PA Legislator Takes Regional HHS Liaison Role

 

Baker port.jpg
Courtesy of http://www.repbaker.com

It was expected that State Representative Matt Baker, R-Tioga, would not run for his 68th Legislative District re-election, but surprisingly he ended his term his term sooner than expected.

 

Baker resigned from serving the 68th District Monday, Feb. 19. to begin serving a larger population as the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs’ Regional Director. His new position reports to the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under the Trump Administration.

 

It is with great sadness that I am leaving the House of Representatives sooner than I would have desired; however, I have been given the opportunity to serve the people of the 68th District and beyond in an even greater capacity than my current position allows.

-Matt Baker, Regional Director, Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs

Baker’s new position represents Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. He is one of 10 Regional Directors for the HHS.

Matt is a great guy, we’re sorry to lose him here at the Capitol.

-Doug Hill, Exective Director, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

 

NACo Profiles Trump Administration Infrastructure Proposal

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Trump Administration has proposed a far-reaching plan to boost infrastructure across multiple modes and at every level of government.

To help county officials better understand the proposal, and its potential effects on local priorities, the National Association of Counties has developed its own analysis of the package. From the NACo description:

These principles, titled “Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America,” expand upon the “Infrastructure Initiative” white paper that accompanied President Trump’s FY 2018 budget back in February of 2017. The administration has stated that this document is open to revisions by Congress as they look to craft legislation based off the administration’s principles.

Read or download the NACo Analysis as a pdf document.
Read the NACo article accompanying its full analysis.

Your Taxes Can Wait–Non-Recurring Cost Entries Are Due March 31

A method in state law for identifying one-time school costs ensures that long-term funding mandates remain unaffected by short-term budget bumps. But approval for nonrecurring costs requires application to the State Department of Education, by a date certain.

Has Your County Submitted Its One-Time Costs to MSDE?

State “maintenance of effort” laws require a county to provide the same amount of education funding or more on a per-pupil basis each year. Maintenance of effort can discourage additional investment, especially during a faltering economic recovery, when future revenues are uncertain.

A legal provision called nonrecurring costs, however, allow county governments provide one-time school funding for one-time education costs without triggering perpetual mandates.

The hitch is: the deadline for submitting nonrecurring costs is nextmonth – before many counties even begin budget negotiations.

Perhaps as a result of this process, on average fewer than eight counties per year take advantage of this education budgeting tool.

If Not, Now Is The Time To Speak With Your School Board About Non-Recurring Costs

Not all education costs are annually recurring per-student costs. Conversations with your school board may help to identify certain costs as a result of short-term programmatic or facility needs.

One-time education expenses might include costs to:

  • build new computer laboratories;
  • make technology enhancements;
  • start-up new instructional programs; or
  • purchase books for a school library

The mechanism for appropriately excluding these one-time education costs from the maintenance of effort calculation requires special approval. A county must submit an application to exclude certain costs to the State Board for their approval before March 31 of each year.Screenshot 2016-01-18 17.22.16

Data from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) in 2014 revealed that on average fewer than eight counties per year take advantage of this budgeting tool. Learning this, MACo developed Non-Recurring Costs For County School Budgeting: A County Official’s Guide to the Process and Laws Behind the System.

Check Out MACo’s Non-Recurring Cost Guide For More Details

In the Guide linked below, MACo aims to improve the accessibility and use of the nonrecurring cost exclusion, covering:

  • How does a county apply to have nonrecurring costs approved?
  • What categories of costs can be considered as nonrecurring?
  • When does the school board need to agree with the request?
  • What requests have been approved and denied in recent years?

All the submission forms, statutes, regulations, and guideline documents relevant to this process are provided in appendices to the Guide.

For more information, read Non-Recurring Costs For County School Budgeting: A County Official’s Guide to the Process and Laws Behind the System.

Tax Incentives Should Maintain Local Autonomy

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick submitted written testimony in support of Senate Bill 310 before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on February 21, 2018 with an amendment to remove the subtraction modification portion of the bill and instead focus on providing the proposed state tax credit.

The bill offers tax incentives for certain cybersecurity companies including a subtraction modification for state and local income taxes of capital gains income related to the sale or other transfer of an investment in one of these companies. MACo supports the initiative to provide tax incentives to businesses, but counties have concerns about the carryover effects that subtraction modification legislation will have on county budgets.

From MACo Testimony:

MACo has no quarrel with the State offering tax incentives to businesses it chooses to incentivize, but is concerned with the carryover county fiscal effects of this and other subtraction modification pieces of legislation. Counties would prefer approaches that provide local autonomy to determine the best way to provide tax incentives, rather than those that mandate reductions in local revenue sources.”

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

Student Screenings Are an Unfunded Mandate

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified before the Senate Education and Health and Environmental Affairs Committee in opposition to Senate Bill 548 on February 21, 2018.

This bill would require local boards of education to conduct specific screenings to identify children with reading difficulties. Without any mechanism for state funding, this potentially costly mandate will be entirely placed on county boards of education. Several new standards and screenings would be established requiring training of employees that could take a substantial amount of time and resources.

From MACo Testimony:

Counties are concerned this legislation places a substantial administrative and cost burden onto local boards of education, whose operations are supported by county funding. Without state resources to offset these potentially large costs, the bill represents an unfunded mandate on local governments.

Local boards of education currently establish educational goals and objectives that conform with statewide educational objectives for subject areas including reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. SB 548 requires local boards of education to implement prescriptive literacy screening standards, develop individualized reading intervention programs, and comply with onerous reporting requirements.

Furthermore, the process of training employees to administer and interpret literacy screenings, providing questionnaires and progress reports to parents or guardians, and preparing reports for the Maryland State Department of Education will take a substantial amount of time, which could divert resources from other efforts.

This bill would place a costly mandate on county governments to carry out new state policy.”

For more information, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Amendments Ensure Fair Framework for Wireless Security System

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified in support with amendments of House Bill 645, “Business Regulation – Wireless Security Systems – Local Government Licenses and Permits”, before the House Economic Matters Committee on February 20, 2018.

As introduced, this bill would have prohibited local governments from requiring any permit or license to install wireless security systems that do not require a fire protection plan review. The bill sought to provide a framework for installation of wireless security systems, but the language was vague and did not include longstanding safeguards for security systems. MACo worked closely with stakeholders championing the bill to develop amendments to address lingering concerns and create a sensible framework for regulation.

From MACo Testimony:

HB 645 defines a wireless security system and prohibits local governments from requiring any license or permit to install, maintain, inspect, replace, or service a wireless security system that does not require a fire protection plan review. As introduced, the bill is vague on the specific license or permit prohibition. It does not account for longstanding, commonsense state and local public safety protections for security systems, which should apply regardless of whether the security system is wired or not. MACo believes an amended version of the bill could accomplish these objectives more clearly, and without upending important and appropriate local oversight.

The amendments sought by the counties would ensure that:
(1) Low voltage is explicitly defined as 50 volts or lower;
(2) Only electrical licenses or electrical permits are prohibited for wireless systems;
(3) Individuals who install wireless systems must comply with state laws governing security system technicians;
(4) Wireless security system operators and users comply with any local alarm business registration and alarm system registration laws; and
(5) Wireless systems must meet the appropriate building codes wherever installed.”

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

Tax Credits Give Consideration to Local Governments

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick submitted written testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 498, “Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Employee-Owned Businesses”, before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on February 21, 2018.

This legislation would provide an adjustment in the amount of income taxes paid on employee stock ownership plans or an employee ownership trust. MACo is concerned with the carryover effects that this modification and other would have, and counties prefer an approach that allows for local flexibility to consider tax incentives.

From MACo Testimony:

MACo is concerned with the carryover county fiscal effects of this and other subtraction modification pieces of legislation and would prefer approaches that provide local autonomy to determine the best way to provide tax incentives, rather than those that mandate reductions in local revenue sources.

MACo suggests that consideration be given instead to providing state tax credits, which do not mandate the depletion of resources from all counties for education, public safety, and needed community services.”

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

Bill Extends County Repayment Timeline to Local Reserve Accounts

House Bill 686 and Senate Bill 742 would implement a two-year delay of county repayments to the Local Income Tax Reserve Account that stems from the ruling in the Comptroller v. Wynne court case. This delay would allow counties to continue to properly plan and take into account the impact that these repayments will have on their budgets, and subsequently their ability to continue to provide comprehensive services to citizens.

Taxpayers have already received their refunds and interest stemming from the Wynne case, and these bills allow counties to smoothly address the repayment of funds into the tax reserve account for an extra two years. MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick testified in support of both HB 686 and SB 742 before the House Ways and Means and Senate Budget and Taxation Committees on February 21, 2018.

From MACo Testimony:

The amount of money owed by counties for the refunds paid pursuant to the Wynne case is extraordinarily high, at around $250 million. Counties appreciate efforts made by the General Assembly in the past to smooth out the severe, deleterious impact of the Wynne case decision over an extended time, and to delay repayments until the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019.

Now that this date is coming near, unfortunately, counties are grappling with significant uncertainty surrounding their income tax revenues, arising from federal tax reform and the State’s anticipated, yet presently unknown, responses to it. Counties would extremely appreciate this Committee and the General Assembly mitigating this uncertainty by delaying their obligation to refund the Local Income Tax Reserve Account at the same critical juncture.”

For more information on these bills and others, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Call If You Can, Text If You Must

Governor Larry Hogan today announced the Board of Public Works’ approval of a new Text to 9-1-1 technology for Maryland, helping to update 1960s-era emergency systems with life-saving technology. This new Internet-based infrastructure allows citizens to send a Short Message Service (SMS) text message to 9-1-1. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that more than 70 percent of all 9-1-1 calls now come from cellular users.

Text to 9-1-1 supports 160 characters per message, but no multimedia messaging, such as photos or video. The total cost of the 2-year contract is approximately $2.2 million.

Text to 9-1-1 is a component of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911), an initiative aimed at updating the 9-1-1 service infrastructure to improve public emergency communications services in a wireless mobile society. NG911 will improve and enhance the handling of 9-1-1 calls from cell phone users with technology that will increase response times, location accuracy, and allow text, photo, and video data to be shared by callers to First Responders on their way to the emergency.

Advancing NG911 is a priority for county governments. SB 285/HB 634, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative, establishes the Commission to Advance Next-Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland. The Commission will examine 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: Senate Passes MACo 9-1-1 Initiative

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Washington Post Op-Ed: Bring 911 Into the 21st Century

MACo Testimony on Senate Bill 285

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

Spring Into FY19 With LGIT Workshops

The Local Government Insurance Trust is hosting 5 Spring Workshops on what’s new and changing in Fiscal 2019. 

Participants can use this workshop to update themselves on FY19 changes, talk to LGIT staff about programs and services, and take an academy elective course.

The workshops cover changes to Scopes of Coverage, New Property and Liability Coverages, Credits, New Policy Year Rates and updated information on programs and services and LGIT Health. In addition, this year they will have presentations on the Public Information Act (PIA), an Academy for Excellence elective course

The workshops take place:

Agenda:

  • Welcoming Remarks – 9 – 9:10 a.m.
  • Rate Information & Credits for FY19 – 9:10 – 9:30 a.m.
  • Coverage Changes/Coverages Available/Renewal – 9:30 – 10:15 a.m.
  • LGIT’s New Member Portal Dashboard – 10:15 – 10:45 a.m.
  • BREAK
  • Academy Elective: Public Information Act (PIA) 11:00 a.m – 12:30 p.m.
  • LUNCH 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
    • Q&A with LGIT Health’s Mark Kunkle

 

View the Brochure

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