MACo Submits Amicus Brief on Montgomery Pesticide Ban Appeal

MACo and the Maryland Municipal League have jointly submitted an amicus curiae brief (2018-06-21) to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in a Montgomery County case involving a local ban on the use of lawn-care pesticides. The issues raised by the case concern local government autonomy and preemption.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Montgomery County Council passed a ban on the use of EPA-registered lawn-care pesticides for public and private property. The ban  covered areas such as lawns, playgrounds, recreation areas, and child  care centers but exempted agricultural usage. The ban also contained exceptions for treating noxious or invasive weed species, addressing human health concerns, or preventing significant economic damage.

In response, Complete Lawn Care and other several other businesses and county residents filed suit in Maryland Circuit Court challenging the ban. Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann issued a decision on August 3, 2017, finding that state law preempted the Montgomery County ordinance. From Judge McGann’s opinion:

By generally banning the use of registered pesticides, the Ordinance prohibits and frustrates activity that is intended to be permitted by State law. The County’s Ordinance flouts decades of State primacy in ensuring safe and proper pesticide use, undermines the State’s system of comprehensive and uniform product approval and regulation, and prohibits products and conduct that have been affirmatively approved and licensed by the State.

The County appealed the Circuit Court’s decision to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. MACo and MML, concerned about the broader local preemption issues posed by the holding, submitted an amicus brief to the Court of Special Appeals on June 21, 2018. The brief argued that local governments should not be preempted in enacting public health and safety measures that go beyond state minimums.  From the amicus brief:

The [circuit court’s ruling] gives insufficient deference to Maryland’s longstanding recognition of concurrent State-local authority, and its reluctance to preempt local safeguards that augment State health and safety protections.

In finding Montgomery County Bill 52-14 (“the Ordinance”) preempted, the circuit court failed to fully credit the latitude Maryland long has afforded local legislation that provides residents with additional health and welfare safeguards above and beyond those of State law. A proper respect for the role of county and municipal authority, asserted by the People over themselves through this amici and their constituent members, requires reversal of the court’s preemption ruling.

Useful Links

Circuit Court Decision – Complete Law Care v. Montgomery County (2017)

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Montgomery Pesticide Ban