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2012 Session Highlights

The 2012 Session of the Maryland General Assembly ended at midnight on April 9. The General Assembly considered 2,580 bills during this legislative session. MICUA tracked more than 100 bills that impact higher education, auxiliary operations, nonprofit organizations, and private employers. This is a brief summary of the most substantive bills impacting MICUA member institutions.

HB 362/SB 261- Northeast Maryland Higher Education Advisory Board (PASSED)

HB 362 and SB 261 establish the Northeast Maryland Higher Education Advisory Board. The legislation provides for the composition, appointment, and terms of the Board members. Those MICUA institutions that offer academic programs at the HEAT Center will be offered a seat on the new Advisory Board. The bill establishes the mission of the Board as assisting and supporting the development of higher education in Cecil and Harford County. The bill also establishes that the Board can assist in setting the missions and accomplishing the goals of higher education sites in Harford and Cecil Counties that are affiliated with the HEAT Center in Harford County.

HB 427 – MHEC Program Review Approval (FAILED)

HB 427 requires the Maryland Higher Education Commission to approve or disapprove proposals submitted by an institution of postsecondary education for a new program or a substantial modification of an existing program. The bill further mandates that an institution of postsecondary education may not implement a proposal without the prior approval of the Commission. (The bill died in the Appropriations Committee.)

HB 442/SB 239 – Maryland Technology Development Corporation – Maryland Innovation Initiative (PASSED)

HB 442 and SB 239 establish the Maryland Innovation Initiative, which is a joint venture between Maryland and its academic research institutions to accelerate commercialization of technology. This partnership will seek to promote the commercialization of research conducted in universities in the State, including Johns Hopkins University; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and Morgan State University. The legislation also seeks to encourage qualifying universities to partner on commercialization and other activities, including federal laboratories in Maryland.

HB 446/SB 240 Bay Restoration Fund – Fees and Uses (PASSED)

HB 446 and SB 240 were introduced by the Administration. The legislation will double the Bay Restoration fees currently being paid by MICUA member institutions. The legislation (1) increases the fee from $2.50 to $5 per month for those receiving an individual water or sewer bill from a billing authority; (2) increases the fee from $30 to $60 per year for each user of an on-site sewage disposal (septic) system or sewage holding tank that does not receive a water bill; and (3) increases the fee from $2.50 to $5 per month for each equivalent dwelling unit (EDU) up to 2,000 EDUs for multiunit residential users who do not receive an individual sewer bill and for nonresidential users.

HB 639 / SB 222 – High Performance Buildings Act (FAILED)

HB 639 and SB 222 require capital projects that are partially funded or financed by a grant of State aid to meet or exceed the current version of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver rating or an equivalent rating as determined by the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management and the Secretary of the Department of General Services. (The bills failed in committee.)

HB 964/ SB 433 – Labor and Employment – User Name and Password Privacy Protection and Exclusions (PASSED)

HB 964 and SB 433 prohibit an employer from requesting or requiring an employee or applicant for employment to disclose a user name or password to a personal Internet site or electronic account, or penalizing or threatening to penalize an employee or applicant for refusing to disclose this information. An employer may require an employee to disclose a user name or password to non-personal accounts that provide access to the employer’s internal computer or information systems. The legislation prohibits an employee from downloading unauthorized employer proprietary information or financial data to a personal or Internet website or web-based account. An employer may conduct an investigation of the employee and his/her actions upon receipt of information that the employee used or is using a personal account or website for business purposes that may violate applicable securities or financial law, or regulatory requirements, or that the employee downloaded unauthorized employer proprietary information or financial data.

HB 987 - Stormwater Management – Watershed Protection and Restoration Program (PASSED)

HB 987 requires each county and municipal corporation that is subject to a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase I municipal separate storm sewer system permit (NPDES Phase I MS4 permit), by July 1, 2013, to adopt local laws or ordinances necessary to establish an annual stormwater remediation fee. The legislation also requires local jurisdictions subjected to a Phase I MS4 permit, to establish a local watershed protection and restoration fund to provide financial assistance for the implementation of local stormwater management plans. Currently, 10 local jurisdictions in Maryland are subject to a Phase I MS4 permit: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City. The MICUA institutions located in these jurisdictions will be impacted by the new stormwater remediation fees. The bill exempts a jurisdiction that has enacted and implemented a similar watershed protection and restoration program by July 1, 2012, that is consistent with the legislation.

HB 1223 / SB 843 – Registration of Fully Online Distance Education Programs (PASSED)

HB 1223 and SB 843 require institutions of postsecondary education that enroll Maryland students in fully online distance education programs in the State to register with the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) before commencing or continuing to operate, doing business, or functioning in the State within six months of enrolling the first Maryland student, as well as registering with MHEC each fully online program that has not been approved or received a favorable recommendation from MHEC. In addition, the institutions which must register their fully online programs must establish a refund policy for those students enrolled in those programs as approved by MHEC, and pay into a guarantee fund established to compensate those students who do not legitimately receive refunds as defined by the refund policy. This legislation also establishes the fines and penalties for failure to adhere to regulations, and requires that local education agencies, community colleges, public senior higher education institutions, and State agencies must submit student-level and transcript-level enrollment data, degree data, and financial aid data to the Maryland Longitudinal Data System. MICUA requested and received an amendment exempting Maryland’s private nonprofit higher education institutions from this reporting requirement.

HB 1226/SB 687 – Repeal of Academic Program Application Fees (FAILED)

HB 1226 and SB 687 repeal the authority of the Maryland Higher Education Commission to require an application fee from an institution of postsecondary education seeking approval of any academic program action. The legislation passed both chambers, but failed to cross the desk of the Senate as an “enrolled” bill before the legislature adjourned on Sine Die.

HB 1227 / SB 293 – Core Content Areas Accountability (PASSED)

HB 1227 and SB 293 require the State Board of Education to implement assessment programs in reading, language, mathematics, science, and social studies that include written responses. Assessments must be administered annually beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. At the middle school level, the assessment must be a statewide comprehensive, grade-band assessment program that measures the learning gains of each public school student toward achieving mastery of the standards set forth in the common core curricula or the State’s adopted curricula in reading, language, mathematics, science, and social studies. At the high school level, the assessment program must be a statewide, standardized, end-of-course assessment that is aligned with and measures each public school student’s skills and knowledge of the State’s adopted curricula in reading, language, mathematics, science, and social studies.

HB 1228 – Funding Formula for Regional Higher Education Centers (PASSED)

HB 1228 authorizes grants for each regional higher education center (RHEC) that is administered by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) using a specified funding formula. MHEC must review and make recommendations regarding the inclusion of outcome and performance measures in the RHEC funding formula and report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly by October 1, 2013.

SB 434 – Institutions of Postsecondary Education – Electronic Account, Service, and Communications Device Privacy Protection (FAILED)

SB 434 prohibits institutions of postsecondary education from requiring a student or applicant for admission to provide the institution with access to specified Internet sites or electronic accounts through personal electronic devices or to disclose passwords and related information. The bill also states that an institution cannot discipline, penalize, or threaten to discipline or penalize, a student or applicant if the student or applicant refuses to disclose any information on an electronic communication device. At MICUA’s request, the bill was amended to provide that a “personal account or service” does not include an account or service provided to a student by the institution. Additionally, MICUA secured an amendment to clarify that the legislation does not prohibit students or applicants from voluntarily disclosing any information on an electronic device to the institution.

SB 368 – Prevailing Wage in Procurement (FAILED)

SB 368 expands Maryland’s prevailing wage law to include all capital construction projects costing more than $500,000 and for which 25 percent or more of the costs of the project are provided by the State. Under current law, any construction project costing more than $500,000 for which 50 percent or more of the costs of the project are provided by the State must meet the conditions of Maryland’s prevailing wage law. If passed, the legislation would impact all MICUA capital projects. (The bill failed in committee.)

SB 567 – Communications Taxes – Reform Commission (PASSED)

SB 567 creates the Communications Tax Reform Commission, defines its 22-seat membership, and establishes its responsibilities. This new Commission will be responsible for assessing the feasibility and fiscal implications for the State and local governments of a modernized, competitively neutral communication tax and fee system, and determining the efficacy of tax and other incentives to encourage investment in broadband networks and other emerging communications technologies. An interim report must be submitted to the Governor and General Assembly on or before December 31, 2012, with a final report due on or before June 30, 2013.

This bill is important for MICUA’s member institutions as it precedes a potential change to the tax structure of communication taxes paid by Maryland consumers of communications services, including telephone, cable television, wireless, and satellite communication services.

SB 967 – MHEC Student Transfer Advisory Committee (PASSED)

SB 967 creates a Student Transfer Advisory Committee comprised of representatives of all segments of higher education, as well as other stakeholders. The Committee will review and analyze articulation and transfer issues, as well as student support services such as admissions and advising practices, and make recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly.