SB 863, a bill introduced by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and co-sponsored by a majority of the Senate membership, has been amended and is on its way toward Senate passage. The proposal’s future in the House, where all stormwater fee related legislation has so far been rejected, is unclear.
The bill was voted out of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 18 on a 10-0 vote, after a lengthy set of amendments was adopted. The amended version of the bill changes the substance of the original bill substantially. Key features of the amended bill include:
- Repeals the mandate that a county or municipality subject to a Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit adopt a stormwater remediation fee (they must still establish a local watershed protection and restoration fund)
- Requires a Phase I local government permit holder to annually submit a financial assurance plan with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) that is subject to a public hearing
- Requires MDE to determine whether the funding in the financial assurance plan is sufficient to meet the projected annual cost of compliance and prohibits a county from receiving a variety of State funding (such as the Bay Restoration Fund and Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund) if MDE determines the funding is insufficient
- Requires a county that includes the costs of stormwater remediation in its capital or operating budget must meet with each municipality within its boundaries and mutually agree to assume responsibility for the municipality’s stormwater remediation obligation or for a municipality that has established a stormwater remediation fee, adjust the county tax rate within the municipality to offset the stormwater remediation fee charged by the municipality
- Eliminates a proposed cap of $15 per 1,000 square feet for nonprofits
- Exempts veteran’s organizations from paying the fee but provides for a local override if the jurisdiction is trying to secure federal payments for the local jurisdiction’s stormwater remediation fee
The Baltimore Sun coverage of the bill’s advancement notes the political issues remaining:
With 34 cosponsors, the bill gained preliminary approval without debate. It’s expected to come up for a final vote on Friday. Its prospects in the House are uncertain – leaders there have stood by the current law, arguing it already gives localities flexibility to lower or even skip fees altogether.
Hogan ran against the storm-water fee requirement, which he and other critics have derided as a “rain tax.” But lawmakers balked at outright repeal of the fee, perhaps recalling how before it was required communities had cried poverty when pressed on what they were doing to cleanup polluted runoff.
MACo’s original testimony on the bill is available online.
Update: The Senate unanimously passed Miller’s bill 46-0 on Friday, March 20. Find coverage about the stormwater fee bill here.