EASTON — As part of its statewide tour, the Maryland Association of Counties visited Easton on Tuesday, May 10, to provide updates from the 2022 Maryland General Assembly to the Talbot County Council and start a dialogue for the future.
The Maryland Association of Counties, or MACo, is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to serving the state’s 24 jurisdictions by advocating for their local governments’ needs to the legislature. The organization’s membership consists of county elected officials and representatives from the 23 counties and Baltimore City.
Talbot County’s representative in MACo is Council Member Laura Price, who also serves as MACo’s board president.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Price and MACo’s Executive Director Michael Sanderson shared a number of successes from the legislative session, which included involved securing increased funds for local infrastructure, defending local revenue autonomy, keeping environmental rules smart and effective and supporting modern emergency medical service delivery and care.
About 2,700 bills were proposed by state lawmakers in this year’s 90-day session, and MACo analyzed 901 bills, Price said. Many of the bills were prefiled, allowing MACo to “hit the ground running” in working to serve the counties.
One bill MACo advocated for was SB 633 — legislation that changed parts of the framework governing the state’s 911 system, which included changes to reimbursement for emergency services transporters.
Price said that under current law, county emergency services are only reimbursed $100 if they deliver a patient to the emergency room. That reimbursement amount hasn’t been raised in over 20 years, she said.
The new bill will reimburse the county $150 for transport to an emergency room, and Medicaid will now recognize and reimburse transport to urgent care facilities and doctors’ offices.
The legislation will also allow for reimbursement of EMS trips to patients who don’t need transport, such as when patients are given Narcan, treated for a diabetic sugar issues or if they’ve fallen and can’t get up, Price said.
“I’m really proud of the bill, I’m glad of the outcome,” Sanderson said, echoing Price’s comments. “I think a lot of people are going to get better care and better treatment than they’ve gotten, and that’s a really good thing.”
MACo also advocated for tax relief for retirees under a certain income level. The legislation that ultimately passed is “a big deal for local governments,” Sanderson said.
Under the new bill, individuals over age 65 whose income is under $100,000 can receive a $1,000 tax credit at the state level, essentially subtracting what those individuals would have paid to the state with no effect on the county. The legislation leaves it up to the counties to decide if they want to participate in that tax relief.
Price also stated that she wanted the public to understand how hard MACo worked on getting the verbiage of the bill just right so it wouldn’t impact county revenues, along with other bills.
Sanderson and Price also spoke about bills restoring highway user revenues back to the counties to fund locally maintained roadways, working with new requirements for police accountability boards, dealing with cybersecurity issues and ordinance violations.
In an interview, Price further emphasized MACo’s positive impact on state lawmaking.
With MACo’s board of directors being comprised of 24 officials, one from each jurisdiction, the playing field is leveled between the large, densely populated areas on the western shore such as Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City, and smaller rural counties on the Eastern Shore and in western Maryland.
Price added that she felt she had more of an impact on getting through roadblocks in state lawmaking through MACo’s structure as well.