A previous post on Conduit Street summarized the status of various parks and recreation bills that MACo considered or took a position on. This post summarizes the final status of those bills.
Concussion Education and Treatment: HB 1, HB 858, and SB 771 are similar bills that require school systems and youth sports programs to provide information about concussions to athletes, their parents or guardians, and coaches. An athlete suspected of having a concussion or other head injury must be pulled from practice or play until cleared by a licensed health care provider. Based on concerns raised by county parks and recreation departments, MACo supported all three bills with amendments that would clarify the bill’s notice and education requirements for local parks and recreation departments. The amendments also clarify information that must be provided by youth sports programs when using school or local government-owned recreational facilities. Status: HB 858 and SB 771 both passed with the MACo amendments. HB 1 failed.
Land Preservation, Parks, and Recreation Plan (LPPRP) Shift to DNR: HB 1025 / SB 849 is an administration bill that transfers authority to negotiate State Program Open Space (POS) acquisitions from the Department of General Services to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and consolidates State land use purchases for open space, recreation, and other purposes under DNR. The bill also transfers the responsibility of preparing the LPPRP from the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) to DNR. MACo took no position on the bill but became involved when the county parks and recreation departments sought to codify the existing practice of local consultation for the LPPRP. Status: MACo and the local departments met with DNR Secretary John Griffin, who agreed in a letter to sponsor a departmental bill next Session that would at a minimum require DNR to consult with the local departments on the LPPRP. He also promised that a workgroup of State and local parks and recreation officials would review the provisions of HB 1025/SB 849 over the interim and make other suggestions or clarifications as needed. MACo and the local departments accepted the Secretary’s proposal and dropped their request for amendments to this year’s bill. Both HB 1025 and SB 849 passed.
Local Use of POS Funds: SB 421 extends the recently expired practice of allowing a local government that has attained its POS land acquisition goals to use all of its POS funds on recreational facilities and projects. DNR and MDP must certify that a county has attained its acreage acquisition goal. The bill also removes a 5-year cap on the period of time during which the POS funds may be used for such projects. Citing the added flexibility the bill would offer for a county that has met its POS land acquisition goals, MACo supported the bill. Status: The bill passed with compromise amendments that limit the use of 25 percent of the funds to: (1) land acquisition; (2) repair and renovation of existing recreational facilities or structures; and (3) capital renewal projects. A 2014 sunset was also added.