The continued debate on state-mandated stormwater fees again took center stage as SB 863 was heard in the House Committee on Environment and Transportation. The Committee Chair, Delegate Kumar Barve, indicated to bill sponsor and Senate President Mike Miller his commitment that the bill was his “top priority” and than a bipartisan effort would be underway to improve it.
MACo testified on the bill, offering amendments to several areas but advocating for a “seat at the table” for continued discussion and negotiations.
From the Baltimore Sun coverage of the hearing:
The Senate president’s bill would make the fees optional, but it also would require local officials report publicly on what projects they’re planning to reduce polluted runoff, and how they intend to pay for them. They’d have to report their progress annually, and if the Maryland Department of the Environment finds their plans or progress lacking, could withhold state funds for a variety of environmental projects.
Officials with the Maryland Association of Counties, though, told committee members that Miller’s bill was too stringent. They asked for amendments reducing how often local governments have to report their progress, and easing the standards by which state regulators judge whether local governments are doing enough to reduce stormwater pollution. They also warned that the bill’s threat of withholding state funds could jeopardize counties’ bond ratings, causing serious fiscal problems for local governments and their taxpayers.