Missouri Lawmaker: Give Costly Roads To Counties

Lawmakers in the state of Missouri may consider turning over responsibility for maintaining and funding state roads and bridges to counties in an effort to address state transportation funding shortfalls, reports The Kansas City Star  – though it is unclear how such a move would reduce overall infrastructure investment needs or align revenues with obligations more strategically.

Missouri state funds for road and bridge repair fell from $1.3 billion in 2009 to $800 million in 2017 – and the political will does not appear to exist to raise the gas tax. The Kansas City Star quotes incoming House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr:

Haahr suggested turning some local roads and bridges back over to county governments and providing block grants to help fund their upkeep.

“The state would maintain primary transportation arteries,” he said, “but local roads and bridges, we’d give them back to the counties so they could prioritize what projects are most important to their communities.”

To the extent that this approach would alleviate burden on the state budget by passing the costs over and above the block grants to counties, it is unclear how counties would foot the bills. For one thing, counties would not benefit from the economies of scale inherent from purchasing supplies and equipment in larger quantities, indicates Patrick McKenna, Director of the Missouri Department of Transportation. Read more here.

Counties in Missouri currently own 56 percent of the roads in the state and 52 percent of the bridges, according to data provided by NACo. In comparison, Maryland counties own 74 percent of the public roads. In fiscal 2013, Missouri counties received about 12 percent of the total state-collected gas tax revenues to fund county roads and bridges, in addition to shares of other highway user revenues. In comparison, 23 Maryland counties received 1.4 percent of Maryland’s highway user revenues in fiscal 2013.

While Missouri counties have the option to create special taxing districts called Transportation Development Districts to fund transportation improvements, it is unclear whether any more political will exists for those tax increases than for those at the state level.

Schuh, Mussog on Attracting and Expanding Businesses in Anne Arundel

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and Economic Development, Corp. CEO Julie Mussog sat down with The Capital Gazette to discuss incentives, TIFs, and the future of economic development in the county as Mussog rounds out her first month at the head of the quasi-governmental agency.

An excerpt from the The Capital Gazette interview:

What are your priorities as you steer the corporation?

Mussog: I just sat down with business development staff this week and asked them — you know, we have certain tools to help existing businesses, attract new businesses (such as loans and tax credits), but I’ve reviewed some of the packages we’ve put together and (looked at) what ones are being used first of all and what ones are not being used, and why aren’t they being used. Are they just not that attractive, and if they are, then why have them? Let’s look at maybe something else. (I asked staff) what’s your dream incentive to be able to offer, when you’re out there with a business? Like, what would really be a great hook for Anne Arundel County?

And then also, some of the tools that we have, I don’t know whether there’s an awareness about them, or there’s a misperception that they’re cumbersome and difficult to do, to check all the boxes to get the incentives. So, first, if it really is difficult, what can we do to cut the red tape and make it an incentive that’s worthwhile? Or what can we do to help educate people that it isn’t as difficult as it looks like?

What are the Economic Development Corp.’s goals?

Schuh: Basically, we have a five-part plan. No. 1 is attract new business to Anne Arundel County. So, the EDC is in effect our marketing arm, commercial marketing arm.

No. 2, assist those new businesses in establishing themselves here in Anne Arundel County. That involves helping them find space, business planning, connecting to sources of capital — all kinds of things.

The third is working with our existing businesses to expand, which can involve many of those same kinds of services: real estate assistance, capital, advisory, transaction structuring, connecting to business partners. Anything that facilitates the growth of business.

And then, fourth, connecting county employers to employees. That is a real challenge in Anne Arundel County in a lot of respects, and in that domain (Mussog) works closely with the Workforce Development Corp., but also with (Anne Arundel Community College) to make sure we’re training people to have the right skills for the jobs that are being created in different parts of the county; working with the housing (commission) to make sure people who live in our public housing communities can get to jobs. There’s a lot to getting people connected to employers.

And then the last piece, No. 5, is special projects. And (Mussog’s) been involved as controller in a lot of these already: Odenton Town Center, the conference center at Maryland Live for high school graduations (slated to be ready for the class of 2018 graduation), helping Northrop Grumman.

For more information read the full interview with Schuh and Mussog in the Capital Gazette

Get to Know Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company at #MACoCon

Representatives from Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company (CEIC) will be available to meet with attendees at MACo’s Winter Conference, December 7-9, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland.

ceiwcChesapeake Employers has been providing workers’ compensation insurance in Maryland since 1914. Their local presence and unwavering dedication to Maryland counties, municipalities, business owners and their employees have made them what they are today – Maryland’s largest workers’ compensation insurance company.

CEIWC is a MACo Gold Corporate Partner and an exhibitor at this year’s Winter Conference. Please visit CEIWC at table #6 or on the web at https://ceiwc.com.

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

Learn How the Internet is Essential with Comcast at #MACoCon

Representatives from Comcast will be available to meet with attendees at MACo’s Winter Conference, December 7-9, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland.

comcastComcast is the nation’s largest video, high-speed internet and phone provider to residential and business customers under the XFINITY brand.

Comcast is a MACo Gold Corporate Partner and an exhibitor at this year’s Winter Conference. Please visit Comcast at table #15 or on the web at www.comcast.com.

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

Build a Healthier Community with CareFirst at #MACoCon

Representatives from CareFirst will be available to meet with attendees at MACo’s Winter Conference, December 7-9, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland.

CareFirst logoIn its 79th year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to 3.4 million individuals and groups in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. In 2015, CareFirst contributed more than $40 million to more than 300 community programs designed to increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas. To learn more about CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, visit their website at www.carefirst.com or follow them on Twitter.

CareFirst is a MACo Gold Corporate Partner and an exhibitor at this year’s Winter Conference. Please visit CareFirst at table #1.

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

Seek Governmental Accounting & Auditing Advice with Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC at #MACoCon

Representatives from Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC will be available to meet with attendees at MACo’s Winter Conference, December 7-9, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland.

ZA logoZelenkofske Axelrod LLC (ZA) is a Pennsylvania based regional CPA firm employing over 45 professionals, with offices in Harrisburg, Greensburg, Pittsburgh, and Greater Philadelphia; Dover, Delaware, and expanding into Maryland, that specializes in providing auditing, accounting and consulting services to governmental entities. ZA’s growth over the years has been through specialization in the governmental industry. They are leaders in providing accounting, auditing, and consulting services to governmental entities of all types – that’s why so many of these entities, large and small, engage in their services. Their clients include counties, component units of the state, townships, boroughs, authorities, cities, and school districts. Not all CPA firms specialize in the complexity of accounting and auditing standards which govern these entities. They do! Their partners and directors have worked in the Big 4 accounting firms and have brought their experience to Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC to grow their governmental practice to where it is today. The quality of their work is second to non, particularly in the Government Industry. This fact is evident in many ways, but independently supported through their most recent Peer Review which included review of specific governmental engagements, resulting in an unqualified opinion with no Letter of Comment.

Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC is a MACo Bronze Corporate Partner and an exhibitor at this year’s Winter Conference. Please visit them at table #3 or on the web at www.zallc.org.

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

City Balances Accountability &. Investigation In Body Camera Video Release

A Baltimore Sun article (2016-11-28) reported that Baltimore City planned release body camera footage of a police shooting of an alleged knife-wielding suspect this week – a first under the City’s new body camera program. The article noted the conundrum increasingly facing law enforcement agencies: weighing the need for police accountability and transparency against being able to effectively conduct an ongoing investigation. The Maryland Public Information Act (PIA), like virtually every other public information act nationwide, allows jurisdictions to deny the release of records that are part of an ongoing law enforcement investigation. From the article:

About 600 city officers have been equipped with cameras since the department launched the $11.6 million program in May, part of a national movement to put cameras on officers as several high-profile shootings have brought increased scrutiny to police actions. …

“The State’s Attorney’s Office understands the importance of transparency in our fight against crime,” the office said in a statement in response to questions Monday. “However, commenting or releasing evidence in open or pending investigations could compromise the judicial process and jeopardize the integrity of cases.”

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said releasing the footage was consistent with the City Council’s expectations for how the cameras would be used.

“It’s about being transparent between the police and the public,” said Clarke, who represents the area where Friday’s shooting took place. “I’m pleased it’s happening with such speed. It doesn’t do any good to have video if the public can’t see it and if the officers can’t see it.”

From MACo’s perspective, police body camera footage can be a critical tool for ensuring police officer accountability and protecting both citizens and law enforcement officers. However, the cameras do create unique PIA issues relating to review, redaction, and the privacy issues of crime victims and other citizens caught on the cameras, as well as imposing massive long-term storage costs on local governments. Creating a PIA policy for police body cameras that properly balances these issues is one of MACo’s 2017 Legislative Initiatives.

Learn more about MACo’s body camera initiative and other legislative initiatives during the 2016 MACo Winter Conference. Offer your thoughts on our initiatives and learn about how you can help during the Session 2017: Path to Success panel on December 9.

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

 

 

Heroin Deaths Predicted to Triple in Anne Arundel

Despite aggressive and multifaceted efforts to combat the heroin epidemic, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh anticipates the county will reach triple the number of overdose deaths in 2016 than in 2015.

The Capital Gazette reports:

Forty-two people died of a heroin overdose in Anne Arundel in 2015. This year, the death toll has raced past that figure: more than 100 people have died so far.

The county executive predicted that by New Year’s Day, there would be 120 dead from overdose.

Spiking heroin fatalities in the county are part of an upward trend seen throughout Maryland and nationwide. State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Data show heroin-related overdose deaths increased by 29 percent last year.

Many of the deaths over the past year are due to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is even more potent than heroin, said Dr. Jinlene Chan, the county’s health officer. Fentanyl is often sold as heroin.

 

Notwithstanding those sobering numbers, tackling the epidemic remains a priority for Schuh who, as the article notes, plans to reconvene his heroin task force to continue to explore ways to address heroin and its fatal consequences.

Read The Capital Gazette for more information.

To learn more about the devastating impacts of heroin, join us for a screening of Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict at the 2016 MACo Winter ConferenceThis documentary, developed by the FBI and DEA, is intended to educate students and young adults on the dangers of drug abuse through startling first-person accounts of those who have suffered the consequences.

Attendees to the MACo Winter Conference will also have the opportunity to receive hands-on training and certification in recognizing and responding to opioid overdose by administering naloxone at the Learn to Save a Life – Naloxone Training for Opioid Overdoses training session.

The MACo Winter Conference will be 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.”

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

 

Making the 2017 Session Successful For Counties at #MACoCon

Conclude the 2016 MACo Winter Conference with an introduction to MACo’s 2017 Legislative Initiatives, provide your input on managing these issues, and learn what you can do to help the county community achieve these important goals.

Session 2017: Path to Success

Description

MACo’s success in Annapolis depends on contact at every level. Roll up your sleeves at this strategic session, as MACo’s policy leadership and staff guide a practical conversation on the road ahead for each of MACo’s top issues. Who are the key players, how do individual elected officials get involved, and what messages are essential? At stake are the heart-and-soul issues facing each county’s priorities, autonomy, and bottom line. Join this session to arm yourself and your county peers for the battles ahead.

Speakers

  • Re-invest in Local Roads, Bridges, and Infrastructure
    • The Honorable John Barr, Washington County Commissioner
    • Barbara Zektick, Associate Director, MACo
  • Strong and Smart State Funding for School Construction
    • The Honorable Jan Gardner, Frederick County Exeuctive
    • Robin Clark Eilenberg, Research Editor, MACo
  • Energy Facility Siting
    • The Honorable William Pickrum, Kent County Commissioner
    • Leslie Knapp Jr., Legal and Policy Counsel, MACo
  • Balancing Release of Police Body Camera Video
    • David Morris, Chief of Police, Riverdale Park, and President, Maryland Chiefs of Police Association
    • John Fitzgerald, Chief, Village of Chevy Chase Police Department
    • Natasha Mehu, Associate Director, MACo

Moderator: The Honorable Jerry Walker, Anne Arundel County Council Member

Date & Time: Friday, December 9, 2016; 11:00 am – 12:30 pm (Followed by boxed lunches from 12:30 pm – 1:00 pm)

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

Presiding Officers Announce Compromise With Governor on Funding Priorities

Senate and House leadership release information regarding a compromise on a lingering budget issue.

The Office of President Miller and Speaker Busch of the Maryland General Assembly provide the following press release:

PRESIDENT MILLER, SPEAKER BUSCH ANNOUNCE COMPROMISE WITH GOVERNOR ON FUNDING PRIORITIES

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch today announced an agreement with Governor Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr. to approve both a conditional loan for Northrop Grumman as well as legislation in 2017 to provide additional funding to counties in Maryland for public schools.

“We are grateful and supportive of employers like Northrup Grumman and Marriott who have chosen to locate in our State providing good salaries and benefits for so many Marylanders,” said Senate President Miller. “At the same time, we must also hold strongly to our priority of supporting Maryland’s public schools, or we risk the very education pipeline that prepares our children for these jobs.  Even in tough times, I believe we must do both.”

Northrop Grumman requested State support to acquire a 300,000 square foot facility in Linthicum and maintain 10,000 employees in Maryland. The legislature has already approved legislation proposed by Governor Hogan for a $37.5 million tax credit during the 2016 legislative session. Under Maryland law, the release of the additional $20 million proposed by the Governor as a Sunny Day fund loan must be approved by the Legislative Policy Committee.

“This is a win-win for the State: we are moving forward with the Governor’s priority to give tax incentives to companies to invest in Maryland at the same time we are able to increase investment in our world class school system,” said Speaker Michael E. Busch. “I believe this is a great example of where everyone can work together – Republicans and Democrats alike – to not only assure Northrop Grumman that we are fully committed to their company investing in the State of Maryland and Anne Arundel County, while also investing in our students futures.”

Legislation will be introduced in the 2017 Session, to reduce local Teachers’ Pension System costs by $20 million in response to an unanticipated cost issue this year.  The State will fund the difference ensuring that funding is not taken out of public school classrooms and that the pension system remains secure. This funding was set aside during the 2016 legislative session but not ultimately released to the school systems.

Governor Hogan has indicated that he will support this legislation, when passed by the General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session.

The presiding officers also announced an intention to gather support for State funds that will be combined with financial support from Montgomery County to keep Marriott International located in Maryland.

The Legislative Policy Committee will meet on December 13, 2016 at 11:00AM in Annapolis.

For information on the pensions funding, see the Joint Chairmen’s Report.

For background, see these previous posts on Conduit Street:

$19 Million for Teacher Pension Increase

Moody’s: $80M Funding Denial Worrisome For County Creditworthiness

Aging Schools and Public Safety Radio Funding in Cross Hairs of State Budget Standoff

At MACo’s Winter Conference, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Maryland’s presiding officers, the Governor’s senior legislative advisor, and the Senate minority leader will speak as a panel looking ahead at the 2017 Maryland General Assembly Session. Read more about what they’ll discuss.

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference: