Coun­cil backs bills on grants, tax dis­tri­bu­tion, pre­scrip­tion drugs

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By KATIE TABELING kta­bel­ing@ce­cil­whig.com

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.”

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