Saturday, March 24, 2012

A House-Senate conference committee will meet very soon to work out a final budget for Maryland through June 2013.

Via Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute and Maryland Association of Non-profits: "The Senate and House have each now settled on their respective budget packages. Both versions include budget cuts, progressive revenue measures, and a shift of a portion of the cost of teachers’ retirement to local government budgets. . . .

[T]he Senate has a larger revenue package, which would leave a smaller revenue shortfall in the 2013 and future sessions. The Senate package also leaves a larger fund balance at year end. In the event that Maryland’s finances are affected by an economic downturn or federal budget cuts, we are less likely to need mid-year budget cuts under the Senate proposal.

The Senate scheduled the teacher retirement shift evenly over four years. The House version does it in just three years, and it’s “front-loaded:” passing ½ of the cost to counties in the first year.

Both versions increase the tax on cigars to be more comparable with the tax on cigarettes. The House version includes a significant tax increase on chewing tobacco, whereas the Senate version increases chewing tobacco taxes only slightly."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Annapolis update!

The legislative session is now more than half over, and the deadlines for entering new proposed bills (except for extraordinary measures), have now passed. The House of Delegates is considering over 1500 bills; the Senate has over 1000. Whatever is not passed by midnight April 9 will have to wait until next year.

Here's a summary of what we've been watching - with thanks to the MD Farm Bureau for their helpful summaries! To see the full text of any of these bills, or to find out their current status, go to This site is updated every night.

SB 445/HB336 - Criminal Law - Animal Cruelty - Assignment and Costs of Animal, Senators Colburn and Mathias/Delegates Haddaway-Riccio, Conway, Eckardt, McDermott, and Otto: Requiring a court to order a defendant convicted of a specified charge of animal cruelty, as a condition of sentencing, to assign ownership of a specified animal to the agency or organization that confiscated the animal for disposal at the discretion of that agency or organization and to pay, in addition to any other fines and costs, all reasonable costs incurred in removing, feeding, housing, treating, or euthanizing an animal confiscated from the defendant. - Support

SB 108 -Maryland Horse Industry Board - Licensing, By Request - Departmental - Agriculture: housekeeping revisions to stable license bill; making clear what facilities must be licensed - support

HB 912 - Domestic Animals - Pet and Animal Guardians, Delegates Kach and Olszewski: Changing variations of the term "own" to variations of the term "guardian" in specified provisions of law relating to dogs - oppose

HB 722 - Montgomery County - Real Property - Enforceability of Recorded Covenants and Restrictions - Agricultural Activities and Structures MC 16-12, Montgomery County Delegation: Montgomery County right to farm legislation (making HOA restrictive covenants that prohibit agriculture in the ag reserve unenforceable) - support; oppose Barkley amendment

HB 376 - Video Lottery Terminal Proceeds - School Construction, Delegates Simmons, Anderson, Arora, Barkley, Burns, Cane, Cluster, Conaway, Cullison, Dwyer, Gilchrist, Glenn, Gutierrez, Hough, Hucker, K. Kelly, Kramer, McConkey, McMillan, Myers, Parrott, B. Robinson, Serafini, Tarrant, Washington, and Wilson: Redirecting slots revenue currently designated for the MD racing industry to school construction instead - oppose

HB 680 - Education - Development of Guidelines to Incorporate Sustainable Agricultural Education, Delegate Rosenberg, Luedtke & Washington: Requires the State Board of Education and the University of Maryland Extension to jointly develop guidelines to incorporate education about sustainable agriculture into the existing science curricula. The bill requires consultation with local Board of Education, the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation (MAEF), and other organizations that promote education about sustainable agriculture. The bill does not define “sustainable agriculture.” - support

In addition to these bills, we are also watching:
SB 301/HB 1020, which would create a "registry" for animal abusers, similar to sex offender registries.

Seven bills related to the proposals from MDA to change the Nutrient Management regulations:
SB 330- prohibits Maryland state agencies (MDA, DNR, MDE) from adopting new regulations to mandate actions on farms to meet WIP goals until surrounding Bay Watershed states (PA, VA, WV, NY and DC) achieve or exceed the percentage reduction of nitrogen and phosphorous attributed to their agricultural sectors as Maryland farmers have achieved since 2009. [Unfavorable report EHEA] [Note: crossfiled with HB 464, which was withdrawn after unfavorable report from Environmental Matters]
SB 594 - Codifies the manure and sewage sludge application restrictions that are being debated as part of the current MDA regulatory process. The bill prohibits the application of animal manure or biosolids to agricultural land between November 1st and March 1st, unless it is injected into the soil with greater than 90% remaining below the soil surface. For the remainder of the year (March 1-November 1) the bill mandates that all animal manure or biosolids be injected or incorporated within 24 hours. Beginning July 1, 2017, the bill prohibits the use of fertilizer to agricultural land that has a phosphorus fertility index value that is greater than 150. After July 1, 2020, the bill prohibits MDA from authorizing the application of animal manure or biosolids to agricultural land between September 10 and November 15, even if there is a lack of storage capacity.
SB 118 - Gives MDA the authority to add sediment credits to its existing agricultural nutrient credit certification program.
SB 822/487 - Provides that a local jurisdiction may not be required to implement a WIP activity or strategy unless funding sufficient to pay for the activity or strategy is provided by the state or federal government. [HB 487 has received unfavorable report from Environmental Matters]
SB 823/486 - Requires the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) to develop a list of Best Management Practices (BMPs) that a county may use under a Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to implement the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) by October 1, 2012.

Five bills related to racing and slots:
SB 26 - Authorizing the holder of a video lottery operation license to offer table games in the State, subject to referendum Nov 2012.
SB 155 - Requiring the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission to conduct a study of financial impact of table games.
SB 49 - Authorizing the Maryland Racing Commission to allocate a portion of the Maryland–Bred Race Fund for horses conceived, but not necessarily foaled, in Maryland; altering the amount of the Fund the Commission may allocate for certain horse races; requiring the Commission to set the amount of certain breeder awards for races in the State and outside the State.
SB 794/HB 947 - Eliminating the specific year restriction on the use of Purse Dedication Account funds for operating expenses.

Twelve bills related to land use and zoning, including MALPF and PlanMaryland:
SB 129; SB 148; SB 112 - MALPF bills re: appraisals, easements and lot releases.
HB 23 - Constitutional amendment to provide that dedicated state funds may be used only for the specific purpose that are set forth in the law.
HB 36 - Requiring the Secretary of Planning to submit the State Development Plan and any substantial part or revision of the Plan to the General Assembly; prohibiting the Plan from being finalized until it is approved by an Act of the General Assembly; authorizing the General Assembly to modify the Plan as submitted by the Secretary; requiring the Governor to file with the Secretary of State the Plan, part of the Plan, or a revision to the Plan, together with specified comments, after enactment of a law that approves or modifies the Plan.
HB 253 - Prohibits the Department of Planning from adopting any regulation or taking any action that would restrict the planning and land use powers of any local government or regional planning agency.
SB 532/HB 1201 - Prohibits the use of PlanMaryland, the Governor’s statewide development plan, to create or establish a new cause to deny a state permit, project, or approval. It would also prohibit the Plan’s use to deny state funding that is mandated by statute, regulation, or in the state’s operating or capital budgets. Provisions in the bill would require conflicts between the Plan and counties or municipalities to be negotiated in good faith, but if no resolution of the conflict can be had, a local government’s comp plan, zoning laws, and local ordinances take precedence.
SB 236/HB 445 - Creates a new state level approval process for development, including septic restrictions on new subdivisions.
HB 931 - Requires General Assembly approval prior to finalizing the State Development Plan, PlanMD.
HB 932 - Prohibits the use of PlanMaryland, the Governor’s statewide development plan, to create or establish a new cause to deny a permit, project, or approval. It would also prohibit the Plan’s use to deny state funding that is mandated by statute, regulation, or in the state’s operating or capital budgets.

Seven bills related to taxes and fees, including estate taxes:
SB 294/HB 444 - Exempts the value of a farm from the state estate tax when the farm stays in agricultural use for the next 10 years.
SB 324/HB 154 - similar to SB 294, except this bill recaptures the estate tax that would have been due if the property ceases to be used for farming purposes during the life of the qualified recipient.
SB 410 - Excludes the full value of qualified agricultural property from the gross value of an estate for the purposes of the Maryland estate tax.
SB 240/HB 446 - an increase to the current "flush tax."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

US Dept. of Labor to re-post proposed change to Farm Child Labor Rule

The US Department of Labor announced in February that it will:
"re-propose the portion of its regulation on child labor in agriculture interpreting the 'parental exemption.' The decision to re-propose is in part a response to requests from the public and members of Congress that the agency allow an opportunity for more input on this aspect of the rule. . . .
The parental exemption allows children of any age who are employed by their parent, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or such person standing in the place of a parent. Congress created the parental exemption in 1966 when it expanded protections for children employed in agriculture and prohibited their employment in jobs the Department of Labor declared particularly hazardous for children under the age of 16 to perform.
The department recognizes the unique attributes of farm families and rural communities. The re-proposal process will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions. The re-proposed portion of the rule is expected to be published for public comment by early summer. The department will continue to review the comments received regarding the remaining portions of the proposed rule for inclusion in a final rule."
Click here for the full text of USDOL's press release.