Highlights From Annapolis – September 2016

September 2016

Governor Hogan Signs Executive Order Requiring Schools to Begin After Labor Day
Governor Hogan issued an Executive Order requiring public schools to begin school after Labor Day and complete the year by June 15 beginning with the 2017 school year. The Governor’s press release indicates that the change in the start date will benefit families, students, teachers, and the economy.

The change to the school calendar is meeting resistance from some members of the General Assembly and local school boards.  The Governor’s Office has issued a press release to address some of these concerns. Additional coverage can be found in the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.

Governor Hogan Announces Study of New Chesapeake Bay Crossing
Governor Hogan recently announced a $5 million study to be conducted by the Maryland Transportation Authority to determine where to locate and how to pay for another Chesapeake Bay crossing.  The study, which could take up to 4 years, is called a “Tier One National Environment Policy Act” (NEPA) study and requires state and federal officials to take environmental consequences of proposed projects into consideration.

As provided in the Governor’s press release, “The Tier 1 study will pursue environmental regulatory agency concurrence and agreement from the Eastern Shore counties on one crossing location. The study will include traffic, engineering, and environmental analyses; cost-per-mile estimates; preliminary financing and procurement options; and an economic and land-use study.” Additional information can be found in the Baltimore Sun.

Maryland Closes Fiscal Year 2016 With Less Revenue Than Projected
Comptroller Peter Franchot recently announced that Maryland closed fiscal year 2016 with $250 million less in general fund revenue than projected. The revenue decline is attributed to a greater number of tax refunds and sluggish sales tax revenue.

Although revenues were less than anticipated, the fiscal year closed with a fund balance of almost $200 million which will carry forward to be used in the current 2017 fiscal year. More coverage can be found in the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.

Administration to Implement New Transportation Scoring System in 2017
Following the issuance of an opinion by the Attorney General’s Office, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has said it will now implement a new transportation scoring process in September 2017 when the draft Comprehensive Transportation Program (CTP) for 2018-2023 is released. A MDOT letter previously sent to county governments indicated that the scoring process would be implemented for the current year and that unless new information for county priority state projects was submitted, projects would be eliminated from the CTP.

The transportation scoring process is required by the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016 (CH 36, Acts of 2016). The legislation passed the General Assembly the end of March and was vetoed by the Governor. The General Assembly overrode the veto during the last week of session.

Medical Cannabis Commission Announces Growers and Processors
The Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission awarded preliminary licenses in August to 15 medical cannabis growers and 15 processors. A list of the companies awarded can be found in an article published by the Baltimore Sun. These companies will now go through a more extensive review process to include deeper background checks and financial reviews before being given final approval.

The preliminary awarding has not been without controversy. Racial diversity was not considered when selecting the growers and processors and the Legislative Black Caucus has  asked Governor Hogan to intervene. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and the Executive Director of the Cannabis Commission met recently to discuss options for legally increasing how many minority applicants receive licenses.

Members Named to the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education
Members were recently named to the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (CH. 701/702, Acts of 2016), which is charged with reviewing and making recommendations on the adequacy of funding for education. The Commission, to be chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, has a total of 26 members and will hold its first meeting on September 29 in Annapolis at 10 am in the House Appropriations Committee Room, 120 House Office Building. A preliminary report of findings and recommendations is due by December 31, 2016 and a final report is due by December 31, 2017. A listing of members can be found in an article published by MarylandReporter.  Once available, meeting dates and agenda topics can be found on the General Assembly’s website.

Governor Hogan Announces Modifications to Septic Regulations
Governor Hogan announced during the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) summer conference that the Maryland Department of Environment would be proposing new regulations to repeal the requirement that new or expanded capacity septic systems located outside of a Critical Area use best available nitrogen removal technology (BAT). A critical area is defined to be within 1000 feet of a coastal and Chesapeake Bay waterway.

A post on MACo’s Conduit Street blog describes the changes being proposed in the new regulations. The regulations requiring BAT septic systems outside of the critical area were put in place during Governor O’Malley’s administration.

Maryland Republican Party Executive Director, Joe Cluster, Sworn In as New Delegate
Maryland Republican Party Executive Director, Joe Cluster, was sworn in this month as a new member of the House of Delegates representing District 8 in Baltimore County.  He is replacing his father, John Cluster, who was recently appointed by the Governor to the Maryland Parole Commission. House Speaker Michael E. Busch administered the oath of office.

Governor’s Legislative Office Staffing Changes
Heidi Dudderar, formerly an Associate Director with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, has joined the Governor’s Legislative Office as a Deputy Legislative Officer. She is replacing Steve DeBoy, who is now with the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

Maryland Chamber of Commerce Hires Two New Lobbyists
The Maryland Chamber of Commerce has hired Lawrence A. Richardson, Jr., Esq. to serve as Vice President of Government Affairs and Richard J. Reinhardt, II, J.D. to serve as Director of Government Affairs. Larry Richardson currently serves as Claim Attorney/Jurisdictional Specialist for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and brings over two decades of experience as a Government Affairs representative for State Farm Insurance. Richard Reinhardt currently serves as Director of Government and Community Relations at Towson University.

Other Important Information and Websites
Commission to Modernize State Procurement – Meeting dates, meeting minutes, and other details can be found on the Commission website. The Commission’s final report with recommendations is due to the Governor by December 1, 2016.

21st Century School Facilities Commission – Meeting dates and agenda topics can be found on the Commission page of the General Assembly’s website.

To access information on members of the General Assembly, committees, committee meetings, legislation, and other publications, visit the General Assembly’s Website.

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