This post summarizes the status of various parks and recreation bills that MACo took a position on during the 2019 Regular Session.
County government parks and recreation department provide a range of public recreation programs for all segments of the population and maintain a large network of open spaces throughout Maryland. MACo’s advocacy seeks to support the efforts of county parks and recreation, by urging state and federal funding support and defending local determination of priorities in parks and recreation.
Follow links for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Database.
MACo opposed legislation which required that, for a playground or athletic field project being paid for with public funds, the State or a local government responsible for the project shall give preference to using state-of-the-art natural surface materials to the maximum extent practicable. The bill also prohibited State funds from being used to finance any portion of a project to build a new or replacement playground or athletic field with a synthetic surface. MACo noted that: (1) a properly managed synthetic turf surface can see more play time than natural turf and is also less costly to maintain; (2) synthetic turf meets Americans with Disability Act requirements while wood mulch and similar natural play materials do not; and (3) given the ongoing and comprehensive research into the alleged negative health effects of synthetic turf, legislative action on funding is premature. Use of Public Funds – Playground and Athletic Field Surfaces – Authorizations, Preferences, and Prohibitions did not move within its committee following its hearing.
Waterway Improvement Fund
MACo supported legislation that would update financing limits within the Waterway Improvement Fund for public boating construction projects. The bill removed a 50% or more local contribution requirement and increase the maximum amount the Fund can contribute to a project from $100,000 to $200,000. This bill allowed counties to more easily access the Fund, limited costly and potentially dangerous multi-phase projects, and more accurately reflected current inflation and increased construction costs. Waterway Improvement Fund – Public Boating Construction Projects – Financing Limits was passed through both chambers of the General Assembly and will be sent to the Governor for his signature.
Other Bills of Interest
The following bills may be of interest to counties even though MACo did not take a formal position on them. In some cases, the bills were handled through one of MACo’s affiliate organizations.
Legislation that would have prohibited the State or a governing body of a county from requiring a lifeguard to be present at a splash pad when the splash pad is in use. Splash Pads – Lifeguards was introduced late and was never released from the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.
A bill setting out broad restrictions on youth sports programs was introduced in the General Assembly this Session. Youth Sports Programs – Restrictions, Registration, Personnel, and Policy Information – Requirements would have: (1) placed practice, season, and equipment requirements on tackle football, cheerleading, gymnastics, hockey, and lacrosse played by young athletes; (2) created new requirements on “youth sports program personnel” including background checks, annual registration, and training; and (3) required youth sports programs to provide certain information to each parent or guardian of a youth athlete, including information about traumatic brain injuries, heat-related illnesses, and removal and return to play policies. The bill was heard by the House Ways and Means Committee, but the Committee took no further action on the bill.