roads, Bridges, and Infrastructure
Addressing the 90% cut to local highway user revenues, Washington County Commissioner and MACo Past President John Barr stressed that we “need a permanent fix now” to road and infrastructure funding, noting that as county roads degrade, it negatively affects drivers, first responders, and construction support industries. MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick provided additional background on MACo’s bill.
THE ASK: Tweet using #LIFT4MD on December 13 and like the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/LIFT4MD. Request funding for local roads and infrastructure through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Strong and Smart State Funding for School Construction
Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner provided an overview of the numerous education workgroups and commissions currently meeting and highlighted MACo’s key concerns: (1) maintain robust state funding levels; (2) streamline processes; (3) develop incentives for effective spending; (4) reduce regulatory cost drivers; and (5) expand local financing options. MACo Research Director Robin Clark Eilenberg made the ask:
The ASK: This February send a letter to the Senate and House Budget Committee Chairs describing the importance of school construction funding to your county.
Energy Facility Siting
Kent County Commissioner William Pickrum discussed the zoning preemption challenges facing counties over the siting of utility scale energy projects on farmland and open space. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp provided some additional background on MACo’s proposed legislation to create an “enhanced” zoning process that allows counties to zone for specific energy technologies that balances the need to protect farmland, historically/culturally important areas, and ecologically sensitive areas against the acknowledged needs of the energy industry.
The ASK: When MACo prompts, reach out to your Delegates to support MACo’s bill.
Balancing Release of Police Body Camera Video
Village of Chevy Chase Police Department Chief John Fitzgerald, speaking on behalf of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, called MACo’s approach to handling police body camera video under the Maryland Public Information Act “one of the most thoughtful in the nation.” MACo Associate Director Natasha Mehu described how MACo’s bill provides for law enforcement accountability, victim privacy, and reduced local government staff time and costs.
The ASK: When MACo prompts, contact all Senators asking them to co-sponsor the Senate version of the bill.
At the Chesapeake Bay Program Outreach: Engaging Local Leaders on the Chesapeake Bay Agreement panel at the 2016 MACo Winter Conference on December 8, county officials had the chance to offer their direct input to Bay Program representatives on how to improve local leadership on watershed restoration goals. The purpose of the session was to help the Bay Program get a better understanding of local needs and concerns.
Attendees worked through a set of 11 prepared questions that covered the: (1) importance of environmental restoration and protection; (2) information needed to take action in your jurisdiction; (3) best sources and methods of delivery of information; and (4) additional information and educational programs needed.
County feedback included the importance of direct and ongoing communication with the counties, linking restoration efforts to local water quality in areas not directly adjacent to the Bay, peer to peer learning opportunities, field trip opportunities showing both problems and solutions, and avoiding “one size fits all” approaches.
Attendees to the A Leg to Stand On – Who Can Challenge Local Zoning? panel at the 2016 MACo Winter Conference on December 8 heard about proposed legislation that would alter who has standing to challenge comprehensive rezonings. The legislation was introduced during the 2016 Session as HB 243/SB 166 and will likely return in an amended form for the 2017 Session. The legislation was in response to a recent Maryland Court of Appeals holding (Anne Arundel County v. Bell). During the 2016 Session, MACo opposed the legislation and supported the Bell decision.
Anne Arundel County Supervising County Attorney Gregory Swain outlined the history of the Bell case and the associated Harwood case. Swain argued in support of the Court’s ruling that taxpayer standing was the appropriate standard for comprehensive rezoning while property owner standing was the appropriate standard for piecemeal zoning. (Plaintiffs and the legislation would have applied the property owner standard to comprehensive rezoning).
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Maryland Staff Attorney Elaine Lutz opposed the Bell decision and told a hypothetical story about someone buying a dream home in area zoned residential area but a subsequent comprehensive rezoning allows someone to put a used car lot next door. Lutz argued that the homeowner would not be able to show taxpayer standing and thus not be able to challenge the decision. Lutz also argued that the standing tests are not well defined and that the legislation would create a reliable and consistent review process.
1000 Friends of Maryland Local Policy Director Kimberly Golden Brandt described how zoning must be consistent with a local government’s comprehensive plan. Golden Brandt argued that in the Bell case, the Anne Arundel County rezoning decisions were not consistent with the comprehensive plan and that all parties spent 4 years arguing over standing without getting to the actual merits of the case. Golden Brandt stated that the legislation would not change the deference accorded to local government decisions, but would allow people “to have their day in court.”
NAIOP Maryland Vice President for Policy and Government Relations Tom Ballentine concluded the panel, arguing that the bill language threatened the certainty of the existing process from a commercial development perspective. Ballentine raised concerns about the legislation’s scope , noting that even if you could sever out challenged parcels in a comprehensive rezoning, it could still jeopardize an entire development plan. As an example, Ballentine illustrated what could happen if just the density receiving areas or affordable housing components of the Bethesda Plan were allowed to be challenged through property owner standing. Ballentine also argued that the Bell court clearly defined the standing tests and that the homeowner in Lutz’s example could likely show taxpayer standing.
Maryland Delegate Stephen Lafferty moderated the panel.