2017 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Aerial photo of the Annapolis State House 695x352

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

Nikki Davis

CBF has tracked 150 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.

Find out more on our podcast.

CBF Priorities

These bills were identified as priorities for pro-active supportive advocacy in the General Assembly.

  • HB599/SB365—Forest Conservation Act—Exemption, Reforestation Rate, and Forest Conservation Fund – Alterations
    • Status: This bill passed out of the Senate, but stalled in the House Environment and Transportation Committee

This bill would have helped stop forest losses from new development, reduced exemptions for energy facilities, and allowed local governments to adjust fees that developers must pay to offset losses when they clear-cut forests. The bill stalled in the House Environment and Transportation Committee. But we are encouraged by the strong leadership we saw in the Senate on this issue. We're looking forward to continuing the fight for forests next year. As we look ahead, we remain committed to protecting one of the Chesapeake Bay's most precious natural filters—our trees.

  • SB29/HB6127—Natural Resources—Forest Conservation Act—Forest Conservation Thresholds and Afforestation and Reforestation Requirements
    • Status: Passed

This bill allows local governments to be more stringent than state law on conservation threshold and mitigation requirements. This is already allowed by law, per the text of the statute and a formal opinion by the Attorney General, but DNR has refused to recognize that interpretation without this clarification.

  • HB924—Natural Resources—Oyster Management—Prohibited Actions
    • Status: Passed

This bill prevents the alteration of existing oyster sanctuary boundaries until the ongoing stock assessment is complete in 2018. The assessment will provide information on the value of oyster sanctuaries and ensure that Maryland is making decisions about where we can harvest oysters based on science. The Maryland General Assembly recognizes that oysters are an incredible public resource and thanks to advocates like you, they will be managed by a science-based plan. The Oyster Sanctuary Bill passed through the House and the Senate with bi-partisan support and reinforces the importance of oysters to the Chesapeake Bay.

The Budget

CBF has worked on several bills related to the state budget, including:

  • HB150/SB170 The Budget Bill for Fiscal Year 2018
    • Status: Passed

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.

Other Bills That CBF Supported

  • HB1325/SB740 – Oil and Natural Gas – Hydraulic Fracturing – Prohibition
    • Status: Passed

This bill prohibits the exploration or production of natural gas through the process of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in Maryland.

  • SB186/HB229 - Environment - Polystyrene Food Service Products and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging - Prohibition on Sale
    • Status: Died in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee

Prohibiting service of food and beverage in polystyrene products statewide, and sale of polystyrene food containers and packing peanuts.

  • HB384/SB343 – Bay Restoration Fund – Eligible Costs – Expansion
    • Status: Passed

This bill expands the definition of "eligible costs" payable from the Bay Restoration Fund to support upgrades to sewage treatment plants that have not yet achieved biological nutrient removal. This bill will target existing state funding to some of the most cost-effective pollution reduction opportunities remaining in the urban sector and accelerate restoration progress for the Chesapeake Bay and local waters.

  • HB66—Environment—Lead and Mercury Wheel Weights—Prohibited
    • Status: Passed

Prohibits the use of wheel weights containing more than a nominal amount of lead or mercury; the use of lead and mercury wheel weights are a source of toxic heavy metals leaching into the environment.

  • HB1118—Natural Resources—Roadside Trees—Preservation and Protection
    • Status: Pending

Authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to allow under a permit for roadside tree care the maintenance or removal of a tree to eliminate a hazard, to enable necessary roadway improvements, and for locally zoned development and land use requirements; prohibiting the Department from authorizing under a permit the maintenance or removal of a roadside tree for specified purposes; requiring an applicant for a permit to remove a roadside tree to demonstrate that a reasonable effort has been made to protect and to preserve the tree; etc.

  • SB108—Property Tax Credit—Erosion Control Measures—Nonstructural and Structural Shoreline Stabilization
    • Status: Passed

Authorizing the implementation of local tax credits for beneficial shoreline stabilization projects such as living shorelines and marsh creation; limiting the tax credit allowed for harmful bulkhead projects.

  • HB171—Department of the Environment—Yard Waste, Food Residuals, and Other Organic Materials Diversion and Infrastructure – Study
    • Status: Passed

Requiring the Department of Environment and specified stakeholders, including Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to study issues and make recommendations regarding the diversion of organic waste from the waste stream into beneficial composting practices.

  • SB62/HB417—Clean Water Commerce Act of 2017
    • Status: Passed

Chesapeake Bay Foundation worked with the Department of Environment to amend this legislation to create a pay-for-performance pilot program to advance the most cost-effective pollution reduction practices in urban and suburban communities.

  • SB773—Community Healthy Air Act
    • Status: Died in Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee

Requiring the Department of Environment to conduct an assessment of air quality and emissions from confined animal feeding operations.

  • SB964—Aquaculture—Leases—Submerged Aquatic Vegetation
    • Status: Passed

Requiring the Department of Natural Resources to consult with interested stakeholders, which will include the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to study and make recommendations regarding conflicts between submerged aquatic vegetation and aquaculture leases.

  • HB1045—On-Site Sewage Disposal Systems—Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) Technology —Regulations
    • Status: Passed

Requiring the Department of Environment to issue regulations regarding the use of MBR technology for nonresidential sites, which reduces pollution from septic systems.

Other Bills That CBF Opposed

These are 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.

  • SB390—Oyster Poaching—Administrative Penalties—Gear Violations
    • Status: Died in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee

This bill would have repealed the offense of taking oysters with specified gear in specified areas that is subject to specified enhanced administrative penalties; and establishing the offense of taking oysters with a power dredge in specified areas that is subject to specified enhanced administrative penalties.

  • SB0776 Environment—On-Site Sewage Disposal Systems—Nonprofit Campgrounds
    • Status: Died in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee

Requiring the Department of the Environment to authorize a specified nonprofit campground to use specified on-site sewage disposal systems under specified circumstances; prohibiting the Department from applying specified criteria to a nonprofit campground; providing that specified requirements for using the best available technology for nitrogen removal do not apply to a nonprofit campground; etc.

  • HB0537 - Environment—On-Site Sewage Disposal Systems and Funding for Wastewater Treatment Facilities and Sewerage Systems
    • Status: Died in the House Environment and Transportation Committee

Authorizing a person to install, replace, or have installed or replaced a specified on-site sewage disposal system that does not utilize specified nitrogen removal technology on specified property located outside the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area; requiring the Department of the Environment or the local approving authority to impose a fee of $200 for a residential on-site sewage disposal system and $100 per 1,000 square feet for a non-residential building on-site sewage disposal system; etc.

  • HB1355—Sewerage Systems—Residential Major Subdivisions in Tier III and Tier IV Areas
    • Status: Died in the House Environment and Transportation Committee

This bill would have repealed critical elements of a 2012 law that prevents large new subdivisions from being built on septic systems in certain designated areas, which would have increased sprawl and increased nitrogen pollution to local waters and the Chesapeake Bay.

  • HB1488—Tidal Fish Licenses—Oyster Authorizations —Revocation
    • Status: Withdrawn

This bill would have lessened the penalties for oyster poachers who had knowingly committed certain violations.

  • HB107—Department of Housing and Community Development—Funding for Newly Constructed Single-Family Homes
    • Status: Died in House Environment and Transportation Committee

This bill would have subsidized private new sprawl development with state and taxpayer funds, outside of areas identified as priorities for growth.

The Bay Needs You

The 2018 State of the Bay Report makes it clear that the Bay needs our support now more than ever. Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.

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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.

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