House Bills To Double “Flush Tax” And Mandate More Stormwater Fees

Tonight the House Environmental Matters Committee passed versions of two bills being watched closely in the legislature this year.

First, a bill to increase the Bay Restoration Fund, HB 446. From coverage in the Washington Post:

Tuesday, the House Environmental Matters Committee voted to approve a bill that would double the annual cost of nearly every resident’s flush tax, which is used to restore the Chesapeake Bay, to $60 from $30.

The bill that emerged from the committee and now heads to the full House differs markedly from O’Malley’s original proposal for a fee based on water consumption, which his administration concluded was unworkable.

The plan that won approval is also more modest than a revised proposal the administration had been discussing with lawmakers in recent weeks, which would have increased the flush tax to $75 from $30 annually.

Also during the same voting, session, a modified version of another bill, dealing with local stormwater fees, HB 987.

That bill would require certain local jurisdictions to collect a stormwater utility fee to fund street retrofitting and other projects, helping them meet federal mandates to reduce pollution runoff to the bay. The bill does not stipulate any mandatory minimum fee.

Local governments are able to impose such a fee without a mandate, said Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Montgomery County), the committee chair. She said Montgomery County already does so.

“The truth of the matter is, the local jurisdictions have been dragging their feet on doing this,” McIntosh said.

The amendments to HB 987 were not available immediately, but are believed to focus the bill to have effect only on those jurisdictions affected by Phase I permits under the federal EPA’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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