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Legislative Alert

Posted May 2014

The Obama Adminstration Initiates New Program to Fund Infrastructure

Together, we can GROW AMERICA
 
GROW AMERICA: creating jobs, providing certainty
The GROW AMERICA Act, or Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America, will do exactly what its name implies:

  • It will support millions of American jobs repairing and modernizing our roads, bridges, railways, and transit systems;
  • It will help ensure that American businesses can compete effectively in the global economy and grow; and
  • It will pave the way forward by increasing access to the ladders of opportunity that help Americans get ahead.

I visited eight states and 13 cities as part of my Invest in America, Commit to the Future bus tour this month and everywhere I went, I heard the same thing –people want more transportation options and better roads and bridges to get them where they need to go. Failing to act before the Highway Trust Fund runs out is unacceptable and unaffordable. 
 
GROW AMERICA offers the kind of job creation and certainty that the American people want and deserve. It represents a number of proposals that have historically attracted bipartisan support.
 
What GROW AMERICA will do:

  • Address the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund and provide $87 billion to address the nation’s backlog of deficient bridges and aging transit systems;
  • Create millions of new jobs to ensure America’s future competitiveness;
  • Increase safety across all modes of surface transportation, including increasing the civil penalties the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can levy against automakers who fail to act quickly on vehicle recalls;
  • Provide certainty to state and local governments that must engage in long-term planning;
  • Reduce project approval and permitting timelines while delivering better outcomes for communities and the environment;
  • Bolster efficient and reliable freight networks to support trade and economic growth; and
  • Create incentives to better align planning and investment decisions to comprehensively address regional economic needs while strengthening local decision-making.

I have been pleased to see that members of both parties are already working together to solve these challenges, and I look forward to continuing our discussion and to supporting and building on the good work that’s already been done.
 
Please take the time to browse through our GROW AMERICA Fact Sheets to learn what this bill will do to keep our nation and our economy moving forward.
 
Updated: Wednesday, April 30, 2014
 
More information is available at: http://www.dot.gov/grow-america


Posted March 2014

Is a Higher Minimum Wage Counter-Productive?

Political Maryland reports that,  since it's an election year, Democratic politicians in Annapolis are eager to pass an increase in the minimum wage. Gov. Martin O'Malley is poised to promote a higher minimum wage law in Maryland as part of his incipient campaign for national office. But is it a good idea? Will there be unintended consequences in the form of job reductions?
 
Bottom Line: A jump in the minimum wage by 10 percent (Maryland's proposal is 13 percent in Year One and a cumulative 39 percent over three years) will have a significant negative impact on future job hiring. The non-partisan CBO forecasts that a federal hike in the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour could mean a likely loss of 500,000 jobs nationwide, although there's a chance the job loss could top one million.

Source: Chris Costello, MDSPE Lobbyist
 

Maryland Purple Line Holocaust Bills Would "Complicate" Bilateral Talks.

The Washington Post (3/19, Shaver) reports that, in addition to jeopardizing $900 million FTA funds, recent bills in the Maryland state legislature concerning Holocaust reparations from the French-owned SNCF railroad and its Purple Line contract bid would “complicate” ongoing bilateral negotiations between the Americans and the French “over such payments.” At issue is providing reparations for Jewish families who settled in the United States after World War II. Department of State-sponsored negotiators are concerned that the Maryland initiatives might poison the water for the bilateral talks. The article notes, though, that the Maryland bills missed a significant legislative filing deadline on Monday, making their passage much less likely.
 
Source: NSPE, Daily Designs

Posted December 2013

Report Submitted by the Local & Regional transportation Funding Task Force (LRTFTF) to the Governor: VIEW REPORT

The recommendations included below follow the conversations heard during the meetings. The local jurisdictions are encouraged to form Regional Transportation Authorities (RTA) and the General Assembly will need to enact enabling legislation. The RTA’s will be needed because going forward the Highway User Revenues that local governments had been receiving are unlikely to be reinstated and they will need to find much of the funding needed for local roads and other transportation projects from local/regional taxes and fees in the future.

Recommendations
The Task Force recommends the following:

  • Regional Transportation/Transit Authorities (RTAs) should remain an option to be given future consideration as specific regional transportation investments are identified and finance plans assembled.
    • If local governments choose to advocate for the creation of an RTA, the local government should outline how they would address the key characteristics, including governance and funding, as part of their RTA proposal.
    • Consideration of any regional approaches should consider the benefits of Maryland’s more centralized transportation investment structure and the vital coordinating role played by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) in the State’s integrated transportation network.
  • The General Assembly should consider enabling the following local-option revenue sources, to be made available for use at each local government’s discretion:
    • A newly enabled voluntary local-option vehicle registration fee.
    • An expansion of the local-option income tax increment specifically dedicated to transportation. Some counties and municipalities are already at the current cap and an increase to the cap would be required for those jurisdictions to avail themselves of this option.
    • An expansion of local jurisdictions’ real estate transfer tax authority.
    • The facilitation of the application of value capture techniques at the project level in instances where market conditions and project dynamics allow. Such techniques are generally already enabled in State law, but could potentially require legislative or administrative refinements as specific applications are developed

The Task Force recommends that discretion be given to local jurisdictions to implement any or all of these options and, to the extent administratively feasible, to set the rate imposed up to reasonable limits established by the General Assembly and potentially at established optional increments. The General Assembly also may wish to identify which levels of local government are granted the authority to levy each specific mechanism and how resulting revenues are shared among counties and underlying municipalities.

  • Continued consideration should be given to identifying a reasonable, incremental strategy to provide local jurisdictions with an increase in the basic level of HUR in a method compatible with the appropriate expansion, preservation, and maintenance of the State transportation system. The Task Force discussed opportunities for when the General Assembly should begin considering increases in the HUR funds; however, there was no resolution on a specific trigger.

As these recommendations are considered, the Task Force believes it is important to maintain the current funding arrangements now in place.

Source: Chris Costello, MDSPE Lobbyist
 

Posted November 2013

Maryland Bill Aims to Require Firm Permits

Engineering business owners in Maryland will be required to obtain a permit to provide services if new legislation under consideration in the legislature is enacted. The requirement seeks to prevent companies from providing engineering services without a licensed engineer in responsible charge. The Maryland Society of Professional Engineers worked with the licensing board to revise the legislation and include protections for professional engineers from unwarranted litigation.

Posted August 2013

GOVERNOR O’MALLEY NAMES MEMBERS TO THE LOCAL AND REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION FUNDING TASK FORCE

August 17, 2013 | Leaders to study ways local governments can fund transportation

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Martin O’Malley today named local and State representatives to the Local and Regional Transportation Funding Task Force, which will study and make recommendations on the range of options available to county and municipal governments to generate resources to fund transit service and highway projects.

"Progress begins in Maryland’s counties. The Local and Regional Transportation Funding Task Force is comprised of talented and experienced State and local officials, and will help determine the best ways to support regional and local transportation system needs,” said Governor O’Malley. "Together, we can continue to make the better choices to invest in the future of Maryland’s transportation network, allowing us to create more jobs for our hardworking families and rebuild our State’s infrastructure.”

The Task Force will study and make recommendations on the feasibility of creating regional transit financing entities and local–option transportation revenues for the purpose of raising additional funds to support regional and local transportation system needs throughout the State.

This task force was created as part of the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013 (Transportation Act) signed into law on May 16th. The Transportation Act will support 57,200 jobs and invest a total of $4.4 billion over the next six years (FY 2014 - FY 2019), to enable Maryland to build a balanced, 21st century transportation system.

Governor O’Malley appointed the following bi-partisan members, representing local and county government, to serve on the Transportation Task Force:

  • Matthew D. Gallagher, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Goldseker Foundation;
  • Transportation Secretary James T. Smith, Jr.;
  • Senator Richard S. Madaleno, Jr.;
  • Senator George C. Edwards;
  • Delegate Tawanna P. Gaines;
  • Delegate A. Wade Kach;
  • William S. Ratchford, II, Baltimore City Mayor’s Office;
  • Lonnie Robbins, Chief Administrative Officer, Howard County;
  • Richard M. Pollitt, Jr., Wicomico County Executive;
  • Carol Krimm, Alderman, City of Frederick; and
  • Denise Mitchell, Councilmember, City of College Park.

Matthew D. Gallagher will serve as Chair of the Task Force. The Task Force is charged with studying the feasibility of using alternative financing mechanisms to help deliver regional and local transportation projects. The Task Force will submit a final report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly by December 15, 2013.

SOURCE: Christopher B. Costello, MDSPE Legislative Advisor


Raining on the 'rain tax'
August 1, 2013 | Frederick News-Post

According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland's so-called "rain tax" is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay.

MPPI's John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, "Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax."

The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters' report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it's all going so far: "It's really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up."

In other words, the effort to address rainwater runoff as it affects the health of the Chesapeake Bay is a worthy enterprise, but this law and its implementation leave a lot to be desired.

Walters' report identifies this fee as a "Pigouvian tax" - a charge that's intended to offset the negative consequences of certain behavior. In this case, that behavior would be construction and development that contributes to rainwater runoff.

It would stand to reason, then, that local government would want its fee structure to discourage creation of impervious surfaces that repel instead of absorb water. The obvious way to do that would be to base property owners' rainwater runoff tax on how much impervious surface area their properties include. The larger the area, the more the tax.

But some jurisdictions, in an attempt to be "fair" and equitable, we assume, have established flat tax rates, which are the same for all property owners, regardless of the size of their impervious surfaces. Counties that employ a flat fee for residential property owners, are, as Walters puts it, "dampening the useful disincentives of a Pigouvian tax."

When being billed in accordance with the amount of surface area that won't absorb rainwater, there is an incentive to minimize that area in new construction. Moreover, trying to treat all property owners equally actually results in unequal treatment - those responsible for less runoff pay the same tax as those responsible for more runoff. The other perverse consequence of a flat tax is that it dampens the incentive of using construction designs that will reduce rainwater runoff.

Carroll County has refused to establish a fee, saying it will comply, as the Daily Record story puts it, by "reallocating money already being collected from taxpayers." Firey likes that county's independence and willingness to prioritize spending - as opposed to simply creating a new tax.

As a symbolic act of defiance, Frederick County assessed an annual 1-cent flat fee on all residential and commercial properties. But sooner or later, the county will have to find a lot more money, somewhere, to fund mandated state/federal water quality programs. It could follow Carroll County's lead or it could create a new fee structure for property owners. If it goes with the latter, the Board of County Commissioners should make the new fee structure as fair and effective as possible.

To do so, a flat tax should be avoided, as it would be counterproductive to both of those goals.

Source: NSPE, Daily Designs

Posted July 2013

New Maryland Transportation Secretary Confident About Purple, Red Lines.

The AP (7/2) reports, "Maryland’s incoming transportation secretary said Tuesday he’s confident in the prospects of building the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, now that the state has new revenue to help pay for the light rail project.” Jim Smith "said he was working on developing a public-private partnership to help pay for the project, a planned 16-mile light rail line with 21 stations between Bethesda and New Carrollton.” The AP said that "Smith also said he is confident in the prospects for the Red Line in Baltimore.”

Source: NSPE, Daily Designs

Posted June 2013

Maryland Transportation Officials, Private Sector Discuss New Light-Rail Line.

The Washington Post (6/11, Shaver) reports in its "Dr. Gridlock” blog that "for the second time in a few weeks, Maryland transportation officials gathered engineering, financial and transit firms Monday to solicit ideas for ways the private sector can help the state build and pay for a new light-rail line,” discussing "plans to build a $2.6 billion Red Line through Baltimore.” Maryland "is seeking highly competitive federal aid to fund half of both” Red and Purple Line "projects, which could end up pitting the two against each other at a national level,” because "even if the Federal Transit Administration were to award money to both, the state would then need to find money to cover its share or pick one to build first.”

The Baltimore Sun (6/10) quotes Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who said, "It’s our responsibility to look at all options of financing and delivering these projects. We want to explore every option and not take anything off the table. There may come a time where we realize, hey, one project works better as a traditional procurement rather than a P3, or visa versa. We’re in steep learning mode right now.”

SOURCE: NSPE, Daily Designs


University Of Maryland University College Shuts Intellectual Property Center.

Inside Higher Ed (6/10) reports the University of Maryland University College shut down its Center for Intellectual Property. University spokesperson Bob Ludwig said, "The decision to close the Center for Intellectual Property was basically based on a process we went through to refocus our priorities and meet our budget gap we were facing for the next fiscal year.”

SOURCE: NSPE, Daily Designs


Political Dimensions of Jim Smith’s New Job
Regarding the new MDOT Secretary By Barry Rascovar / June 2, 2013


BY CHOOSING former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith as Maryland’s new transportation secretary, Gov. Martin O’Malley solved multiple problems, especially for his governor-in-waiting, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

O’Malley left the top MDOT post vacant for nearly a year. Smith, apparently, had been the governor’s choice but never accepted until after the governor did the heavy lifting in pushing a multi-year gas tax increase through the General Assembly, After all, what fun would it be to serve as MDOT secretary without $$$ to upgrade Maryland’s transportation network?

Smith has modest experience dealing with state legislative issues outside of Baltimore County delegation matters. He has minimal background in the inner workings of the statewide transportation program and its political underpinnings. He would have been of little use to O’Malley in lining up votes for a hefty gas tax increase.

Now it’s a different story. The gas tax rises by four cents a gallon on July 1 and there’s much more to come in future years. There will be a steady flow of construction announcements and ribbon cuttings. It’s a great time to be Maryland’s transportation boss.

Smith brings administrative skills to the job. He’s also a fiscal conservative, which means projects that bring the biggest bang for the buck will take priority. And he’s a first-rate political operator who knows how to massage egos and quietly seek common ground.

It’s an ideal landing spot for Smith, who sorely missed public service. It’s one of the most important posts in Maryland.

In selecting Smith, O’Malley did a big favor for his lieutenant governor. Smith might have ended up running on Attorney General Doug Gansler’s ticket next year, which would have aided Gansler in the Baltimore suburbs on election day.

But now Smith is locked into the O’Malley-Brown administration. If he wants to keep his job after 2014, Smith knows he’s got to working tirelessly to elect Brown. That could prove pivotal in Baltimore County, which often decides state elections. Smith also has a good chunk of campaign cash lying around, which might help Brown gain name recognition.

O’Malley owed Smith big-time, Without Smith’s hard work and vocal support for the Baltimore mayor, O’Malley might have lost in 2006 to incumbent Gov. Bob Ehrlich. In that election, Smith managed to hold Ehrlich to a draw in his home county, which locked up the race for O’Malley.

The governor has re-paid Smith with perhaps the biggest plum in state government. For at least the next 18 months, Jim Smith will be a big wheel in Annapolis.

SOURCE: Christopher B. Costello, MDSPE Legislative Advisor


Posted May 2013

Maryland To Fund Programs That Will Expose High School Students To College Courses.

The Washington Post (5/23, Wiggins) reports that while taking a tour at the Academy of Health Science at Prince George’s Community College, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said the state has allocated $2 million to help fund programs that will allow students to take high school college-level courses. "The dual-enrollment program offered at Prince George’s Community College, which is finishing its second year, is currently the only one in Maryland.”


AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
Bob McKinney sent a memo by Jan R van Lohuizen from Voter Consumer Research regarding the potential political impact of the Affordable Care Act. Open Memo.

STORMWATER FEES IN AA COUNTY
www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/anne-arundel/odenton/bal-anne-arundel-changes-stormwater-fee-20130520,0,7003379.story
baltimoresun.com
Anne Arundel County Council changes stormwater fee
7-0 vote caps some fees, allows phase-in for others
By Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun
9:17 PM EDT, May 20, 2013

Anne Arundel County's stormwater fee hasn't been collected yet, but the County Council has already changed it. By a 7-0 vote Monday night, council members agreed to reduce the maximum fee that commercial property owners would pay and to phase in the fee for some property owners. The changes were made to make the stormwater fee more palatable to County Executive Laura Neuman, who vetoed the stormwater fee that the council passed earlier this spring.
Owners of nonresidential properties still must pay based on the percentage of their lot that's covered by impervious surfaces such as parking lots and rooftops. But they'll be capped at the equivalent of 25 percent of their annual property tax, instead of 35 percent in the original version of the stormwater fee. And for any fee that is greater than $500 per year, there will be a three-year phase-in period, under the bill passed Monday. Residential property owners will still pay $34 per year for townhomes, $85 for most single-family homes and $170 for rural homes. On Thursday morning, the County Council will consider four more bills that would further amend the stormwater fee, all sponsored by Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Democrat from Crownsville. The state's nine largest counties and Baltimore City are required to start collecting a fee July 1 to pay for stormwater pollution control projects under a law passed by the General Assembly in 2012. Stormwater is a source of nutrient and sediment pollution that harms the Chesapeake Bay.

Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun
 

Posted April 2013

HB 347 Professional Engineers Firm Permit Passed

The Firm permit bill for Professional Engineers passed April 8, 2013 with the Senate Amendments.

The Senate amendments reinstated the revocation provision that the House had deleted in lieu of a fine not to exceed $5,000 per violation.

Under the final version, the Board of Professional Engineers may do both:
1. revoke a permit; and
2. impose a fine up to $5,000 per violation.

Click here for the House 3rd Reader.

Click here for the Senate amendments.

In the near future we will have an enrolled copy of the bill that will incorporate the senate amendments.

SOURCE: Christopher B. Costello, MDSPE Legislative Advisor


The AP (3/29) reports, "Maryland's first gas tax increase in two decades cleared a Senate committee on Thursday, paving the way for people to pay nearly 4 cents more per gallon in July and for additional increases in coming years." In a 9-4 vote, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee approved the bill, making no changes to it. The bill was first proposed earlier in the month by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD).
The Washington Post (3/29, Wagner) notes that on Friday the full Senate appears likely to approve the "sweeping plan to raise taxes on gas to help replenish a state transportation fund that is rapidly running out of money for highway construction and long-planned mass-transit projects." The Baltimore Sun (3/29, Cox) and the Washington Examiner (3/29) also cover the story.

Posted March 2013

Maryland House Committee Approves Revised Version Of Governor's Transportation Plan.

The Washington Post (3/19, Wagner) reports, "Motorists in Maryland would pay higher prices at the pump - although somewhat more gradually than initially proposed by Gov. Martin O'Malley - under a plan approved Monday by a key committee of the House of Delegates." There are only "three weeks remaining in the legislative session," so Monday's 15-4 vote by the House Ways and Means Committee was seen as "a burst of momentum" for the legislation. The plan O'Malley introduced earlier this month "was projected to yield an additional $3.4 billion for transportation projects over five years, including more borrowing." The Baltimore Sun (3/19, Dresser) also covers the story.


Maryland Bill Aims to Require Firm Permits

Engineering business owners in Maryland will be required to obtain a permit to provide services if new legislation under consideration in the legislature is enacted. The requirement seeks to prevent companies from providing engineering services without a licensed engineer in responsible charge.

The legislation (H.B. 347), introduced in January, will require engineering firms to obtain a permit from the State Board for Professional Engineers (which operates under the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation) to provide professional engineering services. The permit allows the business—either a corporation, partnership or limited liability corporation—to operate through a dedicated professional engineer and indicates to the public that the firm is authorized to provide engineering services. Currently, architects and surveyors are required to obtain a firm permit in the state.

Businesses seeking a permit must submit the required forms with an application fee and appoint an individual to serve as a "managing agent.” The managing agent must be a licensed engineer in good standing with the licensure board and must be in a position to act on behalf of the firm in areas related to the practice of engineering. A licensed engineer can’t be designated as the managing agent of more than one firm unless the firms are affiliated. The licensing board will be authorized to deny a permit application and revoke or suspend a permit if the holder fraudulently or deceptively uses the permit or fails to meet the qualifications to hold a permit. The board may also impose a penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation.

The Maryland Society of Professional Engineers worked with the licensing board to revise the legislation and include protections for professional engineers from unwarranted litigation. The board also received input from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Maryland Consulting Engineers Council. The legislation was assigned to the House Economic Matters Committee. If enacted, the permit requirement will begin on October 1, 2015. A similar bill was presented last year, but failed to move out of committee.
 

DOT To Possibly Cancel, Renegotiate Contracts.

The Baltimore Business Journal (3/14, Subscription Publication) reports, "The U.S. Department of Transportation notified contractors Tuesday of potential effects from the sequestration budget cuts, the Washington Business Journal reported. The impacts include not exercising optional years under existing contracts, suspending or reducing the scope of work and negotiating prices down or canceling contracts completely." According to the Journal, "Pointing to the $85 billion in federal cuts required by Sept. 30 under sequestration, a notice to contractors from the Office of the Senior Procurement Executive stated that the DOT 'is taking steps to mitigate the effects ... but impacts to many of our current contracts are unavoidable.'"

Posted February 2013

Maryland Lawmaker Cautions Against Hasty Decision Over Fracking.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post (2/23), Heather R. Mizeur, a Democrat who represents Montgomery County in the Maryland House of Delegates, argues that the Post "may have concluded that 'fracking' for natural gas can be done safely," people in Maryland "have not." Mizeur warns Maryland's neighboring states have dived "headlong into drilling, only to face regrets later," so the state is "hitting the pause button on fracking and asking important questions first." She writes that's why Gov. Martin O'Malley sought a study of the matter in 2011 and while she and state Sen. Robert A. Zirkin "want to give the study the force of law by legislating a moratorium until the state's comprehensive review is complete."

Source: NSPE Daily Designs

Posted January 2013

HB 59 Dedicated State Funds Protection Act

The following legislation has been placed in the MDSPE profile.

Delegate McMillan proposes to protect dedicated funds from transfer to the General Fund except in dire circumstances and requires repayment in a specified manner and timeframe. Follow the link below to a copy of the HB 59 (http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2013RS/bills/hb/hb0059f.pdf)

Click on the link for a list of the pre-filed legislation in the House and Senate.

Posted December 2012

Md. leaders anxiously eye ‘fiscal cliff’ as legislative session looms

By John Wagner | Posted: Dec 06, 2012 09:59 PM EST | The Washington Post

Maryland legislative leaders said Thursday they are anxiously watching negotiations on the "fiscal cliff” in Washington as they decide whether to move forward on transportation funding and other priorities in the state’s upcoming 90-day session.

"We’re all very concerned with what’s taking place in Washington, D.C.,” House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said after an afternoon meeting with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert).

Top lawmakers say they are watching Washington as they craft priorities for the upcoming 90-day session.

O’Malley, who summoned the legislative leaders to his office, did not speak to the media following the 50-minute meeting.

In separate discussions with reporters, both Miller and Busch said the meeting touched on a wide range of issues related to the session that starts Jan. 9, including the state budget and legislation on the death penalty, wind energy and transportation funding.

Moving forward on a transportation package becomes far more difficult, both legislative leaders suggested, if federal income taxes rise on most Marylanders and the state experiences major job losses in industries tied to the federal government.

During the last 90-day legislative session, O’Malley proposed applying the state’s 6 percent sales tax to gasoline, a move that was estimated to raise more than $600 million a year for transportation projects. That bill did not pass in either chamber.

O’Malley has not said whether he plans to push similar legislation again.

The governor has pledged to re-introduce a bill that would jump-start the state’s wind-power industry through state incentives. That bill, which could lead to increases in electricity rates for consumers, may also face resistance if federal taxes increase.

The governor, meanwhile, has been coy about his intentions on the death penalty. Aides say he has yet to make a decision on whether to sponsor a bill that would repeal capital punishment in the state.

Busch told reporters that the Senate would have to take action on the measure first. In 2009, when O’Malley last sponsored a death penalty repeal bill, the Senate balked, opting instead to tighten the evidentiary standards in capital cases.

Miller declined to comment on that issue. "What we’re going to do is wait and see what the governor’s legislative package looks like,” he said.

Posted November 2012

State Eyes Level Funding for Most Transportation Next Year
By Cheryl Mattix Cmattix@cecilwhig.com | Posted: Monday, November 5, 2012

County and town officials were informed Friday not to expect more than safety and maintenance projects to roads and bridges from Maryland Department of Transportation for the next few years. Funding is in place for projects already in the pipeline, but no new projects are being added right now.

"State money remains flat,” said Darrell B. Mobley, acting secretary Maryland Department ofTransportation, which is the agency that oversees aviation, transit, highways, the Port of Baltimore, Motor Vehicle Administration and the Transportation Authority (tolls). Mobley and representatives from all the agencies under him attended a meeting at the Cecil County Public Library in Elkton on Friday afternoon to brief local officials about ongoing projects and a few new ones slated for 2013.

"We’ll need revenue increases to be able to add any new projects to our list,” Mobley said, however, he added that progress will be made, despite the fiscal challenges faced by the state. He said 18 percent of Maryland’s funding comes from the federal government. In fiscal year 2012, Maryland got $580.5 million in highway funding and $168.7 million in transit funding. Authorized, but not yet appropriated, funds for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 are nearly identical for highway, but slightly higher for transit. State officials plan to move ahead in 2013 with an estimated $12 million replacement of the bridge on Route 272 over Amtrak heading into downtown North East.

"We should be able to advertise for that project in April and start construction by August,” Mobley said.  The bridge, which is the main artery into North East, will remain open to two-way traffic during construction.

"I have some good news,” said Maryland Transportation Authority Executive Secretary Harold Bartlett. "We have $2 million approved toward a $3 million NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) required before we can begin design for interchange improvements to I-95 and Route 222,” Bartlett said. "We’re looking for a $1 million match from either local government or a developer to get started on this.”

It’s the first step prior to design and construction of a much needed interchange and bridge expansion at Route 222 and I-95 that Bartlett said is estimated at a total cost of $170 million.

"My kudos to moving the environmental study along for I-95 interchange,” said Perryville Mayor Jim Eberhardt, who also lauded state officials for getting started on the sidewalk project along Route 222. Eberhardt, however, also requested help from the state to allow signage for local restaurants and gas stations along northbound I-95 approaching the Perryville exit.

"We’re the only exit without signs. I hope you’ll work with us on this,” Eberhardt urged. Bartlett promised Eberhardt he’d look into it himself. Elkton Mayor Joe Fisona thanked officials for making some progress on MARC service expansion, but he also asked for improvements to the intersection of Route 40 and Route 213 without much luck.

"We can’t add any new projects at this time,” said Dennis Simpson of SHA. However, state officials told Fisona they might be able to get a pedestrian crossing for the flood-prone Delaware Avenue bridge in Elkton. State Highway is 70 percent done with the installation of 16 miles of guardrail along the median strip of Route 40 in Cecil County. It’s an effort to reduce crossover accidents. This spring, SHA should be starting a sidewalk project along Route 222 from Franklin Street to Route 40. SHA District Manager Terry Wright, who will be retiring by the end of the year, said the state has increased signage along the state roads heading into Port Deposit in an effort to prevent future tanker accidents like the two that happened this summer. Maryland State Police has also stepped up enforcement and weight restrictions.

"A comprehensive review of the whole northwest corner of Cecil County is also underway,” Wright said. The state will be painting 13 bridges along I-95 in Cecil County next year, along with resurfacing of several state roads in the county, including a section of Route 282 in Cecilton, Route 222 between Route 40 and I-95 and Route 40 from Big Elk Creek to the Delaware state line. State officials said they are going to request funding to purchase new scales to try to remedy ongoing issues with the truck weigh station on I-95 near the toll plaza in response to a question from Commissioner Robert Hodge.

Cecil County resident Ken Wiggins pressed officials to come up with a solution to the economic barrier caused by the tolls to business in both Cecil and Harford counties, but got no answer. "I don’t know if I have a good answer for that,” Bartlett said, explaining that the Susquehanna toll structure is the same as the rest of the state.

Posted October 2012

2012 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION VOTER INFORMATION

Election Day: Tuesday, November 6th
Registration Deadline: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 9:00 pm

Register Online: https://voterservices.elections.state.md.us/OnlineVoterRegistration

Polling Locations: http://www.elections.state.md.us/voting/where.html

MD Board of Elections: http://elections.state.md.us/

Early Voting Dates:
Saturday, October 27th 10:00 am - 8:00 PM
Sunday, October 28th 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Monday, October 29th to Thursday, November 1st 10:00 am - 8:00 PM

Early Voting Ends:
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Early Voting Locations: http://www.mdearlyvote.com/

Absentee Ballott
Request Absentee Ballot Before: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
http://elections.state.md.us/voting/documents/2012_Absentee_Ballot_Application_English.pdf
http://elections.state.md.us/voting/documents/2012_Absentee_Ballot_Application_Spanish.pdf
Absentee Ballot Deadline: Tuesday, October 30, 2012

SOURCE: Christopher B. Costello, MDSPE Legislative Advisor

Posted August 2012

The August 2012 Special Session ended in the wee hours of Tuesday, August 14th and did what it set out to accomplish: Enact a constitutional amendment (Senate Bill 1) to expand casino gambling to include table games at six locations.

In addition, veterans organizations across the state will be allowed to operate five slot-type machines each.

Those who approve of expanding gambling will be pleased with the outcome and, for their sake, we can hope that the voters will approve the amendment in November. In addition to the casino amendment, the 2012 November ballot will also include referendum questions regarding instate tuition for undocumented residents, same sex marriage and congressional redistricting as well as the election of President, one Senate member and all eight members of the House of Representatives.

PROTECTING THE TRANSPORTATION TRUST FUND
We were able to present a bill (HB 16) to protect the Transportation Trust Fund from the diversion of its revenues to the General Fund or any other purpose but transportation services and infrastructure; however, it was not allowed a hearing. Neither were the 39 other non-casino related bills, which included two other amendments to protect the Trust Fund..

While we would have been delighted if the General Assembly would have taken up the amendment to protect transportation funding, it was no surprise that it was ignored by the leadership. That is not to say the effort was without benefit. We had a week to discuss the need for this amendment and confirmed that there is ample support amongst the rank and file of both parties to pass such a measure. All we need is to get it past the leadership during the regular Session of the General Assembly, which will convene in January 2013.

If successful, the amendment will appear on the 2014 ballot for voter approval. Would that there could be a significant increase in transportation funding in the interim; however, .polling of legislators indicates that they firmly believe the voters would severely object to any additional tax for transportation without assurance that the money raised would be dedicated to transportation.

SOURCE: Christopher B. Costello, MDSPE Legislative Advisor

Posted May 2012

Group Wants More Time To Complete Study Of Drilling In Maryland.

The AP (4/26, Breitenbach) reports that "members of a commission scrutinizing natural gas extraction in western Maryland are asking the governor for more time to complete a study on the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking." The AP says "the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission is asking" to extend the time beyond the August deadline. Commission chairman David Vanko "believes the scope of the study is just too broad to" complete by August, and says it could take until December to finish the report.

SOURCE: NSPE, Daily Designs

Posted March 2012

GAZETTE.NET
Maryland Community News
Published: Friday, March 16, 2012

Barry Rascovar: Transportation funding stops lawmakers in tracks

If you look through the Maryland Constitution, there’s only one thing the General Assembly must accomplish every year: enact a budget for the fiscal calendar that begins July 1. This duty is proving a painful chore.Neither the House nor the Senate likes Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed income tax increase on higher-incomefamilies. Yet finding a replacement revenue package that balances the budget and also eliminates part of Maryland’s structural deficit has been agonizing.

It could take long and rocky conference committee sessions between House and Senate budget leaders to work out a mutually acceptable package.

Even then, the task facing these underappreciated legislative numbers crunchers is far from over. Lawmakers still must deal with Maryland’s dead-in-the-water transportation department that is slowly running out of funds for vital road, transit and bridge improvements.

O’Malley wants them to tack on a 6 percent sales tax to the price of gasoline, which would net $670 million for transportation projects. He renewed his plea at hearings Wednesday. The governor’s gas-tax scheme is even less popular than raising everyone’s income tax by a fraction of a percent, as a Senate budget committee has recommended. With gas prices approaching $4 a gallon, a massive 18-cent increase, even phased in over three years, would be extraordinarily unpopular.

Yet virtually anything the legislature does to generate more transportation funds will be broadly disliked: The public wants better transportation choices but doesn’t want to face up to the fact this means more taxes out of their pockets.

Doing nothing about this dilemma is a realistic possibility, as Senate President Mike Miller indicated this week. It certainly would be the politically safe route: Let bureaucrats figure out how to stretch existing dollars to maintain our highways, port, airports, rail and mass transit lines and motor vehicle offices.

This approach, though, jeopardizes the state’s future. It means postponement of important transportation enhancement, safety and environmental projects and leaves a continuing question mark over Maryland’s previously approved Purple Line in the Washington, D.C., suburbs and Red Line in Baltimore.

A modern, well-maintained transportation network is the backbone of Maryland’s economy. It helps move goods to market, makes long commutes to work and play possible and lets us to navigate vast distances quickly. It knits together far-flung parts of the state. It makes the quality of life in Maryland markedly better.

And yet for the past 20 years, governors and lawmakers have ignored the fact that it takes additional tax dollars to build the transportation projects demanded by Maryland citizens and businesses.

Legislators and governors further boxed themselves in by refusing to confront this tax issue sooner. Instead, they gave the go-ahead for a couple of multi-billion-dollar projects — the Purple Line and Red Line — without committing the money to pay for them.

This intentional act of avoidance has exacerbated Maryland’s transportation predicament: There’s not a cent in the state’s budget for either of these mass transit lines.

So what will legislators do in the coming weeks before their April 9 adjournment? They might raise the state’s vehicle registration fees, but that only adds another $150 million or so annually. Other transportation fees could be increased, too, as was done during the Ehrlich administration. Legislators might soften the blow to consumers by phasing in the governor’s sales tax surcharge on gasoline over six years (1 percent a year, or about 3 cents per annum). Or they might trim the annual gas-tax increase a bit by adding the tax at the wholesale level instead of the pump.

Or, they might reverse their prior actions that stripped corporate income tax and sales tax money from the state’s transportation fund. None of these steps, though, would be enough to pay for the Red Line or Purple Line — or for that matter the Corridor Cities Transitway.

O’Malley and his brain trust apparently have decided these costly projects can be built through partial privatization: The state will pick a company willing to invest upfront funds to construct these projects. Over the next 30 to 50 years, that company will recoup its investment, plus a handsome profit, through fares and payments from the state.

Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley spoke glowingly of such public-private partnerships (P3s) at recent legislative hearings on an administration bill that would make it far easier for the state to negotiate privatization deals. P3s come with considerable risk, though. The state would give up operating control. Citizens with complaints or problems would be forced to deal with the private operator, not state agencies.

If the transit lines aren’t maintained properly or safely, it could turn into a legal nightmare and finger-pointing without immediate corrective action. Fares might have to be higher on P3 transit lines than elsewhere in the system to boost the operator’s profits. Or, the state might find itself locked into a bad bargain (inflated revenue estimates, unresponsive management, poor staff performance and unexpected expenses) that lasts half a century.

Pressure is building, though, for some legislative steps that avoid another year of inaction on transportation. Putting off this problem until 2013 only makes a solution more expensive and painful — and one year closer to the next legislative election.

Barry Rascovar is a State House columnist, communications consultant and political commentator on WYPR-FM, 88.1. He can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com.

© 2012 Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./Gazette.Net

SOURCE: Christopher B. Costello, MDSPE Legislative Advisor

Posted February 2012

TESTIMONY
SENATE COMMITTEE ON BUDGET & TAX
SENATE BILL 619

Dedicated Funds - Prohibition of Transfer

POSITION Support


ISSUE
The Maryland Society of Professional Engineers supports this legislation calling for an amendment to the Maryland Constitution to prohibit the transfer of specified dedicated State funds to the General Fund except under specified circumstances.


CONCERN
Our concern relates to the less than reliable use of the monies paid by individual licensed professionals into for the specified purpose of administering the Occupational and Professional
Licensing Design Boards.Prior to 2010, the Department failed to expend the fees as planned and a significant surplus accumulated in the Fund. In 2010, the Administration diverted $300,000 from the Design Board Fund to help balance the state’s Operating Budget. To-date none of the diverted funds have been restored nor is there any intent on the part of the Administration to replace the $300,000 that was diverted. The result is that the professional engineers and other design professional have been required to replace the missing funds with subsequent license fees. Of even greater concern is the lack of assurance that these funds will be spent as intended or protected from future diversion to the Operating Budget.

This situation is more egregious to our members because when the Special Design Board Fund was created, Professional Engineers were required to accept a significant increase in fees that exceeded the cost to administer services for professional engineers. This disproportionate increase was granted to allow the Department sufficient funds to better provide needed services for all the design professions.


At that time the Maryland Society of Professional Engineers requested and received written assurance from the Department (enclosed) that these funds would only be used to administer the services relating to the administration of the Occupational and Professional Licensing Design Boards,nor would these fees would be diverted to any other purpose.Given the failure of the Administration to maintain this assurance and absent any assurance that the Administration would not appropriate funds in this or other dedicated accounts for the General Fund, we ask that the House Appropriations Committee vote to favor this legislation and allow the people of Maryland to decide this matter.

Posted February 2012

Transportation Policy Experts Blast O'Malley Gas Tax Plan
Proposed increase hits poor hardest, while encouraging wasteful spending in Annapolis

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