2016 End of Session Wrap Up: Parks & Recreation

This post summarizes the status of various parks and recreation bills that MACo took a position on for the 2016 Regular Session. 

Program Open Space Funding: There were several bills that MACo took a position on related to the restoration and ongoing funding of Program Open Space (POS). HB 462 / SB 383 is an Administration bill that reduces the amount of State transfer tax dollars the Governor can transfer to the General Fund for FY 2017 from $82,771,000 to $62,771,000 (a $ 20 million reduction) and for FY 2018 from $86,028,000 to $46,028,000 (a $40 million reduction). The bill also allocates how: (1) the FY 2017 $20 million should be distributed, including $5 million to local POS; and (2) the FY 2018 $40 million should be distributed, including $11 million to local POS. These distributions do not affect the normal distributions for the State transfer tax.

HB 1464 / SB 927 establishes a Program Open Space Trust Fund within the Department of Natural Resources that replaces the special fund earmarked for such purposes under current law. The Trust Fund may only be used for land preservation initiatives (including local POS) and capital improvement projects on certain State-owned property – all as per the distribution formula under existing law. The bill also specifies how the Governor must: (1) repay $90 million taken from Stateside POS funds in FY 2006 over a period from FY 2018 through FY 2025; and (2) repay any monies transferred from the special fund to the General Fund in FY 2016 and 2017.

The bill also requires that if there is a transfer from the Trust Fund to the General Fund after FY 2017, the Governor must include in the next three fiscal years after the transfer a General Fund appropriation to the Trust Fund equal to at least 1/3 of the amount transferred to the General Fund until the amount is repaid. This shall be allocated through the normal transfer tax distribution formula. Finally, the bill states that it is the intent of the General Assembly that beginning in FY 2018, the Trust Fund return to full funding through the transfer tax distribution formula and that if the Governor transfers money from the Trust Fund to the General Fund, the Department of Budget and Management shall: (1) specify a plan for reimbursement in future years; and (2) identify alternative funding sources in the FY in which the funds are to be appropriated.

MACo Position: MACo supported HB 462/SB 383 with amendments requesting a thorough evaluation of POS funding mechanisms and reconsideration of  the continuous redirecting of local POS funding (similar to the provisions in HB 1464/SB 927). MACo supported HB 1464/SB 927, noting that the bill would move POS and land preservation programs back to full funding through the Maryland transfer tax distribution formula and was consistent with the recommendations of a Land Preservation Workgroup that met over the 2015 Interim.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 462 with substantial amendments. The amended bill:

  • Reduces the amount of State transfer tax dollars the Governor can transfer to the General Fund for FY 2017 from $82,771,000 to $62,771,000 (a $ 20 million reduction) and for FY 2018 from $86,028,000 to $46,028,000 (a $40 million reduction). The bill also allocates how: (1) the FY 2017 $20 million should be distributed, including $5 million to local POS; and (2) the FY 2018 $40 million should be distributed, including $11 million to local POS. These distributions do not affect the normal distributions for the State transfer tax.
  • Specifies a repayment plan for $90 million taken from Stateside POS funds in FY 2006 over a period from FY 2018 through FY 2025. Of the repaid monies: (1) $5 million will go to the Next Generation Farmland Acquisition Program under the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation; (2) $40 million for State park development and critical maintenance; and (3) $55 million will be distributed via the transfer tax formula for State purposes.
  • Requires the Governor to restore monies transferred from the special fund to the General Fund for FY 2016-2018, less $72 million. One-third of the transferred money must be restored by FY 2021, two-thirds by FY 2025, and all (minus the $72 million) by FY 2029.
  • Requires the Governor to restore any monies transferred from the special fund to the General Fund on or after FY 2018 of the 3 successive fiscal years (restoring at least one-third each of those years).
  • States that it is the intent of the General Assembly that beginning in FY 2019, the special fund return to full funding through the transfer tax distribution formula and that if the Governor transfers money from the special fund to the General Fund, the Department of Budget and Management shall: (1) specify a plan for reimbursement in future years; and (2) identify alternative funding sources in the FY in which the funds are to be appropriated.
  • Increases an annual grant to Baltimore City from a certain State share of the transfer tax funds and specifies how the City must use a portion of that grant in FY 2018
  • Requires the Governor to include a budget appropriation in FY 2020 to the accumulation funds of the State Retirement and Pension System an amount, up to a maximum of $50 million, that is equal to one-half of the amount by which the unappropriated General Fund surplus as of June 30 of the second preceding fiscal year exceeds $10 million.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee heard SB 383 but took no further action. The House Appropriations Committee gave HB 1464 an unfavorable report. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee heard SB 927 but took no further action.

MACo HB 462 Testimony

MACo SB 383 Testimony

MACo HB 1464 Testimony

MACo SB 927 Testimony

Task Force to Develop a Strategic Plan for State Park Development: SB 688 creates a Task Force to Develop a Strategic Plan for State Park Development. The Department of Natural Resources shall staff the Task Force. Among its duties, the Task Force shall develop a framework for the mid- to long-term decisions regarding the allocation of operating and capital funding provided to the State parks. The 12-member Task Force includes a representative of a county tourism office, appointed by the Governor. The Task Force shall report its findings by December 31, 2017, and sunsets September 30, 2018.

MACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments that: (1) added an additional member representing local parks and recreation; and (2)  directed the Task Force to review the funding sources for State park operations and possible means to ensure stability and adequacy without compromising local POS or other programs funded by the Department or the State transfer tax. MACo requested the language based on a 2007 funding shift that permanently diverted $21 million per year from local POS to State park operations.

FINAL STATUS: The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee took no action on SB 688.

Calculation of Agricultural Land Transfer Tax: HB 833 / SB 306 clarifies that: (1) the State’s agricultural land transfer tax does not include a 25 percent surcharge that is imposed under State law; and (2) for agricultural land transfers, the total rate of tax is the State rate plus the rate for a county agricultural transfer tax. The bill was introduced in response to a recent Maryland Court of Appeals decision, Montgomery County, Maryland v. Jean K. Phillips, et al. (filed October 16, 2015), which held that any local agricultural transfer tax a county receives from the sale of farmland must be reduced by the State surcharge of 25 percent.

MACo Position: MACo supported the bill, arguing that the General Assembly and affected stakeholders never intended the surcharge, which was enacted in 2008 by SB 622, to be part of a county’s agricultural transfer tax calculation.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 833 and SB 306.

MACo HB 833 Testimony

MACo SB 306 Testimony

Concussion Policy Penalties for CoachesHB 29 creates penalties for coaches of school sports programs and youth sports programs who do not remove a student or youth athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion from play. A first violation is suspension for the remainder of the current season. A second violation is suspension for the entire next season. A third violation is a permanent suspension from coaching any athletic activity. The bill also provides civil immunity to a coach who removes a student or youth athlete from play after a suspected concussion or returns such a person to play after that person has obtained written clearance from a licensed health provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.

MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill for two reasons: (1) the penalty provisions of the bill actually made it harder to remove a bad coach, who are typically either at-will employees or volunteers; and (2) the provisions would be nearly impossible to enforce against independent youth sports programs, who range in size and sophistication.

FINAL STATUS: The House Ways and Means Committee heard HB 29 but took no action on the bill.

MACo HB 29 Testimony

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