4 General Assembly takeaways for Carroll County: funding source for 911 upgrades, bond for turf field, more

Both chambers of the Maryland legislature ended their annual session early on Monday so they could join for a joint floor session honoring House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch, who died Sunday after contracting pneumonia.

“Sine Die,” the last day of Maryland’s legislative session each year, usually ends with an energetic feel; on Monday, balloons fell from the balcony during a hushed moment of silence as lawmakers left the chamber.


It was a somber cap to what Del. Haven Shoemaker, a Republican representing District Five, called a “little nutty” day.

There’s just “a lot of stuff going on,” Shoemaker said Monday. He said, all things considered, that he was pleased with what the 2019 legislative session will mean for Carroll County.


Here are four takeaways concerning what the session means for Carroll County.

Funding from the budget

The Carroll County delegation secured $4,715,000 in capital funds in the budget that the House of Delegates and Maryland Senate enacted in late March.

Maryland lawmakers put the finishing touches on an ambitious General Assembly session in which they enacted plans aimed at helping working families, public schools and the environment — and, in doing so, completed the legislative legacy of the House of Delegates’ late speaker, Michael Busch.

“I think we did a good job of bringing home the bacon for Carroll County,” Shoemaker said.

That capital funding includes $3 million for planning and construction of the Freedom Army National Guard Readiness Center; $800,000 for design, construction and equipping of a new critical care unit at Carroll Hospital; $650,000 for planning, design and construction of the Carroll Hospice Dove House; and $250,000 for a water storage tank project in New Windsor.

“The resources we have secured for all of these important local projects is a product of outstanding teamwork … we appreciate that Governor Hogan has worked closely with us to ensure that Carroll County is not overlooked,” Sen. Justin Ready, R-5, said in a statement.

Next-generation 911

A bill passed by both chambers would allow localities to increase the amount of money they bring in from cellphone bills each month. In Carroll County, that could mean extra money in the budget for upgrading its 911 infrastructure to the latest technology.

Ted Zaleski, director of Carroll’s management and budget office, said recently he was not sure how much it would cost to upgrade the 911 infrastructure, because the amount of data storage required for things like videos and text messages from callers has not been determined yet — and neither has the number of employees the county will have to bring on as dispatchers.

The bill will automatically make it so fees are applied on a per-phone basis, rather than a per-bill basis. It could increase the fee, too.

If the bill becomes law, it will change the way fees are assessed on cellphone bills. Instead of one fee per bill, the fee will be assessed on each device. It will also give local governments the option to double the fee they collect from $0.75 to $1.50 each month. The bill has not been signed yet by Hogan, but it passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities.

Zaleski has said the legislation could be a “noticeable help” to Carroll County’s budget woes, because it will bring in more revenue that can free up money for other projects. Zaleski said during a county budget meeting on Tuesday that the county could expect to bring in about $1.7 million extra, if not more, from the way the fees will change from every bill to every device — and even more if the Board of Commissioners votes to increase the local fee.

A future for turf?

The Carroll delegation also secured $200,000 in a local bond initiative for a turf field at the North Carroll High School site. The field, if constructed, would be the first turf field that’s accessible to the public in Carroll County.

“We are all excited to bring back needed dollars for our school system and these important local projects all over the county,” Del. April Rose, R-5, said in a statement. “A new turf field … would be enormously helpful to our rec community and school sports.”

The Long Term Advisory Council group tasked with looking at arts and recreation in Carroll concluded last year that there is a “huge need for a large multipurpose sports complex” that would include artificial turf fields.”


Laura and Reid's Law

Laura and Reid’s Law, which Ready sponsored, passed both chambers and creates an additional felony, with a potential 10-year sentence, for committing a violent crime against a pregnant woman.

The law was introduced last legislative session too, but it failed. It’s named for Laura Wallen, a Howard County teacher who was four months pregnant when she was killed in September 2017. She planned to name the baby Reid.

The law “offers the access to justice for women and their families previously unavailable,” Ready said in a statement.

Other states in the country, including California, have similar laws on the books, and Ready has said the law was “narrowly written” to avoid impacting a woman’s right to choose, though Ready himself does not support abortion.


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