Attorney Fee Legislation Stalled in Senate – Vote Set for Monday

Throughout this week, SB 705 has been stalled on the Senate floor, with a variety of questions and objections delaying its passage. MACo, MML, and individual local governments have raised objections to the costly and unfair nature of the pending bill. On Thursday, the bill — currently on “third reader” and awaiting its final Senate up-or-down vote – was delayed until Monday for its further consideration.

Proponents argue that the bill seeks to expand access to the judicial system for multiple claims, but governmental attorneys have illustrated many scenarios where the bill would simply add costs to existing litigation, reduce the likelihood of reasonable early settlements, and trigger more lawsuits in search of easy payouts. Counties have pointed out numerous ways that SB 705 fails to create a true parallel with federal law – one of the stated goals of the bill’s proponents. Rather, the bill creates an easier avenue to attorney fee recovery, without other balancing elements present in federal litigation.

The effort on the Senate floor is atypical, as a very small share of items that pass from Committee become similarly entangled.

Read MACo’s testimony on SB 705.

For a discussion of the bill’s policy and fiscal effects, read the DLS fiscal note.

 

MACo Backs Compromise on Transportation Scorecard

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified in favor of the amended Administration bill (SB 307) which would repeal the controversial transportation scorecard law passed last year. This bill passed unanimously out of the Senate and was heard by the House Appropriations and Environment and Transportation committees on March 23.

Governor Hogan’s Administration introduced and supported the bill.

MACo’s testimony states,

This amended bill substantially reframes the 2016 legislation creating a “scorecard” for major transportation projects. The amended bill clarifies that the use of scoring from the statutory system will be purely advisory for a two-year period, while a designated work group convenes to consider refinements to its elements and effects. By eliminating the uncertainty regarding the potential immediate effect on project funding, SB 307 addresses the chief county concerns with the current law. Counties welcome an opportunity to help inform the ongoing work group efforts proposed in the amended bill.

Useful Links

Senate Bill 307

MACo’s testimony

Transportation Scorecard Compromise Passes Senate Unanimously

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Register to Attend CEIWC’s 2017 Free Workers’ Comp Seminars

Register to attend one of Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company’s Workers’ Compensation Seminars. Specialists in safety services, premium audit, claims management along with legal professionals will provide a valuable half-day best practices overview.

Upcoming Seminar Dates:

  • Thursday, April 20 at the Pikesville Double Tree Hotel: Register here
  • Thursday, May 4 at the Easton Tidewater Inn: Register here
  • Thursday, October 5 at the Bowie Comfort Inn Hotel: Register here
  • Thursday, October 12 at the Frederick Holiday Inn and Conference Center: Register here

Registration will begin at 8:30 am and the seminar will go from 9:00 am until 1 pm. Admission is free but online reservations are required. Executive continental breakfast and refreshments will be provided.

Watch the YouTube video below to see why you should attend a policyholders seminar.

Key Presenters:

  • Elizabeth Torphy-Donzella, Esq., Shawe Rosenthal, LLP
  • Dr. Stephen Fisher, Director of Medical Services, Chesapeake Employers

Topics of the seminars’ informative presentations:

  • Employment Law – Best Practices to Avoid Wage and Hour Claims
  • Top 3 Most Common and Costly Injuries and Steps to Prevent Them
  • Understanding the Premium Audit Process
  • Chesapeake Employers’ Claims & Medical Health Services Team Approach for Better Claims Outcomes & an Improved E-Mod.
  • Chesapeake Employers’ Legal Defense Services Overview
  • Mock Workers’ Compensation Hearing with a Maryland Workers’ Comp. Commissioner

For more information please contact Carolyn Gutermuth at 410-494-2170. CEIWC is a MACo Gold Corporate Partner.

CBF Cites Value of Trees in Forest Conservation Act Op-Ed

In a Washington Post op-ed (2017-03-21), Chesapeake Bay Foundation Executive Director Alison Prost argues for legislation (HB 599 / SB 365) that would create significant new replanting and fee in lieu requirements under the Maryland Forest Conservation Act (FCA). MACo and the Maryland Municipal League are opposed to the bill, noting that Maryland’s total forest and tree canopy management efforts need to be considered and that the organizations are open to a balanced task force regarding the issue. In the op-ed, Prost focuses solely on the FCA and discusses the benefits trees provide. From the op-ed:

The FCA is not getting the job done. Too little forest is being conserved in Maryland. …

Developers are trying to block the legislation, claiming replanting would increase costs. Some local governments have joined in that lament.

But those same local governments have far more to lose from doing nothing. Forests provide counties billions of dollars in ecosystem services. The forests of Prince George’s County, for instance, remove 4.3 billion gallons of polluted runoff a year. If taxpayers had to provide those services, the cost would be $12.8 billion, according to a 2015 study by the Low Impact Development Center in Beltsville. The same forests also remove 5,100 metric tons of airborne pollutants, a service worth $21 million.

And some benefits cannot be adequately measured in dollars. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service says one acre of forest provides oxygen for 18 people for one day. What is the economic value of that? What is the cost of Maryland losing an average of at least 1,800 acres of forests a year?

It’s bad economics to allow developers to cut so much forest and eliminate so much of the public benefit of those trees without adequate compensation. It’s bad health and environmental policy.

Useful Links
HB 599 / SB 365 of 2017

 

 

Register Now: Maryland Governor’s Business Summit 17 on May 18

Join Governor Hogan for the first Maryland Governor’s Business Summit on May 18, 2017 from 8am until 4pm. Explore topics on human capital, global trends and business strategy. Connect with a wide array of Maryland’s business leaders. The Summit will be at the Hilton Baltimore – Key Ballroom: 401 W Pratt Street Baltimore, MD 21201.

Governor Larry Hogan said,

“Great things are happening in Maryland. Our economic climate has gone from 49th in the nation to number 11 – the largest jump among states. Our companies are adding thousands of new jobs to our communities, more than 73,000 since January 2015.  We are making meaningful progress for business.  Let’s capture this momentum!”

Breakout Topics Include:

  • Redefining urban centers across Maryland
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Future of manufacturing in Maryland
  • Next generation learning environments
  • Top education leaders discuss innovation through partnerships
  • Maryland on the front lines of global threats

Tickets are currently available for $150. Click here to register.

Stay up-to-date with the Maryland Department of Commerce by subscribing to the Maryland Business Pulse newsletter.

Fun Fact: Did You Know that Basil Hayden, Namesake of a Famous Kentucky Bourbon, Actually Started His Distillery in St. Mary’s County?

Question: Did you know that Basil Hayden, namesake of a famous Kentucky bourbon, actually started his distillery in St. Mary’s County?

It’s true! Basil Hayden, Sr. was a Maryland Catholic who led a group of twenty-five Catholic families from Maryland into what is now Nelson County, Kentucky (near Bardstown) in 1785. Years ago, immigrants from Scotland and Ireland made their way to St. Mary’s and Charles counties, he said, but were lured to the Kentucky territory by “corn grants.” The grants, dispensed by the governor of Virginia, who then presided over the Kentucky territory, gave land to settlers who promised to grow corn.

The Kentucky settlers ended up growing much more corn than ” they needed. And so, these Scotch-Irish folks “did what they knew how to do,” O’Daniel said. “They made whiskey.”

st marys seal and mapSource: Senator Waugh, Wikipedia, the Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun

Do you have a fun fact to share about your county? If so, please send it to Kaley Schultze to be featured in MACo’s weekly Fun Fact on Conduit Street.

WYPR Examines Status of Immigration, Health Care, Bail Reform On Cross-Over

A WYPR 88.1 FM radio discussion (2017-03-21) examined the status of several big issues and whether they met the Maryland General Assembly’s March 20 cross-over deadline.

From the discussion’s description tagline:

Monday was a busy day in Annapolis, where state lawmakers hurried to meet a legislative deadline. Any bills not passed by either the state Senate or the House of Delegates by the end of the day have to go through the Rules Committee before they can continue on. WYPR’s Rachel Baye joins Nathan Sterner to talk about what bills made the cut and what will face additional hurdles.

Baye highlighted immigration enforcement, health care, bail reform in the discussion.

Useful Links

Direct Link to Audio

2017 Mid-Session Update: Recycling Bills Moving

Three recycling bills on which MACo took a position are poised to pass the General Assembly with MACo support with amendments that removed MACo’s opposition.

Recycling – Regulation of Recycling Facilities: HB 124 requires the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to adopt regulations governing recycling facilities, in consultation with MACo and other key stakeholders. The regulations would allow for a tiered system of permits to cover different sizes and types of recycling facilities. The bill also alters the definition of “solid waste.”

MACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments, noting that recycling facilities are handling increasing amounts of unrecyclable solid waste through the single stream process, they are at risk of needing a solid waste disposal permit – an expensive and cumbersome requirement that was never intended to apply to them. HB 124 would allow MDE to adopt a tiered system of permits that allow for more appropriate regulation of these facilities. The MACo amendment excluded residential recycling drop-off facilities, as they simply serve as collection points for recyclable materials and do not actually handle or process materials beyond collecting and shipping them to a recycling facility.

STATUS: The House passed HB 124 with the MACo amendment and an amendment removing the quantity of material managed as a criteria for MDE to consider when establishing the tiered system of permits. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee will hear the bill on March 23.

MACo Testimony on HB 124

Recycling – Yard, Food, and Organic Waste Composting Study: HB 171 / SB 99 requires MDE to conduct a study regarding the diversion and composting of yard waste and food residuals.  The study must include: (1) identification properties or development zones where diversion infrastructure may be developed; (2) tax or other incentives to promote composting; (3) a recommendation for a refuse disposal fee that would finance a grant program to assist with composting infrastructure; and (4) a recommendation on necessary programmatic, legislative, or regulatory changes to encourage composting.

MACo Position: MACo supported the bill with five amendments that would have the study:

  1. Identify the infrastructure needs and challenges related to yard waste and food residuals composting and diversion unique to the different geographic regions of the state;
  2. Identify any applicable sanitary and public health concerns related to yard waste and food residuals composting and diversion;
  3. Develop, in consultation with local governments, model guidelines and best practices for the local identification of properties or development zones where diversion infrastructure may be developed instead of having MDE assume a land use role by making such identifications itself;
  4. Consider a refuse disposal fee instead of automatically recommending such a fee; and
  5. Receive the approval of the affected local governments before recommending a pilot food waste recovery program in the Elkridge and Jessup areas.

STATUS: HB 171 and SB 99 each passed their respective houses with the MACo amendments (the refuse disposal fee language was deleted in its entirety) and several other stakeholder amendments MACo had no issue with. HB 171 will be scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. SB 99 will be heard by the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 22.

MACo Testimony on HB 171

MACo Testimony on SB 99

Recycling – Special Events: HB 1309 / SB 885 as introduced would require a county and municipal government that issues a special event permit to also enforce recycling requirements at the event. The bill also lowers the threshold for the application of special events recycling requirements from 200 people to 100 people, increases the civil penalties for violating the recycling requirements, and makes the amount of the penalty contingent on attendance.

 MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, noting the cost and implementation issues of the local enforcement mandate, the problematic expansion of “special events” by lowering the attendance threshold from 200 to 100 people, and challenges in enforcing the civil penalties due to a lack of reliable attendance data.

STATUS: HB 1309 and SB 885 passed their respective houses with identical amendments removing  MACo’s opposition. As amended, the bill: (1) Requires the State, county, municipality, or other local government to provide the organizer of a special event a written statement that describes the requirements and penalties for special event recycling; and (2) increases the civil penalty from failing to recycle at a special event from $50 per day to $300 per day. HB 1309 will be scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. SB 885 will be heard by the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 29.

MACo Testimony on HB 1309

MACo Testimony on SB 885

House Passes Bills Altering Property Assessments Processes

The House has passed the following bills which impact the property assessments process. These bills will cross over to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee for hearings.

HB 1402 – Property Tax Appeals – Payment of Refunds – Deadline requires counties to pay refunds resulting from property tax assessment appeals within an established time frame. MACo supported with amendments to make the requirement more feasible. MACo’s amendments sought to extend the amount of time from 21 days to 30 days, and begin counting the days after the county receives notice of the decision from the appeal authority. The bill sponsor, Delegate Herb McMillan, introduced the amendments on MACo’s behalf, and the House adopted them.

MACo did not take a position on the following bills:

HB 592 – Real Property Tax – Assessment Appeals Process requires the supervisor of assessments and the Property Tax Assessment Appeals Boards (PTAAB) to hold hearings on specified appeals no later than 90 days after receiving the appeal. The bill passed the House with amendments.

HB 1394 – Property Tax – Reassessment After Appeal prohibits the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT), when conducting a real property reassessment after an appeal, from automatically resetting the assessment of the property to its value before the appeal. SDAT may only increase the assessment of the property above the level determined during the appeal if circumstances arising after the appeal justify an increase in the assessment.

Follow MACo’s advocacy on these and other tax bills by clicking here.

 

 

 

Both Chambers Passing Myriad Of Optional Property Tax Credits

The General Assembly is moving on a number of bills which give counties more flexibility to provide property tax breaks. None of the bills listed below set any mandates on counties, but rather, provide broader leeway to provide tax breaks as appropriate for their jurisdictions.

Bills MACo Supported

The House has passed HB 1323 – Property Tax – Credit for Revitalization Districts, a bill MACo supported with would authorize local governments to grant optional property tax credits to homeowners who make improvements to their homes in specified “revitalization districts.” Local governments have authority to define what a “revitalization district” is and where to designate them.

The House has also passed House Bill 351, Property Tax – Homestead Property Tax Credit Percentage and Constant Yield Tax Rate – Deadlines. This bill extends the deadline for local governments to set or change their homestead property tax credit percentage, moving it from November to March. MACo supported the bill.

Other Bills Passed Out of The House

MACo did not take a position on the following bills, which have passed the House and will be heard by the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee:

HB 231 Property Tax Credit – Disabled or Fallen Law Enforcement Officers and Rescue
Workers – Alteration authorizes counties to extend an existing property tax credit for dwellings owned by the surviving spouse of a fallen law enforcement officer or rescue worker to include the fallen officer’s cohabitant.

HB 979 – Property Tax Credit – Public Safety Officers authorizes county governments to grant, by local law, a property tax credit for a dwelling owned by a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, a correctional officer, a police officer, or a deputy sheriff employed full time by a public safety agency in the county where the individual resides. County governments may establish, by law, the amount of the property tax credit, the duration of the property tax credit, and additional eligibility requirements for public safety officers to qualify for the property tax credit.

HB 1234 – Property Tax – Credit for Retired Military Service Members – Eligibility alters the eligibility criteria of a local option property tax credit for specified members of the U.S. Armed Forces by specifying that eligible individuals must be members of the uniformed services of the United States as defined by 10 U.S.C. Section 101, the military reserves, or the National Guard.

Bills Passed By The Senate

The Senate has passed a few property tax credit bills as well. These bills will cross over to the House Ways & Means Committees for hearings. MACo did not take positions on these bills.

SB 108 – Property Tax Credit – Erosion Control Measures – Nonstructural and Structural Shoreline Stabilization alters the requirements for a local option property tax credit for specified erosion control structures.

SB 261 – Property Tax Credit – Residential Property Damaged by Natural Disaster alters a local option property tax credit for property that has suffered flood or sewage damage by including damage caused by a natural disaster.

SB 282 – Property Tax Credit – Disabled or Fallen Law Enforcement Officers and Rescue Workers – Alterations increases the number of years, from 2 to 10, within which a disabled law enforcement officer or rescue worker or the surviving spouse of a fallen law enforcement officer or rescue worker must have acquired specified residential property in order to qualify for a specified local option property tax credit.

SB 601 – Property Tax Credit – Elderly Individuals and Veterans – Eligibility broadly alters the eligibility criteria for a local option property tax credit for elderly individuals by removing the requirement that the individual must have lived in the same dwelling for at least the preceding 40 years. In lieu of this existing requirement, the bill provides that the individual must have lived in the county for the preceding 25 years and the dwelling for which the tax credit is claimed must be located in that county.

Follow MACo’s advocacy on these and other tax bills by clicking here.