A dramatically amended version of SB 863, the Senate President’s legislation to repeal the county stormwater fee mandate and institute widespread controls and penalties on county spending, will be before the House Committee on Environment and Transportation Friday for a vote. A special workgroup labored for several days, both with stakeholder input and privately, to assemble a substantially new version of the now lengthy legislation.
The bill conditions any county’s repeal or reduction of its fee on an approved financial assurance plan. A similar plan will be required of the 10 Phase I MPDES permit counties (those currently subject to the fee mandate) every two years, beginning in July 2016. If the county fails to demonstrate rigidly determined progress (measured by funding, not by project completion or similar deliverables) the Department of the Environment must withhold various state funding sources and may impose a per-day penalty on the county to elicit compliance.
The bill also mandates counties who “includes the cost of stormwater remediation in the county’s operating budget or capital budget” (a rather ambiguous phrasing) to provide a property tax reduction to taxpayers in municipal areas unless the county provides the primary stormwater services in that municipality. This treatment is unparalleled in Maryland tax law, and will seemingly require multiple counties who currently have negotiated tax setoffs (especially municipal tax rebates) to scrap them in favor of this new standard.
The bill differs substantially from that passed by the Senate, so once it passes the House (assuming it survives the various votes to do so) it will require either a concurrence by the Senate with this version, or the two chambers’ differences will need to be worked out to a final iteration.