Senator Kagan Receives Prestigious National Public Safety Award

NG911 Institute Honors Senator Kagan for dedication and leadership in advancing the 9-1-1 system

Maryland Senator Cheryl Kagan and Maryland Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan last week received the Government Leader Award from the Next Generation 9-1-1 Institute. This award recognizes an elected or appointed Federal, State, or Local Government Leader that has displayed significant dedication and leadership in advancing the 9-1-1 system.

Senator Kagan is the lead Senate sponsor of Senate Bill 285/HB 634 a MACo Legislative Initiative to establish a 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.

Tony Rose, Chief, Fire/EMS Communications, Charles County, Senator Kagan, and Bill Ferretti, Director, 9-1-1 ECC, Montgomery County

Each February, the NG911 Institute hosts the Annual Honor Awards Reception where heroes and leaders in the 9-1-1 field are recognized and celebrated. Members of the Congressional NG9-1-1 Caucus and other Members of Congress and their staff, appointed federal officials and agency staff, members of the public safety community, public safety industry leaders, and members of the general public, are invited to attend.

Senator Kagan and Patrick Halley, CEO, NG911 Institute

The NG911 Institute is a not-for-profit organization, which supports the efforts of the Congressional NextGen 911 Caucus. The mission of the NG911 Institute is to assist the Congressional NextGen 911 Caucus by serving as a broad educational resource on issues important to the effective operation and advancement of NG911 services and systems. The overarching objective of the Institute is to advance the rapid implementation of NG911 in order to promote more effective emergency response, improve public safety, and advance national security interests. To this end, the Institute seeks to educate Congressional Members and staff on issues that may impact timely and effective NG911 implementation.

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

Tax Sale Last Resort Only for Walkaway Properties

It is often helpful for counties to keep properties out of tax sale because a number of properties are often party to tax sale multiple times. House Bill 1112 would grant county governments the authority to keep certain vacant and abandoned properties out of tax sale, while focusing efforts on economically developing them. MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick submitted written testimony in support of HB 1112, “Tax Sales – Vacant and Abandoned Property”, to the House Ways and Means Committee.

This enabling legislation would aid county governments in efficiently collecting tax revenue and effectively utilizing properties by retaining control and keeping them out of tax sale.

From MACo Testimony:

Counties find tax sale as an effective means of last resort to collect overdue tax bills and other fees owed local governments. Some counties, however, find that a number of blighted properties appear on the tax sale rolls over and over again, only to remain unsold. In these instances, the county is wholly unable to facilitate collections through the tax sale process, and the property remains a nuisance to law-abiding taxpayers. This bill, along with a number of other bills originating from the Task Force, will enable counties to break this fruitless and administratively burdensome cycle and instead turn the properties over to more productive use.”

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

2018 School Funding Per Student County-by-County

Among the information contained in the Overview of Maryland Local Governments: Finance and Demographic Information is a chart of per-student funding in each Maryland county. The funding shows a range of funding for public education throughout Maryland on a per pupil basis.

Screenshot 2018-02-20 19.23.41

The funding comes primarily from county governments and the State, with limited funding from the federal government and other sources.

As described by the Department of Legislative Services,

Public schools in Maryland receive about $15,467 in total funding for each pupil in fiscal 2018. Worcester County has the highest per pupil revenues at $18,312, while Somerset County has the second highest at $17,945. Baltimore City has the third highest at $17,211. Talbot County has the lowest per pupil revenues at $13,414.

For more information, see the Overview of Maryland Local Governments: Finance and Demographic Information.

Legislation Allows Counties to Tackle Water Affordability

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick testified in support of Senate Bill 709, Environment – Water and Sewer Service”, before the Senate Education & Health & Environmental Affairs Committee on February 20, 2018.

SB 709 grants counties the authority to shut off water to vacant and abandoned properties, while also allowing counties to develop water affordability programs. Alongside payment plans, these actions will help counties and individuals from going to tax sale over unpaid water bills. Altogether, these potential programs can give counties the flexibility to effectively collect water bills, while helping homeowners manage costs and conserve resources.

From MACo Testimony:

This bill helps homeowners avoid going to tax sale over unpaid water bills by addressing the problem long before those bills become overdue. By enabling counties to develop water affordability programs, payment plans and “round up programs” to fund payment assistance services, SB 709 helps counties help those who can least afford their water bills, in a targeted manner that makes the most sense for each local jurisdiction.

In addition, enabling water shut off to vacant and abandoned properties helps keep water bills at bay at properties where the service is not being used or may even cause harm by flooding or otherwise deteriorating a vacant structure. By reducing or eliminating these unneeded services, bills and resulting liens remain lower on the property, and it is easier to bring the property to more fruitful use.”

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

 

Advertising Mandate on Counties is Too Broad

A broad requirement that entities that receive State aid would have to advertise to different target audiences that represent the racial diversity of the State was introduced in Senate Bill 737. MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick submitted testimony in opposition to SB 737 before the Senate Education & Health & Environmental Affairs Committee on February 20, 2018.

MACo’s concerns address the broad language and implementation of the bill. SB 737 does not speak to what media sources accurately represent the diversity of State, and also does not take into account the broad racial disparities across counties located in different geographic regions of the State. The silence on these topics could create concern for county contract procurement and the concurrent requirement to adhere to these standards.

From MACo Testimony:

While no doubt noble in its intent, this bill is too broad to implement effectively without exposing innumerable county procurements to countless bid protests. It is unclear what media sources, if any, accurately reflect the “racial diversity of the State.” It also fails to account for the differing racial diversity in various regions of the state; a county in Western Maryland may advertise in different media outlets than a county in central Maryland, for example. Under this bill, all counties would be obligated to advertise in the same way, regardless of targeted need, geographical region or type of procurement. Finally, it is unclear whether a specific target audience, or ratio thereof, is necessary for compliance with this bill.

MACo supports the implicit goal of this legislation to ensure that State-funded business opportunities reach a diverse audience, but fears that SB 737 falls short of accomplishing that objective, and instead, puts county procurements in jeopardy of constant challenges.”

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

Accurate Census, Effective Government

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally submitted written testimony in support of House Bill 988, “2020 Census Grant Program – Establishment and Funding”, to the House Appropriations Committee on February 20, 2018.

This bill would allow local governments to seek matching grant funds to help conduct a fair and accurate census. Governments at every level use data from the census to allocate appropriate funding and resources. An accurate count affects the local economy and the ability of local governments to effectively provide services for years after the census is taken.

From MACo Testimony:

Census data is used to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding for education, health, transportation, housing, community services, and job training. Moreover, businesses and industries decide where to locate new facilities and services based on census data, creating new jobs and promoting economic growth.

An accurate census count, or lack thereof, has a lasting effect on counties, particularly when it comes to the distribution of federal funds. An under-counted population may lead to a significant decline in federal funding flowing to county governments or to county residents.

HB 988 creates an efficient and effective system for leveraging state and local resources to support a more accurate 2020 Census, paving the way for a fair and equitable flow of resources to the State and its local jurisdictions.”

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

Community College Collective Bargaining: Counties Need a Seat at the Table

A universal approach to collective bargaining at community colleges would create considerable costs for counties that provide a significant amount of funding to community colleges. House Bill 667 would apply a one-size-fits-all approach that limits local decision making and excludes counties from collective bargaining negotiations. This tactic could also result in an increase in tuition rates and could upend already established collective bargaining agreements at certain community colleges throughout the State.

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified in opposition to HB 667 seeking to address these concerns. From MACo Testimony:

Current state laws include distinct collective bargaining processes for community colleges in several jurisdictions. Several colleges already have some locally-authorized collective bargaining. This bill allows for collective bargaining contracts at those colleges to continue only until they expire. After that point, the existing systems must be repealed and substituted for the far more detailed and restrictive collective bargaining process required by HB 667.

As partners in the network of community colleges serving the states’ residents, county governments reserve the ability to have input into potentially costly shifts in community college administration.”

 

Counties: Clarify Tax Exemption Authority

MACo submitted written testimony in support of House Bill 964, “Admissions and Amusement Tax – Exemption for School Field Trips”, to the House Ways and Means Committee on February 20, 2018.

HB 964 grants counties clear authority to exempt different public school activities from admission and amusement taxes. This could affect school events outside of the jurisdiction and school field trips to different parts of the State and county.

MACo supports this explicit language that outlines county authority with clarity.

From MACo Testimony:

For more information on HB 964 and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

State to Poorest Counties: Pony Up

Ten counties are required to escalate their education spending beyond what they provided in years past based on a formula set in state law since 2012. Seven of the counties caught in the mandate also have the lowest wealth per pupil in the State. 

The Maryland State Department of Education has released draft calculations for State education aid for FY 2019. The figures could change based on legislation passed by the General Assembly this legislative session.

The draft calculations show that multiple counties are again caught in a relatively new provision of law called the maintenance of effort escalator. Nine counties were in the same position last year.

This year, Dorchester and Somerset counties will be required to increase their education budgets. Last year they did not have to because their local wealth per pupil was decreasing.

Counties required to permanently increase their per-pupil payments are those that fall below a statewide moving average of education contributions as compared with local wealth. From year-to-year, some of the state’s least wealthy counties have fallen into this category.

Here is a ranking by the Department of Legislative Services of the counties in Maryland with the least wealth per student. The seven lowest ranking counties are also caught in the escalator formula this year.

Screenshot 2018-02-20 12.02.11

As shown in the chart below, 10 counties will be required to increase their education pending by the amount of the increase in their wealth per pupil (WPP), up to a maximum of 1.5%. Those counties where wealth per pupil is falling are not required to increase their payments this year, though they may be required to do so next year if their local wealth per pupil increases.

Screenshot 2018-02-20 12.30.20

For more background, see 9 Counties Swept Up In Education Funding Escalator and Q&A: Maryland’s Education Funding Escalator

Senate Passes MACo 9-1-1 Initiative

The Maryland Senate took the first step towards advancing Next Generation 9-1-1 in Maryland. Senate Bill 285, sponsored by Senator Cheryl Kagan, passed the Senate unanimously and has crossed over to the House. Its cross-file, House Bill 634, sponsored by Delegate Michael Jackson, will be heard on February 21 in the House Government Operations Committee.

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