MACo Raises Concerns With Expansion of Miss Utility Law

MACo Associate Director Andrea Mansfield was joined March 9 by Harford County Public Works Deputy Director Joel Caudill and Baltimore City Department of Public Works Legislative Liaison Marcia Collins, to testify in opposition to SB 911/HB 1290 before the Senate Finance and House Economic Matters Committees.   These bills would expand the role of Miss Utility to provide great oversight of the marking of utilities and the enforcement of damage prevention laws.  A proposed new entity, the Maryland Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Authority, would enforce these laws and have the authority to assess civil penalties for a violation.

MACo opposed both bills as they remove a local jurisdiction’s marking fee authority, impose new mandates (the marking of storm drains and designer tickets), and empower a new unaccountable entity with broad powers.

Members of both Committees expressed concern over the fiscal impact this legislation would have on local governments.  The Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton went as far as to say that he didn’t think his Committee could pass a bill that had this kind of fiscal impact.

Since the hearing, the industry has approached MACo indicating its willingness to address concerns raised.  The industry has offered to pull back on the marking of storm drains, so local jurisdictions would not be required to mark them; maintain a local jurisdictions authority to seek reimbursement for the cost of marking; and include language stating that the authority may not charge or assess a county or municipality to obtain funding for its operational expenses.

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