Governor Hogan Signs Program Open Space Funding Bill Into Law

A MyEasternShoreMd article (2016-04-07) reported that a bill introduced by Governor Larry Hogan (HB 462) to restore funding to Program Open Space and other land preservation programs has passed the General Assembly and been signed by the Governor. The bill was heavily amended, borrowing provisions from similar bills introduced this Session. From the article:

As per the provisions in House Bill 462, $60 million in new funding — $20 million in 2017 and $40 million in 2018 — will go to transfer tax-funded programs, like Program Open Space, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund and Rural Legacy.

“This new funding will enhance our environment and natural resources as well as help us reach our Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goals,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton. …

[Eastern Shore Land Conservancy Policy Manager Josh] Hastings called the now-signed bill a mashup that stems from multiple bills submitted this legislative session and a bill submitted by Hogan’s administration.

He said funds taken from the program have totaled about $1.1 billion, and the law signed by Hogan April 4 will pay some of that back.

The article also noted Hogan received criticism from the Maryland Democratic Party for supporting a funding mandate but that environmental groups supported the bill. MACo also supported the bill but did request that certain critical issues raised by a Land Preservation Workgroup that met over the 2015 interim be examined. The bill addressed some of the Workgroup’s recommendations, but did not address a recommendation to grant county governments increased flexibility on spending Open Space funds to meet its land preservation and facilities needs.

The Senate cross-file, SB 383, was heard by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee but the Committee has taken no further action on that bill.

Useful Links

HB 462 / SB 383

Conduit Street article on Land Preservation Workgroup Recommendations