On March 1, 2023, Associate Policy Director Dominic Butchko testified before the House Environment and Transportation Committee in support of HB 893 – Environment – Water Utilities – Shutoff Protections (Water Access for All Protection Act) with amendments.
The Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee will consider the bill’s cross-file, SB 883, on March 15.
HB 893 limits the ability of water suppliers to shut off service should the customer in question demonstrate that they do not meet a certain income threshold, suffer from a mental impairment, or meet other qualifying circumstances. While ensuring that the State’s most vulnerable populations have ready access to vital resources is a laudable goal, counties remain concerned that other taxpayers will have to take on the additional costs that stem from the bill’s provisions. Accordingly, counties suggest that the General Assembly consider an amendment requiring the State to shoulder the anticipated losses to local water systems.
From the MACo Testimony:
Access to water is critical in maintaining life and preserving health. Counties recognize that there are those in our society who are at risk of losing access to this precious resource and would be detrimentally impacted beyond what others may experience. This need must also be balanced with the realities of the state’s current water infrastructure systems. When developing Maryland’s water infrastructure, policy makers crafted a system largely funded by user fees. In effect, HB 893 would remove a significant portion of revenue used to fund this critical infrastructure. While counties recognize and support the intent of HB 893, the bill’s lack of a backstop to fill in this funding gap would translate into either significantly higher user fees or diverting resources from other critical programs
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