In a year that has seen many changes in the way the Maryland General Assembly operates, MML is continuing its year-round advocacy efforts on behalf of municipal governments.
Despite the General Assembly ending its 2020 session weeks early, they still adjourned “sine die.” Essentially this means that all legislation that did not pass during the COVID-shortened session will need to be reintroduced the next time the General Assembly convenes, just as if the 2020 legislature had completed its traditional 90-day session. There were early indications from House and Senate leadership that a special session might be called in late spring, but that clearly did not happen. If a special session is called this fall, only major and time-sensitive issues will likely be addressed, such as election procedures, police reform, budget readjustment, and school funding. If a special session is not convened in 2020, then the start of the 2021 General Assembly session will begin like any other in that all proposed legislation will need to be reintroduced. At this writing, the process and procedures related to an in-person 2021 General Assembly session have not been finalized.
One aspect of the legislative interim that has not changed is MML’s involvement in task forces and workgroups. These groups are currently meeting virtually as opposed to in-person. The scope and responsibility of these groups vary, but they primarily address issues of importance to municipal governments and can often lead to legislation. Municipal input is essential to ensure the voice of local government is heard as policy is being shaped. Some of the workgroups and issues MML has participated in so far this year include:
Police Accountability Workgroup, Housing Needs Assessment, COVID-19 Response Legislative Workgroup, Unemployment Insurance Oversight Hearing, Bay Restoration Fund, Stormwater and Wastewater Management, Underground Utilities Damage Prevention, Waste Reduction and Recycling. MML also monitored public hearings of the Economic Matters, Finance, and Budget & Taxation committees on topics of unemployment insurance, police reform, housing affordability, election procedures, COVID-19 response, and State fiscal matters.
Although it has been more challenging to meet face-to-face with legislators during the pandemic, MML staff has been keeping in touch, nonetheless. Discussions with legislators over the interim allow for relationship building as well as policy shaping in one-on-one conversations. MML staff have spoken with key legislators about highway user revenues, the tax sales process, local authority in the energy space, unemployment insurance, broadband access, COVID-19 funding for local governments, constant yield tax rate, and environmental issues to name a few. In addition, MML has also been in contact with our Congressional leaders to include coronavirus funding directly to municipalities and as part of the successful passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.
MML is at the beginning of the process to set MML’s legislative priorities for 2021. Legislative action requests (LARs) are submitted by the membership proposing various issues as potential priorities for the League. This year, we received eight LARs submitted by the July 24 deadline for consideration by the Legislative Committee. The Legislative Committee will then debate and vote to recommend up to four priorities for the membership to vote on at the fall conference, which will be offered virtually on October 8 & 9, 2020. Future updates will be provided on the recommended legislative priorities once the Legislative Committee goes through their process. For any further information or questions, please contact one of the MML legislative staff members.