2016 End of Session Wrap Up: Business Affairs

This post summarizes the status of Business Affairs bills that MACo took a position on during the 2016 Regular Session.

Animal Shelter Standards Act of 2016: HB 494 as originally introduced established a comprehensive state-wide set of standards regarding animal care that include the handling and destination of animals, euthanasia, loaning of humane animal capture traps to the public, and record-keeping. The bill required animal shelters to develop and adhere to a specified written veterinary care protocol, stated requirements for the written veterinary protocol, and required an animal shelter to meet specified veterinary care requirements.

MACo opposed this bill as local governments largely regulate and fund animal shelters. Each jurisdiction manages whether they operate a shelter or contract with an entity to operate a shelter. As animal shelters vary in size, budget, and scope of services a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach was not suitable and impugned on already established authority.

MACo testimony on HB 494

Final Status: The bill was significantly amended down to only require notice and transparency for shelter protocols addressing many of MACo’s concerns. The amended version of this bill passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governors signature.

Underground Conduit System – Rate Modification Imposed by Local Jurisdiction – Notice, Hearing, and Appeal: SB 632 would have required a county to publish notice and hold a public hearing before modifying an existing rate charged for use of its underground conduit system, or before it could implement a charge for use. Such restrictions could compel duplicative or confusing processes above and beyond those already used by local governments under their own adopted laws for public participation.The bill also created an unprecedented appeals process for utility companies to challenge the local jurisdiction’s action. The Public Service Commission would have the authority to determine the reasonableness of the local jurisdiction’s decision – an area beyond the charge or expertise of the Commission.

MACo opposed this legislation because jurisdictions that lease their conduits would become restricted in their ability to change rates for use and those that do not currently lease their conduits would face hurdles should they wish to do so. Furthermore, local jurisdictions face increased costs associated with placing legal notice in the newspapers and significant delays instituting changes that must go through a public hearing and an appeal process that may be brought by anyone with financial interest.

MACo testimony on SB 632

Final Status: This bill was heard by the Senate Finance Committee but no further action was taken.