Council backs bills on grants, tax distribution, prescription drugs
ELKTON — The county council decided Tuesday that it will throw its weight behind three bills that would financially benefit Cecil County and one measure that would weed out drug providers who perpetuate the opioid crisis through overprescribing.
Council Vice President Dan Schneckenburger asked the council to consider Senate Bill 1007, which requires the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to either educate or report those suspected of violating laws or professional standards.
“This provides a lot of needed revisions to keep prescription drugs from being wrongly dispensed and used for non-therapeutic values,” Schneckenburger said. “MACo [Maryland Association of Counties] strongly supports this bill.”
The PDMP monitors the prescribing and dispensing of drugs that contain controlled dangerous substances, with the intent to assist in identifying drug abuse. As it stands, if the data indicates a possible misuse the program “may” notify them of the possible violations and educate them.
If passed, SB 1007 would require the program make the notifications and provide education. If the data still signals drug misuse six months later, it would empower the PDMP to inform federal, state and local law enforcement and professional boards.
Although it remains to be seen how this bill would directly impact Cecil County, the hope is that it would address one of the causes of the county’s opioid epidemics outlined in its lawsuit against two dozen pharmaceutical companies.
Burton LeBlanc of Baron & Budd P.C., the county’s counsel in that matter, argued in the lawsuit that drug manufacturers and distributors ignored signs that opioid scripts outnumbered people for at least three years.
“This would give [the program] some teeth,” Council Manager Jim Massey said.
The council also supported two bills, Senate Bills 1132 and 1133, sponsored by their senators with no questions. SB 1132 would provide the county $75,000 to restore and maintain the Bee Hive colonial village in Fair Hill, which includes a blacksmith shop, a worker’s village house and a tavern. The Bee Hive is also home to the Elk Creeks Preservation Society’s annual Apple Butter Festival.
SB 1133 would grant $25,000 in order to erect a monument for Perryville’s historic railroad roundabout, at town officials’ request. The monument would be placed near Lower Ferry Park, where the roundabout once stood, allowing train engines to rotate to go back down the tracks.
The plan is to turn a Pennsylvania Railroad date stone into a plaque that also pro- vides history on Perryville’s roots as a railroad town.
The council also endorsed House Bill 1371, which would allow several counties including Cecil County to recoup recordation tax revenues from transactions filed with the state Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) between FY2010 and FY2016.
According to an analysis of the bill, some jurisdictions did not receive any recordation tax revenues because several of them were unaware of various reporting requirements necessary to get it. Cecil County apparently did not receive any revenue in this stream in FY 2011 through FY 2015.
The total unfunded liability at the end of FY 2017 was $799.4 million. Cecil County will receive a portion of the money, along with Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Caroline and Howard counties, after a independent public accountant issues a report, Massey said.
“So we’ll support that bill,” Council President Joyce Bowlsbey deadpanned.
The council laughed, and agreed to write a letter to its state representatives.
Although the council did not formally endorse a bill that would alter the distribution in the highway user revenues, Massey reported that the measure made it out of the House Environment and Transportation Committee with some altercations.
The bill originally proposed increase state funding for locally maintained roads and bridges over five years starting in FY 2020. The current practice, which is deeply unpopular in rural counties, is that MDOT gets the lion’s share of highway user revenue while Baltimore City would see 7.7 percent, counties would receive 1.5 percent and municipalities would get four-tenths of a percent.
The amended version of House Bill 807 increased the funding level for counties to 3.2 percent, the municipal share at 2 percent and Baltimore City at 8.3 percent.
“The amended version [of the bill] would double funding for county governments to approximately $58 million each year,” Massey said. “We’re not at 50 percent, where we were at in former days, but at least this is a right direction.”