The capitol dome in Annapolis viewed from Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Donna Rice.The capitol dome in Annapolis viewed from Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Donna Rice.

2016 Legislative Session Wrapup

CBF has tracked well over 100 bills this session, and engaged on those where we felt water quality could be most positively or negatively impacted. The report below summarizes a subset of the bills we engaged on that we considered most important or of greatest interest to our members.

Thank you for all the actions you have taken to weigh in with your legislators about the bills that are most important to the restoration and future health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We couldn't have come so far this session without you.

CBF Priorities

These bills were identified at the start of the legislative session as priorities for pro-active supportive advocacy in the General Assembly.

SB937—Sustainable Oyster Harvest Act of 2016

This bill requires a study by the Department of Natural Resources, in consultation with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, to provide three critical pieces of scientific data: 1) sustainable harvest rates for the public oyster fishery; 2) appropriate indicators for the public oyster fishery based on stock assessments and real data; and 3) whether the public oyster fishery is experiencing overfishing. These criteria are required under current state law to create a fishery management plan for oysters, but the state currently does not have this information.

CBF Position: Support

Status The bill passed the Senate on March 23. On the last day of Session, the amended bill passed out of the House Environment and Transportation Committee unanimously. It then advanced to pass the House 134-4 and on to the Senate 44-2. As amended, the bill is a great bipartisan effort to bring the best available science to bear for the first time to more sustainably manage Maryland's public oyster fishery.

HB610/SB323Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act—Reauthorization

This bill reauthorizes the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2006 and requires Maryland to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 2006 levels by 2030, consistent with the recommendations of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change's report to the Governor in late 2015.

CBF Position: Support

Status: Success! This bill was passed by both houses of the General Assembly as of March 17. Governor Hogan signed it into law on April 4.

SB496/HB599Poultry Litter Management Act (PLMA)

This bill would help with the implementation of the Phosphorus Management Tool by ensuring the resources necessary to properly manage any poultry manure that can no longer be spread on farm fields or put to another approved use. Under this bill, large poultry companies would have responsibility for collecting and managing such manure.

CBF Position: Support

Status: No votes taken. The PLMA had hearings in both the Senate and the House environmental committees in late February. During the hearings, several questions arose as to the magnitude of the excess manure on the Eastern Shore, whether small farmers need these additional resources to support them, and other matters. The discussions triggered by the hearings have resulted in greater attention to the issue of phosphorus pollution. The Department of Agriculture has recently released data on field phosphorus levels to help clarify the scope, scale, and geography of the problem of too much manure (and thus, too much phosphorus).

HB31/SB57Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2016

This bill would have banned plastic bags at retail stores at checkout in Maryland. Customers would have the option of bringing their own bags or paying a ten-cent fee for paper bags (which are more expensive for retailers to purchase). The bill was amended during the committee hearing/review process to remove the mandatory ten-cent fee on paper and passed favorably out of the House Environment Subcommittee; however, it was re-referred back to the subcommittee.

CBF Position: Support

Status: An unfavorable report was given by the House Environment and Transportation committee on March 28, due to opposition from the plastic bag industry and legislators concerned about the fee provision. No further action. Thank you to all of you who already use renewable bags; let's continue to encourage others to make the switch and reduce the amount of trash we generate.

SB166/HB243 Land Use Actions—Legislative Bodies—Judicial Review

This bill would have reinstated the right of citizens to legally appeal a land use decision affecting the zoning status of more than one parcel (a comprehensive re-zoning) that was removed by a 2015 court ruling. Until that ruling, Maryland citizens had, for at least 80 years, had the right to seek judicial review of rezoning decisions that affect an individual parcel (theirs) and decisions that affect more than one parcel (theirs, plus others, in a comprehensive rezoning).

CBF Position: Support

Status: Withdrawn  This bill received an unfavorable report by the House Environment and Transportation Committee, and was subsequently withdrawn.

 

Budget

CBF has been working on several bills related to the state budget. These include:

SB190—Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 and SB191Capital Budget for Fiscal Year 2017

Maryland's natural environment returns enormous benefits to its citizens in the form of clean water, clean air, attractive destinations, a thriving and productive fishery, increased property values, and better public health. We must ensure that we are making the proper investments to protect irreplaceable natural resources, including sufficiently funding the state agencies that are tasked with implementing important restoration efforts and enforcing critical environmental laws. The Governor introduced a strong conservation budget for the upcoming fiscal year and CBF has advocated against any cuts to that budget that would compromise the progress on restoring and protecting the Bay.

CBF Position: Support

Status: SB190 was passed by both chambers on March 29. SB191 was passed by both chambers on March 31, and enacted under Article II, Section 17(b) of the Maryland Constitution - Chapter 27 on April 8. Additionally, in the Joint Chairman's Report that accompanies the budget, Maryland Departments of the Environment (MDE) and Agriculture (MDA) are to submit a report on the resources needed to implement and enforce Maryland's commitments under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

Maryland has also set up special dedicated funding for certain environmental restoration and protection work, including the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, the Bay Restoration Fund, and the Program Open Space (POS) Fund. CBF will advocate for full funding in these dedicated funds, and also support the following two bills that would make these funds more difficult to raid:

HB462/SB383 and HB1464/SB927—Program Open Space—Transfer Tax Repayment—Use of Funds

Elements of one bill concerning the POS Trust Fund were amended into another bill supported by the Administration to pay back past diversions of funds from the POS Trust Fund. Under this bill, some payback of the fund will happen in the next few years and some pre-existing diversions were decreased, although full payback of past raids extends to 2029. This bill also requires future raids to be paid back within three years.

CBF Position: Support

Status: HB462 was passed by both chambers on March 31 and signed into law by Governor Hogan on April 2. HB1464 and SB927 both had hearings and provisions were amended into HB462/SB383.


Other Bills

These bills fall into two different categories:

  1. Other important bills CBF has supported.
  2. Bad bills that CBF has opposed in order to prevent them from passing, due to their negative impact on water quality or Chesapeake Bay health and/or restoration efforts.
Other Important Bills CBF Has Supported


HB90—On-Site Sewage Disposal Systems—Operation and Maintenance Costs—Low-Income Homeowners

This bill allows some of the funding collected under the Bay Restoration Fund to financially assist low-income homeowners by supporting up to 50 percent of the cost of a three-year operation-and-maintenance contract for on-site sewage disposal systems that use nitrogen removal technology. This bill helps to prevent nitrogen pollution and ensure timely implementation of the state septics law by providing financial support to transition to "best available technology" septic systems.

CBF Position: Support

Status: Passed the House March 26 and was enrolled.

HB211/SB198—Pollinator Protection Act

This bill places a ban on the sale and use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which threaten bees and water quality, unless the purchaser is a certified applicator, working under the supervision of a certified applicator, or a farmer.

CBF Position: Support and encourage the Senate to accept the House version

Status: The House and Senate passed two slightly different versions of this piece of legislation. Both versions removed the labeling requirement and now restrict retail sale only to certified applicators. However, the Senate version included a provision that ordered Maryland Department of the Environment to review state laws and regulations to make sure they are consistent with EPA recommendations. Advocates supporting this bill believed the House version, which did not include this provision, gave more flexibility to the state and local governments to best protect Maryland's bee population. Ultimately, the House concurred with Senate amendments and passed the bill on April 7. The Senate concurred with House amendments and passed the bill on April 9.

HB276/SB137—Income Tax Credit—Preservation and Conservation Easements

This bill would allow for donors of easements conveyed to the Department of Natural Resources to claim a tax credit for donated value or for pass-through entities (e.g., LLCs, S-Corps, etc.) to claim a tax credit. This bill will help incentivize the donation of preservation and conservation easements, protecting more forests and farmland from development.

CBF Position: Support

Status: Passed the Senate, then passed the House on April 7. Returned to Senate for final vote.

HB427/SB188—Income Tax—Oyster Shell Recycling—Credit Amount

This bill increases the maximum amount of the oyster shell recycling income tax credit that an individual or corporation may claim from $750 to $5,000 per tax return. This will help incentivize the recycling of oyster shell, an increasingly scarce resource that is critical for oyster restoration and replenishment efforts.

CBF Position: Support

Status: Had hearings in both the House Environment and Transportation Committee and the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. No vote was taken on the bill.

HB1319/SB620—Commemorative Weeks—Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week

This bill requires the Governor to proclaim the second week in June "Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week," and requires CBF and several other organizations to observe the week with events, activities, and programs.

CBF Position: Support

Current Status: Amended in the House and the amended version was passed in the Senate on April 11. Please look to the CBF calendar and those put out by our partners for activities the second week of June (June 6-12) to celebrate the wonders of the Chesapeake Bay.

Bad Bills That CBF Has Opposed

HB1197—Prince George's County—Forest Conservation Act—Net Tract Area PG/MC 114-16

This bill would exempt specific development projects in Prince George's County from the Maryland Forest Conservation Act. Trees are critical for clean water and Bay restoration, but this bill would reduce a project's requirements for replanting—thus reducing forest cover in a county that already has the highest rates of deforestation in the state and further degrading water quality by removing the filtration benefits that trees provide. This bill also sets a bad precedent, both in amending state law for the benefit of a single developer and in allowing a jurisdiction to override an aspect of existing state law.

CBF Position: Oppose

Status: No action. This bill was voted on and passed out of the Prince George's County delegation and had a hearing in the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 30. The worst provisions of this bill are in amendments made by members of the Prince George's County delegation when they approved the bill. Sometimes no action is the best action. One way that CBF and our partners protect our natural resources is by making sure bad pieces of legislation never move. We anticipate that we will be much more active in the coming year in proactively working to help ensure that Maryland's Forest Conservation Act is implemented more effectively and completely, so look forward to talking more about trees!

HB126/SB131—Worcester County—Recycling at Special Events—Exemptions

This bill would have exempted Worcester County from being required to recycle at special events, and from having to revise its recycling plan to address recycling from special events.

CBF Position: Oppose

Status: Withdrawn  Received an unfavorable report from the House Environment and Transportation Committee and an unfavorable report from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

HB953/SB956—Natural Resources—Oyster Poaching—Administrative Penalties

This bill would have modified the existing grounds for suspension or revocation of a license to catch oysters; requiring that violations be egregious, repeated, and in the same category of the offense that is the grounds for license revocation. It would also repeal the requirement that hearings be held within 60 days, but would require a hearing before any license could be revoked. This bill would have lowered the consequences for oyster poaching and other violations, making it easier to violate existing laws.

CBF Position: Oppose

Status: Withdrawn  Received an unfavorable report from the House Environment and Transportation Committee and an unfavorable report from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

HB1222/SB392—Dorchester County—Recycling at Special Events—Exemptions

Like the Worcester County bill above (HB126/SB131) this bill would exempt Dorchester County from being required to recycle at special events, and from having to revise its recycling plan to address recycling from special events.

CBF Position: Oppose

Status: Withdrawn  Received an unfavorable report from the House Environment and Transportation Committee and an unfavorable report from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

HB1240/SB812—Sediment Control—Violations—Enforcement

This bill would have further delayed enforcement of sediment control violations on construction sites by requiring three separate warning notices to be given by state or county compliance inspectors before a violation could be issued.

CBF Position: Oppose

Current Status: Received unfavorable reports from the House Environment and Transportation Committee and the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

HB1428/SB748—Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act—Application

This bill would extend by five years the deadline by which developers must have an approved preliminary plan for a residential subdivision in order to be exempt from criteria established in the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012. This bill would delay implementation of this important environmental law that CBF and other worked hard to pass, and allow for five additional years of development plans that would cause more nitrogen pollution to local waterways and the Bay.

CBF Position: Oppose

Status: Received unfavorable reports from the House Environment and Transportation Committee and the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

 

The Issues Facing Maryland

Agriculture
What role do farms and agricultural production play in the health of our waters?

Chemical Contamination
Toxic chemicals are entering our waters everyday. What can we do about them? 

The Cost of Clean Water
Does it cost more to save the Bay and its rivers or more to let them die?

Fisheries
Menhaden, striped bass, shad, blue crabs, and oysters are critical to the health of our waters.

Land Use
When the watershed's land suffers from pollution and poor management so, too, does our water.

Sewage & Septic Systems
Upgrading wastewater treatment is key to cleaning up the Bay.

Storwater Runoff
Increased development has made stormwater runoff thye fastest growing source of Bay pollution. 

Find out about more issues facing the Chesapeake Bay.

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