2019 Maryland Legislative Wrap-up

Aerial photo of the Annapolis State House 695x352

An aerial view of the State House in Annapolis, Maryland.

Nikki Davis

The Maryland General Assembly's 439th session ended on April 9, 2019. With the critical support of our members, we fought for an array of clean water issues. Central to our focus this session was protecting our natural filters in the form of forests and oysters.

Forests

For a third consecutive year, we advocated for legislation that would strengthen and improve Maryland's forest protections across several laws, including the Forest Conservation Act. CBF supported the following three bills that address concerns related to forest loss:

  • Create a Forest Conservation Task Force HB 735/SB 729
    • Maryland needs an in-depth Task Force on forest loss to quantify and address future deforestation and make recommendations to prevent forest loss without overly disrupting growth and development. The Task Force legislation would include a diverse group of stakeholders and would create recommendations for improving forest outcomes, including offsetting or avoiding loss and improving maintenance for healthy forests.
    • Status: Passed with amendments and signed by the Governor.
  • Reforming the Forest Conservation Fee-in-Lieu Program HB 272/SB 234
    • The Forest Conservation Act allows local government to collect a fee in lieu of the developer's reforestation responsibilities. However, it has become clear that there are major problems with this program. Local governments are not required to replant the same amount of forest that the developer would have had to plant and are having problems spending the money collected due to lack of resources or land. This results in much less forest mitigation than is required under the law. This legislation would require local governments to replant the same amount of forest that a developer would have had to replant and increase transparency around fee-in-lieu programs.
    • Status: Passed; became law without the Governor's signature.
  • No Net Loss of Forests HB 120/SB 203
    • CBF is supporting legislation that would correct the definition of "no net loss of forest" to reflect current conditions of 40 percent of the state covered by forest land. This bill would change the definition from "40 percent of the state covered in tree canopy" to "40 percent of the state covered in forest land" to reflect the actual forest coverage at the time the policy was enacted. (Tree canopy reflects individual trees in otherwise urbanized areas, such as street trees. Forests reflect a full ecological system that supports healthy soils and habitat.)
    • Status: Died in the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

Oysters

CBF also advocated for bills that would protect restored oyster sanctuaries in five targeted tributaries and create an inclusive public process to develop an oyster fisheries management plan to ensure sustainable harvest in the future.

  • Oyster Fishery Management Plan HB 720/SB 830
    • Requiring the Department of Natural Resources, in coordination with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, to convene a stakeholder workgroup to develop a package of consensus recommendations for enhancing and implementing the fishery management plan for oysters; requiring the workgroup to review certain oyster management actions and recommend certain oyster management actions to achieve certain goals; requiring the Department to submit its final report to the Governor and General Assembly by July 1, 2021.
    • Status: Passed; vetoed by Govenor Hogan. While the plan received enough votes to override the veto, the General Assembly will not have a chance to act until its next session in January 2020. Read CBF's statement on the veto.
  • Oyster Tributary Sanctuary Protection  HB 298/SB 448
    • Permanently protecting the five tributaries that Maryland has committed to fully restore oyster population.  The Speaker's Office has decided to prioritize this bill and is listed as the lead sponsor.
    • Status: Passed; vetoed by Governor Hogan; veto was overridden by Maryland General Assembly.

Other Environmental Priorities

CBF worked closely with the environmental community to track several other bills, including:

  • Clean Energy Jobs Act HB 1158/SB 516
    • This legislation would require utilities to buy a certain percentage of electricity each year from renewable sources, taking it from the current target of 25 percent by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030.
    • Status: Passed; became law without the Governor's signature.
  • Ban on Expanded PolyStyrene Foam HB 109/SB 285
    • Products made of polystyrene foam packaging, such as cups, plates, clamshells, would no longer be an option for food service businesses and institutions. The bill also prohibits the retail sale of these products in the state.
    • Status: Passed; became law without the Governor's signature.
  • Green Amendment HB 472
    • This would amend Maryland's constitution to guarantee the right to uncontaminated water, breathable air, and a healthy environment for present and future generations of Marylanders.
    • Status: Bill withdrawn by Sponsor.

Support the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.

Donate Today

Volunteer

Do you enjoy working with others to help clean the Chesapeake Bay? Do you have a few hours to spare? Whether growing oysters, planting trees, or helping in our offices, there are plenty of ways you can contribute.

Volunteer
x
This website uses cookies to tailor and enhance your online experience. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, including details on how to disable cookies, please visit our Privacy Policy. Agree