MACo of­fi­cials talk about re­cent Assem­bly ses­sion

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­

CEN­TRE­VILLE — Though the Mary­land econ­omy isn’t “gang­busters” as Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Michael San­der­son put it dur­ing the Tues­day, May 10, Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion meet­ing, he said it is in an over­all bet­ter sit­u­a­tion than has been seen in a num­ber of years. In his 25 years of work in Mary­land, he said the Fis­cal Year 2017 bud­get was the sim­plest and most straight­for ward.

San­der­son high­lighted MACo’s in­volve­ment in the past Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion and spoke about key is­sues the or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­ported or fought against.

San­der­son said it was a “big year” for pub­lic safety is­sues in An­napo­lis, work­ing with the war­dens, chiefs of po­lice and sher­iffs through­out the state. San­der­son said the Jus­tice Rein­vest­ment Act (House Bill 1312 and Se­nate Bill 1005) was sub­mit­ted to re­duce the prison pop­u­la­tion and to re­di­rect fund­ing into more ef­fi­cient treat­ment, di­ver­sion and su­per­vised re­leased pro­grams. Non-vi­o­lent drug of­fend­ers, San­der­son said for ex­am­ple, would po­ten­tially be can­di­dates.

Though MACo sup­ported both bills, amend­ments were added to make sure lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions weren’t hit with un­in­tended con­se­quences of its pas­sage. “If you don’t do this right, that turns into the state saves money and the coun­ties end up with a sand­bag of costs and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in the lo­cal jail,” he said. “We think we’ve got Mary­land on track to be rea­son­able and fair on this front and to ad­vance the cause of jus­tice as well.”

San­der­son said rep­re­sent­ing the coun­ties of Mary­land and fighting against un­funded man­dates is a ma­jor topic for the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Though MACo has a “high strike rate” of amend­ing down or de­feat­ing un­funded pro­pos­als or man­dates tak­ing away lo­cal au­thor­ity, San­der­son said it is im­por­tant “to be that voice at the ta­ble” to say, if the leg­is­la­ture passes a bill, here are the un­in­tended con­se­quences for the county gov­ern­ments.

Other pub­lic safety is­sues San­der­son touched on in­cluded the law en­force­ment is­sues in Bal­ti­more last year re­gard­ing the ri­ots in the city, as well as law en­force­ment depart­ment’s na­tion­wide, and how to dis­ci­pline of­fi­cers prop­erly, the pro­cesses for that, as well as the equip­ment be­ing used dur­ing an ar­rest.

San­der­son said MACo was con­cerned, hav­ing worked with chiefs and sher­iffs through­out the state closely, be­cause “we didn’t want to see a one-size fits all so­lu­tion that was born in Bal­ti­more but gets ap­plied in Queen Anne’s and in Gar­rett and Wi­comico County where the cir­cum­stances might be very dif­fer­ent.”

San­der­son said what came out of the leg­is­la­ture will help with ac­count­abil­ity with­out swamp­ing coun­ties with new reg­u­la­tions and costs.

“For bet­ter of for worse,” San­der­son said, MACo had to fight more bills than usual re­gard­ing li­a­bil­ity and le­gal is­sues re­gard­ing the cir­cum­stances a cit­i­zen can sue the gov­ern­ment. San­der­son said the is­sues aren’t be­hind or­ga­ni­za­tion and said the “bat­tle is go­ing to be on­go­ing.”

“We’ve got to in­vest a good bit of time on one of those things where we’re wor­ried about in­sur­ance rates and for those who self-in­sure the one big set­tle­ment, the $600,000 law­suit that prob­a­bly shouldn’t have hap­pened but for un­der state law,” he said. “Big is­sues for both large and small ju­ris­dic­tions.”

With school con­struc­tion costs con­tin­u­ally in­creas­ing “through the roof” and how to prop­erly fund kinder­garten through se­nior year of high school, San­der­son told the com­mis­sion “we’re due for a big assess­ment.” San­der­son said a group has been formed that will do a “top to bot­tom assess­ment” of the state’s school fund­ing for­mu­las, stat­ing there is “an aw­ful lot of money there.”

An in­crease of 2.7 per­cent was pro­posed in the Fis­cal Year 2017 bud­get com­pared to the prior year, rep­re­sent­ing to­tal ed­u­ca­tion funds of $5.57 bil­lion. A to­tal of $334 mil­lion will be pro­vided for school con­struc­tion through­out the state.

County Com­mis­sion­ers Steve Wil­son and Jim Mo­ran said fund­ing for a re­quired en­vi­ron­men­tal study to look into ex­pand­ing the Bay Bridge to al­le­vi­ate con­ges­tion in the county is a con­cern. Though San­der­son didn’t go into much de­tail re­gard­ing the project, he said it was one of the most talked about trans­porta­tion items for many years. “A big part of that project is just the sheer num­ber of ze­ros be­hind the cost of do­ing it,” San­der­son said. “So it’s a com­mit­ment of a dif­fer­ent scale than vir­tu­ally any­thing else the state looks at.”

The project is es­ti­mated to cost about $30 mil­lion and would take years to com­plete.

Mo­ran said it was Queen Anne’s County’s No. 1 pri­or­ity to fund the study be­cause the amount of traf­fic from beach­go­ers will cut off its “eco­nomic line” and its rev­enues. Hav­ing no hos­pi­tal in the county doesn’t help ei­ther, mag­ni­fy­ing the is­sues pass through traf­fic causes to pub­lic health and safety.


Michael San­der­son (right), MACo Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, and Washington County Com­mis­sioner John Barr, also the 2016 MACo Pres­i­dent, spoke to the Queen Anne’s County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers about the past Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion on Tues­day, May 10.

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