2017 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 2017 Regular Session.

Program Open Space – Apportionment Committee: HB 105 would have reconstituted a local Program Open Space (POS) advisory committee that has not met in decades, specified that committee serves in an advisory capacity to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), required that the committee meet before the end of 2017 and then at least every five years thereafter, and clarified the factors and criteria the committee must consider when reviewing the local POS apportionment formula. The bill was the result of committee narrative found in the 2015 Joint Chairman’s Report.

Push Icons-NOT IDEALMACo Position: MACo supported HB 105, noting that the bill updates essentially obsolete sections of Maryland’s Code and creates an improved mechanism to review the local POS apportionment formula.

FINAL STATUS: HB 105 passed the House of Delegates but was given an unfavorable report by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

MACo Testimony on HB 105

Program Open Space – Local Fund Use Flexibility: HB 1438 / SB 896 would have allowed counties to shift local POS funding between land acquisition and facility projects if: (1) the project is consistent with and supports the goals, objectives, and priorities of a local governing body’s land preservation and recreation plan (LLPRP) and annual program; and (2) the plan determines that additional land acquisition is not merited. The bill also makes several corrective changes to the local POS statute.

As introduced SB 116 would have altered a provision of current law which allows a local jurisdiction that has met its POS land acquisition target to use 75 percent of its future POS apportionment for development projects for a period of 5 years after attainment (up to 20 percent of the authorized development funds may be used for capital renewal). SB 116 provided that 100 percent of funds may be used for development projects and capital renewal going forward.

Push Icons-NOT IDEALMACo Position: MACo supported HB 1438 / SB 896 for establishing a reasonable framework to provide greater flexibility on the use of POS funds while still supporting both land acquisition and recreational facilities development through the LPPRP, which establishes recreational goals and requirements similar to land use goals and requirements in a comprehensive plan. The bill would allow counties to maximize their funding effectiveness by adjusting projects based on current economic conditions and being better able to assist municipalities with their priority projects.

MACo also initially supported SB 116 as a different way to provide needed flexibility regarding local POS funding. MACo changed to a “no position” when the bill was amended to only affect Allegany and Garrett Counties.

FINAL STATUS: HB 1438 was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee gave SB 896 an unfavorable report.

The General Assembly passed SB 116 with amendments narrowing the bill to Allegany and Garrett Counties. As amended, the bill provides that a local jurisdiction may use up to 100 percent of its future annual POS apportionment for development projects and capital renewal if: (1) DNR and the Maryland Department of Planning certify that the acquisition goals in the jurisdiction’s approved LPPRP and the Maryland Land Preservation and Recreation Plan have been met; and (2) the jurisdiction has more than 65,000 acres of land within its boundaries consisting of State forests, parks, or wildlife management areas. The bill also requires the Joint Subcommittee on Program Open Space and Agricultural Land Preservation to create recommendations by October 1, 2018, on whether the State’s standard for land acquisition of 30 acres per 1,000 people should be adjusted to encourage the additional acquisition of land under POS.

MACo Testimony on HB 1438

MACo Testimony on SB 896

NOTE: There is no MACo written testimony for SB 116.

State Forests, Parks, and Wildlife Management Areas – Revenue Equity Program: As introduced, SB 273 would establish a Revenue Equity Program, which starting in FY 2019 would provide counties an annual payment of $250,000 for each unit of open space attributed to State forests, State parks, and wildlife management areas. One unit of open space is the equivalent of 10,000 acres. The payments replace monies that a county currently receives from a portion of revenues generated from State forests and parks. For FY 2019, a county must have a least seven units of open space to receive a payment. That drops to five units in FY 2020 and 3 units for FY 2021 and each fiscal year thereafter.

Push Icons-WONMACo Position: MACo supported the bill as a means to assist counties with large amounts of State land that is not subject to property taxes by creating an analog to a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program. The existing revenue sharing system, which includes net revenues from concession operations, has been reduced significantly in recent years to balance the State’s budget.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed SB 273 with amendments limiting the scope and payment system in the bill. As amended the bill would establish a Revenue Equity Program for counties that: (1) have at least 65,000 acres of State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas; or (2) have at least 40,000 acres of State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas and a real property tax rate of at least $1.00 for each $100 of assessment.

Beginning in FY 2019, the State shall annually pay each qualifying county an amount equal to the county property tax rate multiplied by the assessed value, as determined by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, of the State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas exempt from the county’s property tax. The bill further specifies what State properties are not included in the calculation and how the payment systems shall work.

MACo Testimony on SB 273