Big win for our schools! Maintenance of effort fix passes both houses
The week that was in Annapolis
Significant Victory for School Funding – House Passes SB 848
The House debated and took its final action on SB 848, the comprehensive fix of Maintenance of Effort (MOE) that MSEA and other education advocates have been pushing for the last several months. Earning 93 votes in favor, the House exceeded the 3/5 majority required to pass the bill as emergency legislation. The bill now moves to Governor O’Malley for his signature.
The House did not amend SB 848, so the same bill that passed the Senate last week remains intact and continues to provide the key elements we requested in our blueprint for fixing MOE. Thebill includes local flexibility and new options for counties to seek waivers, while also providing protections that MOE will not serve as both a funding floor and funding ceiling for local school aid in the coming years. The bill also includes new safeguards for educators, as it ensures that bargaining units are represented in any recurring cost reductions from personnel or personnel costs.
Please review the roll call vote for final passage in the House and Senate and take a few minutes to call and thank your senator and delegates if they voted to protect school funding. The Senate voted 32-14 (roll call linked here) and the House voted 93-44 (roll call linked here). Please utilize the MSEA legislative hotline, 866-268-MSEA, to make your calls next week!
You can also send a message to Speaker Busch, President Miller, and Governor O’Malley to thank them for their leadership on MOE and to push the governor to sign the bill and continue efforts to protect school funding.
Major Issues for Budget Conference Committee
The Senate approved a four-year phase in of shifting the employer normal costs of pension costs in SB 152, the Senate version of the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA), and a revenue package of $501 million for the state included in SB 523. The House, however, approved a three-year phase in to normal costs of pensions in their version of SB 152, and a much smaller revenue package. The House tax plan generates about $228 million in revenue for the state and $131 million for local governments in FY13. Here are some of the details of the House plan:
- Increases state income tax rates on higher-income earners ($140.1m in state revenue).
- Limits personal exemptions on higher-income earners ($51.7m in state revenue and $31.4m in local revenue).
- Increase tobacco taxes on certain products, exempts premium cigars ($8m in state revenue).
- Recordation tax on indemnity mortgages ($39.7m in local revenue).
- Repeals telecommunications property taxes ($7.4m in state revenue).
And the following components were amended out of what the Senate passed last week:
- Removed the “half millionaire’s” tax provision of a flat tax of 5.75% on their net taxable income.
- Delete the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. The House determined such a credit is not necessary if income taxes are not increasing on lower income brackets.
- Remove the “Amazon Tax” on the sales tax for certain internet sales.
In addition to the obvious differences in the BRFA and revenue bills, the conference committee has the ability to discuss and amend areas of the bills where there was no disagreement. We must keep a careful eye on negotiations around the pension shift and how pension costs are accounted for in future MOE calculations to make sure the MOE victory is real and school funding is fully protected.
News and Notes
Virtual Learning Legislation
The legislature has considered several bills this year that would authorize local school boards to procure online courses and services to expand course offerings to students. It was stated in testimony that the State Board is insufficiently staffed to keep up with requests for online courses and services by local school systems. This week, both chambers moved legislation, SB 674, which would allow the State Board to authorize local boards to procure such courses, with State Board approval, on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, SB 689 establishes a state advisory council on virtual learning to explore ways to support the incorporation of online learning in education. The bill appoints an MSEA representative to serve on the advisory council.
Supplemental Educational Services Legislation
MSEA has concerns about the effectiveness of the Supplemental Education Service (SES) providers who provide private tutoring for students after school. Senate Bill 1090/House Bill 1450 aim to expand these services. MSEA is joining with the Maryland State Department of Education and other education advocates to oppose the legislation because we believe local school systems should have the flexibility to determine the best way to support student achievement in low performing schools.
MSEA’s testimony against SB 1090 and HB 1450 can be found here. We cannot support legislation that removes the flexibility MSDE has requested in the recently submitted ESEA waiver.
ATTN: Members and Leaders in the 6th Congressional District; Help Garagiola Win the Democratic Primary
With primary day 10 days away, engaging in the April 3 elections is critical. MSEA is working with a labor coalition in support of State Senator Rob Garagiola’s congressional campaign, and we need your help. In targeted areas of the state outside of the 6th Congressional District, we are working with Senator Ben Cardin’s campaign to organize volunteers for get out the vote and primary day activities.
Please use and share this link to sign-up for a volunteer shift to help our recommended candidates in the final days of the primary.
Early Voting Starts on Saturday, March 24
Early voting kicks off tomorrow and runs through Thursday, March 29. Click here to identify the early vote center nearest you.