This post summarizes the status of various parks and recreation bills that MACo took a position on for the 2018 Regular Session.
Synthetic Turf Fields and Playgrounds – Prohibition on State Funding: HB 505 / SB 763 would require the state or local unit that is constructing a playground or athletic field to give a preference, to the maximum extent practicable, to natural surface materials if state funds are involved. The bill would also prohibit the use of state funds, including Program Open Space monies, to build a new or replacement playground or athletic field with a synthetic surface.
MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, noting that: (1) synthetic turf fields can provide better recreational benefits over regular turf; (2) prior research have not shown that synthetic fields pose health risks; (3) the General Assembly has previously considered and rejected synthetic turf bans or prohibitions; and (4) there are several comprehensive synthetic turf health studies underway that should be allowed to be completed before making any decision regarding their usage.
FINAL STATUS: The House Appropriations Committee heard HB 505 but took no further action on the bill. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee heard SB 763 but took no further action on the bill.
Splash Pads – Regulation: HB 1217 would authorize the governing body of a county to adopt and enforce rules and regulations to govern the sanitary condition of splash pads and any sanitary feature connected to a splash pad. “Splash pad” is defined as an outdoor play area: (1) with sprinklers, fountains, nozzles, and other devices or structures that spray water; (2) in which water is not allowed to accumulate; and (3) that is not used for submersion of the human body.
SB 924 had the same language as HB 1217 but would authorize the Secretary of Health to adopt the rules and regulations instead of a county governing body.
MACo Position: MACo supported HB 1217, arguing that county governments should have the authority to address the sanitary condition of splash pads and any sanitary facility connected to them (such as restrooms). Such an approach allows for local concerns to be addressed while avoiding a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
MACo supported SB 924 with amendments to make the bill identical to HB 1217.
FINAL STATUS: The Senate amended SB 924 to be identical to HB 1217 and the General Assembly passed both bills.
For more information on all of the Parks and Recreation legislation that MACo tracked in the 2018 General Assembly, click here.