Carroll County Times
Carroll County

State delegations, commissioners discuss legislative agenda

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners must weigh in on a number of proposed law changes before the Carroll County delegations to the Maryland General Assembly vote to set its 2014 legislative agenda.
Every year, Carroll County government departments, nonprofits and various agencies submit legislation to be introduced for the 90-day session in Annapolis. The board and delegations met Thursday to talk about the proposals before eventually voting on whether to submit them during the upcoming session.
The proposed legislation varied greatly, from Commissioner Richard Rothschild's "Competitive Business Job Protection Act" to the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association's casino night provision.
The commissioners will vote which local legislation it wants the delegations to introduce in the legislature. Then, the Carroll County House of Delegates and Senate delegations will vote on introducing them.
Here's a breakdown on the proposed legislation discussed on Thursday.
Business and environmental legislation
Since bordering states are not being required to implement the same environmental regulations as ones in Maryland, Rothschild, R-District 4, proposed statewide legislation that he said will protect businesses and jobs.
Rothschild's proposed "Competitive Business Job Protection Act" would not require businesses to implement environmental regulations if it creates a competitive disadvantage for them compared to businesses in surrounding states.
Having to implement expensive environmental regulations creates a competitive disadvantage for businesses located on the state's border, he said.
Rothschild also proposed legislation that would require the state to perform a cost-benefit analysis when proposing environmental regulations. The reason, Rothschild said, is because the state is willing to spend $3,000 to remove a pound of nitrogen from the Chesapeake Bay rather than looking for more cost-efficient ways to do the same work.
The state does not consider the tax burden it puts on residents when it implements environmental regulations, he said.
Concerned with the effects it will have on the state, Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, asked the delegations to consider slowing down the implementation of "Accounting for Growth" environmental policy.
"Accounting for Growth" is a new state policy that, among other things, requires builders to secure pollution credits in order to offset nitrogen and phosphorus pollution loads coming from new development and leading into the Chesapeake Bay.
Maryland is pushing to lead the country in environmental regulations, Howard said, which is having a detrimental effect on business owners who have to pay fees and perform projects that surrounding states don't have to do.
Until Maryland comes up with a multi-state solution for environmental issues, Howard said Maryland's businesses shouldn't be penalized.
"Because of the extra regulations in Maryland, our businesses are more regulated and have more costs," Howard said. "If [businesses] are located anywhere close to a border, they're at a disadvantage with a state moving much more slowly and those that don't have those same regulations."
Slowing down implementation
of Common Core education standards
The current pace of implementing new federal education standards being put into Carroll County schools is too fast, Howard said. The pace of implementing Common Core State Standards is causing the county to have to invest in computer technology at a faster rate and is causing teachers to quickly change curriculum and schedules, he said.
"By rushing the process, we're adding a lot of cost and confusion to the system, when in fact, we could slow down and take this much more methodically," Howard said.
Common Core State Standards is a federal initiative adopted by the state that establishes a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics. Maryland has already volunteered to implement science standards before other states, despite not having fully implementing the other educational standards first, he said.
"Any time we jump out ahead, we disrupt the curriculum, we disrupt the teachers, we add to the costs," Howard said. "Just to be able to say, 'We're ahead,' isn't really what's best for the system or the students. We just need to slow down."
Sheriff Kenneth Tregoning asked the board and delegations to consider legislation that would increase the sheriff's salary from $75,910 to $90,000. If approved, the salary increase would be implemented on Nov. 28, 2014, when a new sheriff would take office.
Earlier this year, Tregoning announced that he plans to retire at the end of his term in 2014. The average sheriff salary around the state is $93,000 and the average sheriff salary in similar jurisdictions is $88,000.
Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier, R-District 1, and Rothschild questioned the salary increase proposal, asking why an increase is necessary if the county is not having a problem getting candidates to run for the sheriff position.
Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 9B said it's important to take into consideration the amount of work the sheriff's position does and the added responsibilities for the position since the Carroll County Sheriff's Office became the primary law enforcement agency in the county.
Openness for
quasi-governmental agencies
Rothschild asked the delegations to consider a bill that would require certain quasi-governmental agencies to make their meeting agendas available to the public online.
The issue came up, Rothschild said, when residents were unable to find meeting agendas or substantial information on the Northeast Waste Disposal Authority, which is involved with the proposed waste-to-energy incinerator project.
Beer growler regulations
Sen. Joseph Getty, R-District 5, discussed a legislative proposal developed by the Carroll County Licensed Beverage Association, which is a trade organization comprised of local bars, clubs, restaurants and stores that sell alcohol, that would allow establishments that have an "off-sale retail alcohol beverage license" to sell draft beer that will be consumed off-premises in refillable containers, known as growlers.
Several counties passed similar legislation during the 2013 legislative session, Getty said.
Repeal license fee share with municipalities
The Carroll County Licensed Beverage Association also asked the delegation to repeal a law that requires the Carroll County Board of License Commissioners, also known as the liquor board, to remit 25 percent of license fees to the municipalities in which the businesses are located, Getty said.
After numerous unsuccessful attempts, the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association is once again proposing legislation that would allow nonprofits in Carroll to raise money through having casino nights. The proposed legislation would amend the state's criminal law article in Carroll to allow card games and casino nights sponsored by certain qualified organizations for charitable purposes.
"This is a way for volunteer fire departments and other nonprofits to make extra revenue," said Neal Roop, county liaison for CCVESA.
It is getting harder each year for organizations to raise money, he said.
Krebs said a state workgroup has been created to look at local gaming bills. Hopefully, Krebs said, the local gaming issue will be resolved and bill will be passed.
Every year, the county seeks the legislature's approval to give the commissioners authority to sell millions of dollars in bonds to fund capital improvements projects.
Deborah Effingham, chief for the county's budget bureau, said she will not know until January what the bond amount will be. That amount is typically determined during the annual budget process, Effingham said.
The Carroll County Industrial Development Authority, a nonprofit cooperation tasked with promoting economic development, is seeking to be added to the list of local governmental entities to which the Local Government Tort Claims Act applies. Attorney Isaac Menasche said members of the industrial development authority are currently not eligible for insurance from the Local Government Insurance Trust.
If members are allowed to become eligible for the Local Government Insurance Trust, the county will save about $9,000 a year in insurance costs, Menasche said.