One includes returning all of the Highway User Revenue to cities & towns.
Cambridge, Md (KM). With the 2020 General Assembly convening in January, the Maryland Municipal League is putting together its legislative priorities.
Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor, who chairs the MML’s legislative committee, says the panel has come up with two priorities. “A re-engagement with the Legislature on municipal highway user revenues; and the 5-G technology and the retention of local planning and zoning control over the siting of those kinds of facilities,” he says.
The MML is holding its Fall Conference in Cambridge. It began on Sunday, October 13th, and will conclude on Tuesday, October 15th.
Highway user revenues come from the state’s gasoline tax. The money collected is used for road maintenance and repair. A portion of those revenues are distributed to cities and towns to pay for the upkeep of their local roads.
Mayor O’Connor says the state took away these revenues during the Great Recession (2008-10) to help balance its budget. He says the Legislature recently agreed to return 85% of that money to cities and towns, but that has a five-year sunset provision. That means it ends in five years. . “After taking last year and not talking about highway user revenues for about the first time in a decade, we want to go back to the Legislature in January and work to do a number of things: : One, to get that five-year sunset provision removed so we can at least count on that 85% funding in perpetuity.” says O’Connor.
The second item is to persuade the General Assembly to restore the highway user revenue to the same level as before the Great Recession.
O’Connor says the amount lost by municipalities during that period was considerable. “For the City of Frederick, it was a couple of million dollars in terms of revenues that we get from this highway user revenue source,” he says.
The second priority has to do with telecommunications. The industry is moving toward 5-G, and Mayor O’Connor says the cities and towns of Maryland don’t want to be left out. He says the MML will be persuading lawmakers during this 2020 General Assembly to not pass any legislation which would curb their rights to determine where to place these telecommunications facilities in local rights of way.
He notes that many of this equipment was often placed underground. “This would bring substantial amounts of technology potentially out from underground and into public view in places where residents never expected that,”: says Mayor O’Connor. “If there is some kind of preemption provision that allows for these companies to do that without local oversight, we just think that works against what local control and local government is really here to do.”
Some of this equipment, such as power boxes, could be the size of a refrigerator, says the Mayor.
O’Connor says the General Assembly essentially should do nothing to interfere with any local planning and zoning powers when it comes to siting 5-G equipment. “Our message to the Legislature with this priority is don’t do anything that cedes local control to the telecommunications industry in the deployment of this technology,” he says.
The Mayor says the City of Frederick has come up with standards in the placement of these facilities, especially in its Historic District. He says the cities and towns in Maryland are willing to work with the telecommunications industry to come up with solutions for what is best for the local communities.
The Maryland General Assembly gavels into session on Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 at 12-noon.
By Kevin McManus