On March 17, a bill seeking to establish, update, and refine the process of managing and installing on-site sewage disposal systems passed out of the Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee, and passed on the Senate floor unanimously.
SB 830 – Environmental Health Specialists and On-Site Sewage Disposal Systems – Reform (Environmental Health Systems Support Act of 2023) initially required the Department of the Environment to develop standardized permit forms for those looking to install on-site sewage disposal systems, obligates local health agencies to work with denied applicants to rectify the Department’s concerns, and creates a student loan forgiveness program specifically devoted to environmental health specialists. MACo supported the bill with amendments, requesting that the Department of Budget and Management collaborate with local jurisdictions to update the salaries of local environmental health specialists.
The bill that passed committee muster ultimately conditioned these original reforms on a study, alleviating some of MACo’s concerns. By the time the State is ready to act on the study’s recommendations, counties are optimistic that the plan for implementation will include proper support for local officials. The next test will come in the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 30.
From the MACo Testimony:
The legislation proposes beneficial advances, such as establishing a student loan forgiveness program for environmental health specialists, and standardized regulations and guidance for on-site sewage disposal systems. The bill also seeks to provide more funding and resources at the state level to tackle some of the goals set forth, including adding new positions, allocating funding, exploring the use of a statewide database, and creating a standardized permit form. While these elements could be welcome advances, they are complementary to, rather than centered upon, the area of greatest need in this field: the professional environmental health positions tasked with the actual inspection and evaluation duties.
For more on MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2023 legislative session, visit MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.