Heavily Amended Stormwater Fee Bill Passes on Sine Die

An April 13 WBAL Channel 11 TV report announced the passage of SB 863, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.’s legislation to address the issue of the 2012 stormwater remediation fee legislation (known as the “rain tax” by the fee’s opponents). The heavily amended final version of the bill passed the Senate unanimously (47-0) and the House by a vote of 138-1.  From the report:

[Governor Larry] Hogan campaigned against the fees. While the bill that passed isn’t the one he sponsored, Hogan has said he doesn’t care who gets the credit for ending the state-mandated fees.

Maryland environmentalists praised the bill for creating greater accountability for the state’s 10 most populated jurisdictions in fighting pollution in stormwater.

An April 14 MarylandReporter.com article highlighted the concerns of the one delegate who voted against the bill:

A lone legislator let his disapproval rain down on House delegates the last night of session, as the Watershed Protection bill passed with only Del. Richard Impallaria opposed against 138 members.

“There are people who believe that what we are doing is repealing the rain tax,” said Del. Richard Impallaria, R-Baltimore and Harford. “They are still going to get a rain tax bill, every single year.” …

Impallaria is correct that the bill does not “repeal” the fee, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

The counties will instead have the choice of how to comply with the federal stormwater management requirements, whether it be with a fee or other revenue sources.

The article also provided the more optimistic assessments from other legislators and stakeholder groups:

“This bill is not perfect, but it does change ‘you shall charge a tax’ to ‘you may charge a tax’,” said House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford. …

“This is the largest growing source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Del. Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery. “Today, this bill has the enthusiastic support of the environmental community and the business community.” …

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation called it “a major victory for the Chesapeake Bay.”