MACo Opposes Speed Camera & Red Light Camera Ban

MACo submitted written testimony in opposition to legislation (HB 536) that would ban the use of local government speed cameras, highway work zone speed cameras, and red light cameras. The bill was heard by the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 23, 2017. Delegate Warren Miller sponsored the bill. From MACo’s testimony:

Both red light camera and speed camera programs have been shown to be effective in altering driver behavior and increasing public safety. Various studies have shown that red light cameras reduce the number of serious and fatal “t-bone” vehicle crashes.

As for local speed camera programs, in August of 2015, WTOP news reported that speed camera tickets have dropped significantly in both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties as drivers altered behavior and reduced their speeds in targeted zones [Citation omitted]….

Wicomico County ended its speed camera program in December of 2015 because the program has been successful in reducing speeding in targeted school zones. [Citation Omitted]

Finally, this Committee and the General Assembly passed legislation in 2014 (HB 929 and SB 350) that comprehensively updated the local speed camera statute. The update included both additional program safeguards and necessary clarifications. The bills passed with bi-partisan support and had the support of MACo, the Maryland Municipal League, and AAA-Mid Atlantic. There have been no significant reported issues with local speed camera programs since the passage of the legislation and a repeal of the programs is unnecessary and unwarranted.

Useful Links

HB 536 of 2017

MACo Testimony on HB 536

Delegate W. Miller Webpage

MACo Bill Tracking Tool

Promising Pilot Program in Dorchester Turns Chicken Manure Into Energy

A Bay Journal article (2017-02-09) discussed a pilot program in Dorchester County that is turning poultry manure into energy. The disposal of poultry waste has long posed a challenge to the Eastern Shore’s chicken industry. A primary disposal method in the past was to spread the manure on nearby farmland but that practice has resulted in many fields becoming overloaded with phosphorus, which threatens the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways.

The pilot program in Dorchester features a $3 million dollar system installed in two poultry houses on Brad Murphy’s “Double Trouble” farm by the Irish firm BHSL. The State committed $1 million to the project. From the article:

The [BHSL] system curtails the ammonia fumes that not only make poultry houses stink, but compromise the birds’ health. It also can give farmers a financial boost — they can avoid paying for propane to heat the houses, and even make a little income from selling excess energy generated by the system that’s fed into the electric grid.

Maryland’s Department of Agriculture has committed nearly $3.8 million to try out a variety of manure-to-energy projects, $1 million of which went to the Double Trouble project. It’s the largest investment made by any Chesapeake Bay watershed state toward finding alternative uses for the massive amounts of animal waste generated by poultry, dairy and other livestock farms.

On a visit to the farm Feb. 13, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan praised the Murphys for “leading the way for farmers to improve water quality, increase energy independence, and improve animal waste management to ensure the sustainability of animal agriculture in our state.”

The article explained how manure-to-energy research is being supported by Maryland, nearby states, and the federal government. The article noted that the BHSL system appeared to be one of the more promising technologies for reducing both phosphorus overload in soils and ammonia in air emissions:

 [Because of soil phosphorus build up], manure-to-energy projects have attracted state and federal officials. Virginia and Pennsylvania are also funding similar pilot projects. But the BHSL system is the only one determined by an independent analysis to lower air emissions while also keeping phosphorus out of the water, said Kristen Hughes Evans, executive director of Sustainable Chesapeake. The nonprofit group is coordinating the manure-to-energy initiative for the Bay watershed states. …

In a tightly controlled experiment, two of Murphy’s chicken houses are using traditional propane heat, and the manure the birds produce is cleaned out every six to eight weeks and hauled away to area farms for fertilizer. But in the other two, the poultry litter — a mixture of manure and wood shavings — is kept on site and burned to generate heat and electricity. The University of Maryland is tracking the data. …

In 2011, the Chesapeake Bay Commission sponsored a manure-to-energy summit in Maryland to discuss the potential of new technologies. A representative from BHSL was there, and he later invited members of the tri-state legislative advisory body to see a plant in England. Several Maryland policy-makers made the trip, including Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton.

“It has huge, huge potential,” Middleton, a Charles County Democrat who is the Maryland Senate’s only full-time farmer, said of [BHSL’s] system. “And these are very dedicated people.”

According to the article, the BHSL system generates approximately 1 ton of phosphorus rich ash based on 10 tons of poultry manure. Besides being much easier to transport than the unprocessed manure, the ash has potential as a fertilizer product that can be used elsewhere. The cost of the system does remain a challenge, but the article noted that cost could come down significantly if its components could be manufactured locally instead of overseas.

Useful Links

BHSL Website

Maryland Department of Agriculture Website

MACo – MES Collective Bargaining Bills Will Raise Costs on Local Governments

MACo submitted written testimony on legislation (HB 239/SB 291) that would impose mandatory collective bargaining on the Maryland Environmental Service (MES). HB 239 was heard by the Appropriations Committee on February 14, 2017, and SB 291 was heard by the Senate Finance Committee on February 16. HB 239 is sponsored by Delegate Patrick Young. SB 291 is sponsored by Senator James Rosapepe.

The bills would require MES to recognize and collectively bargain with an employee organization that is elected as an exclusive representative of MES employees.  From MACo’s opposition testimony:

As noted on the MES website (www.menv.com), MES is a self-supporting fee-for-service agency that “provides services at competitive rates to government and private sector clients and works on projects including water and wastewater treatment, solid waste management, composting, recycling, dredged material management, hazardous materials cleanup, storm water services and renewable energy.” Maryland counties and municipalities are major MES clients and in FY 2016, MES did $54.4 million in business with local governments. This represented 34% of MES’ total income for that year.

As the bill’s fiscal note indicates, MES estimates it will likely have to charge an additional $1.5 to $4.1 million annually to local governments as a result of mandatory collective bargaining. This would undermine the unique role MES plays in assisting local governments to meet numerous federal and state environmental mandates.

Useful Links

HB 239 of 2017

SB 291 of 2017

MACo Testimony on HB 239

MACo Testimony on SB 291

Delegate P. Young Webpage

Senator Rosapepe Webpage

MACo Bill Tracking Tool

MACo Opposes Municipal Stormwater Fee Bill But Working on Potential Solution

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to legislation (HB 656/SB 472) that would mandatorily subject county properties to municipal stormwater charges before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 14, 2017, and the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 15. However, Knapp stressed in his oral testimony that MACo and affected counties were working with the Maryland Municipal League (MML) and their respective municipalities to arrive at a solution to the issue. HB 656 is sponsored by Delegate Kumar Barve. SB 472 is sponsored by Senator Ronald Young. The bill is a MML legislative priority.

HB 656/SB 472 provide that a municipality that has established a dedicated stormwater management fund and municipal stormwater charge under § 4-204 of the Environment Article that affects property owned by a municipality may also levy the charge against property located within the municipality that is owned by the State, a unit of State government, a county, a local school system, or an institution of higher education. From the MACo testimony on SB 472:

The core concept of a stormwater charge authorized under § 4-204 or a stormwater remediation fee established under § 4-202.1 of the Environment Article is to address runoff issues created by property owners and assist local governments in meeting their Phase I or Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit requirements. The fees are not intended to create redundancies or place “double burdens” on governments, education entities, or taxpayers. However, SB 472 does not acknowledge actual mitigation responsibility, county government parity, or the flexibility to enter into other forms of mitigation agreements.

Actual Mitigation Responsibility Not Acknowledged SB 472 mandates that governmental and educational property owners pay a municipal stormwater charge regardless of whether the municipality is actually responsible for the property under its MS4 permit. This requirement makes absolutely no sense if, for example, a county is responsible under its own MS4 permit for its own property, or school property, located in a municipality. In such a circumstance, imposing the municipal fee on the county’s property is both redundant and lacks a reasonable rationale – the county would be paying a fee to the municipality for mitigation work that would be performed by the county.

County property may also be subject to stormwater mitigation requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and applicable local TMDLs. Again, counties should not have to pay a fee for mitigation work for which they are already responsible.

Lack of Flexibility SB 472 mandates that a governmental or educational property owner pay a municipal stormwater charge regardless of local circumstances. Some counties have entered into alternative arrangements to mitigate their own properties or provide other assistance to municipalities. The bill would needlessly upend those agreements and impose a “one size fits all” solution in jurisdictions where there is no current problem.

Lack of Parity The bill purports to establish an “everyone should pay” requirement that is based on a principle of fairness. However, the bill’s provisions only affect governmental and school property located inside municipalities. Federal, State, school, and municipal property located within a county are not subject to the bill, creating an inherent unfairness. Neither does the bill reference county stormwater remediation fees established under § 4-202.1 of the Environment Article, which were also put into place as a means of MS4 assistance – something the bill allegedly seeks to address.

Knapp stated that if the three areas of concern noted in his testimony were addressed, MACo could drop its opposition to the bill. MML, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Takoma Park, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation supported the bill. The University of Maryland System testified that it would support the bill with amendments addressing MACo’s concerns.

Useful Links

HB 656 of 2017

SB 472 of 2017

MACo Testimony on HB 656

MACo Testimony on SB 472

Delegate Barve Webpage

Senator Young Webpage

MACo Bill Tracking Tool

MACo Reaches Agreement on Governor’s Clean Water Commerce Act

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in consultation with numerous stakeholders including MACo, reached agreement on a set of amendments to allay local government and environmentalist concerns over SB 314 – the “Clean Water Commerce Act of 2017.” The bill was sponsored by the Administration of Governor Larry Hogan.

As introduced, SB 314 would allow MDE to use up to $10 million a year from the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) Wastewater Account to purchase nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient credits in support of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. MDE must adopt regulations regarding the use of BRF funds in conjunction with the Maryland Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

MACo was still in an oppose position at the hearing for SB 314 before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 14, 2017, but Knapp indicated that amendments provided to MACo by MDE the night before the hearing appeared to alleviate MACo’s concerns. MACo’s Legislative Committee formally moved to a support with amendments positions on February 15 after Secretary of the Environment Benjamin Grumbles spoke with the Committee about the bill’s proposed amendments. From the MACo testimony at the bill hearing:

MACo has been supportive of establishing a nutrient credit trading program in Maryland – giving the State, local governments, and other stakeholders another “tool in the toolbox” to help meet our Bay restoration goals. MACo also appreciates the desire to “jumpstart” such a market. However, the bill’s provisions are broad and ill-defined.

There are no limits placed on when and where MDE may purchase credits or what projects the credits apply to. There is also no prioritization of the use of the monies, meaning that a highly cost-effective county or municipal project may not get funded over the purchase of a nutrient credit that yields a more modest return.

Additionally, MACo and other affected stakeholders would have no role in helping to develop regulations that will affect what has been to date a reliable source of support for local Bay restoration goals. These are critical details that must be addressed in advance before MACo would be comfortable supporting such a proposal.

Amendments include: a 4-year sunset on the bill, a requirement that wastewater treatment plant upgrades retain a higher priority, a prohibition on using the $10 million to purchase agricultural nutrient credit trading credits, a requirement that the $10 million must be awarded based on cost-effectiveness as part of a competitive submission process, and a requirement that MDE consult with public and private stakeholders (including MACo) as it develops regulations to implement the bill. Several additional amendments relating to the total funding amount are also under consideration.

The Maryland Municipal League and Chesapeake Bay Foundation also supported the bill with the amendments. The Chesapeake Bay Commission and Clean Water Action testified in opposition to the bill but stated they were willing to consider the amendments.

The bill’s cross-file (HB 417) is scheduled for a hearing before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 22.

Useful Links

SB 314 of 2017

MACo Testimony on SB 314

Governor Hogan Webpage

MACo Bill Tracking Tool

Sponsors Modify Open Meeting Training Bills With MACo-Supported Amendments

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally offered amendments to legislation (HB 880) that would alter the required training requirements for members of public bodies under the Maryland Open Meetings Act before the House Health and Government Operations Committee on February 15, 2017. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp offered the same testimony on the cross-file (SB 450) before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 16. HB 880 was sponsored by Delegate Maricé  Morales while SB 450 was sponsored by Senator Roger Manno.

As introduced, HB 880 and SB 450 would require every member of a public body to take a training course on the Maryland Open Meetings Act or else submit a letter to the Open Meetings Compliance Board (OMCB) stating that the member is unable or unwilling to complete the class. Currently, each public body must designate at least one individual who is an employee, officer, or member of the public body to take the class.

In their testimony, Kinnally and Knapp supported amendments striking the bills’ provisions and instead replacing it with a new training requirement agreed upon by MACo, the Maryland Municipal League and other stakeholders last year. Both sponsors offered the MACo-supported amendments, along with some additional amendments regarding OMCB reporting and posting requirements. From MACo’s testimony:

MACo has consistently objected to expanding the training requirements to include every member of a public body – the requirements proposed by SB 450 [and HB 880] were debated and specifically rejected when the initial training requirement was passed in 2013 (HB 139). Public bodies range from large, statutorily created permanent bodies to small, all-volunteer task forces. The inclusion of all employees, officers, or members will place a burden on all sizes of public bodies and will be especially challenging for small volunteer bodies that in many cases are already struggling to attract participants.

However, MACo recognizes the need for open meetings training and would support the bill if it were amended to require at least one voting member of a public body (as opposed to a staff person, etc.) be required to take the training. Voting members have the authority to close meetings and it is reasonable to have at least one such individual take the training. Furthermore, if a voting member who has taken the training is not present when a meeting is proposed to be closed, the public body should have to complete and include in their minutes the short meetings closing checklist that was created by the OMCB. The provision regarding the submission of a letter to the OMCB should also be removed.

MACo believes these amendments would address the need to make sure the correct individuals are receiving open meetings training while acknowledging staffing and implementation realities on the governmental side.

Common Cause and the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association also supported the bill with the same amendments.

Useful Links

HB 880 of 2017

SB 450 of 2017

MACo Testimony on HB 880

MACo Testimony on SB 450

Delegate Morales Webpage

Senator Manno Webpage

MACo Bill Tracking Tool

MACo: Forest Conservation Act Bill Costly, Impractical & Unnecessary

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to legislation (SB 365) that would impose significant and costly new Forest Conservation Act (FCA) mandates on local governments, utilities, and development projects before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 7, 2017.  Senator Ron Young sponsored the bill.

SB 365 makes three alterations to Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act (FCA). First, the bill increases the minimum reforestation rate from ¼ acre for every acre removed to 1 acre for every acre removed. The bill also limits an existing exemption under the FCA for the clearing of public utility rights of way and land for electric generating stations to areas of 1 acre or less of forest. Finally, the bill authorizes the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or a local jurisdiction with a forest conservation program to increase the rates under the fee-in-lieu by 20% for each acre for which money is contributed in lieu of meeting the program’s reforestation or afforestation requirements.

In addition to the significant costs and practical challenges posed by the bill’s requirements, Knapp responded to the proponent’s contention that the bill was needed to meet Maryland’s “No Net Loss of Forest” policy. From MACo’s testimony:

While the bill poses fiscal challenges to a variety of stakeholders, Maryland appears to be maintaining its tree canopy coverage established under Maryland’s “No Net Loss of Forest” policy established by HB 706 of 2013. According to DNR’s Forest Action Plan 2016-2020, Maryland had a statewide tree canopy cover of almost 50%, exceeding the “No Net Loss” policy of maintaining 40% or more tree canopy cover. This raises the question of why is the bill needed.

Blue Water Baltimore, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Choose Clean Water Coalition, Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club,  Maryland Forestry Association, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and the South River Federation testified in support of the bill.

Joining MACo in opposition to the bill was the Maryland Association of Realtors, Maryland Building Industry Association, Maryland Municipal League, and NAIOP-MD.

The cross-file to the bill, HB 599, will be heard by the House Environment & Transportation Committee on February 22.

Useful Links

SB 365 of 2017

MACo Testimony on SB 365

Senator Young Webpage

MACo Bill Tracking Tool

Local Governments Object to State Archives Legislation on Records Management

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to legislation (SB 44) that would impose both unmanageable records management requirements and unintended consequences on local governments before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 8, 2017. The bill was sponsored by the Maryland State Archives (MSA).

SB 44 requires each unit of state and local government to offer for transfer to the MSA electronic records that the unit has determined are no longer needed for the transaction of business. Governmental units must also create and maintain an inventory of both electronic and non-electronic record files. Finally, the bill requires each unit of government to designate a “records officer” to serve as a contact point for the MSA).

While local governments must already have a records retention, disposal, and archival policies in place, including for electronic records, the bill’s provisions create impractical and sometimes contradictory requirements on local governments. The bill provisions also did not seem parallel the intent of MSA,  based on the testimony of State Archivist Tim Baker. From MACo’s testimony:

MACo appreciates the desire to update records retention, disposal, and archival policies to include electronic records. However, MACo is concerned that the bill will impose potentially significant implementation and technical issues regarding the capture, retention, organizing, and transmission of electronic data. Extracting electronic data from computer systems, proprietary databases, and mobile devices in a readable and accessible format will likely prove challenging.

The bill also seems to include metadata, which is not subject to disclosure under the Maryland Public Information Act, and handling this data could create additional legal and technical challenges. Finally, the bill would require a legal review of government software contracts to determine what information is a governmental record subject to MSA requirements.

MSA testified in support of the bill. Knapp was joined by Baltimore City Chief Solicitor Hilary Ruley and Hyattsville Clerk and Maryland Municipal Clerks Administration Representative Laura Reams in opposition to the bill. Ruley raised the concern that the bill placed local governments in a section of the Code reserved for State agencies, creating unintended consequences. Reams discussed implementation concerns.

MACo, the Maryland Municipal League, and MSA will meet soon to see  if SB 44 can be amended to address local government concerns.

Useful Links

SB 44 of 2017

MACo Testimony on SB 44

Maryland State Archives Website

MACo Bill Tracking Tool

MACo Supports Using BRF Funds for BNR Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in support of SB 343 before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 7, 2017.  The bill would expand the allowed uses of the Bay Restoration Fund’s (BRF) wastewater treatment plant account to include plant upgrades to biological nutrient removal (BNR). The bill was sponsored by Senator Adelaide “Addie” Eckardt. From MACo testimony:

When the BRF was created, one of the Fund’s primary purposes was to upgrade major wastewater treatment plants to enhanced nutrient removal (ENR) technology – the current best technology for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus.1 Now that Maryland’s major plants have been upgraded to ENR, BRF monies are targeting major-minor and minor plants for similar upgrades. However, some smaller plants lack BNR technology – the first level of nutrient removal – and the commensurate resources to make the upgrade to BNR in order to qualify for BRF assistance for ENR upgrades. Allowing BRF monies to be used for BNR as well as ENR upgrades makes sense now that the major plants have been upgraded.

Representatives from the Maryland Municipal League and the Town of Preston also testified in support of the bill. No one testified in opposition.

Useful Links

SB0343 of 2017

MACo Testimony on SB 343

Senator Eckardt Webpage

MACo Bill Tracking Tool

Composting Task Force Bill Has Favorable House Hearing

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally supported a yard and food waste composting and diversion study bill (HB 171) with amendments before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 8, 2017. The bill is sponsored by Delegate Shane Robinson.

The bill requires the Maryland Department of the Environment, in consultation with MACo and numerous other stakeholders, to make recommendations regarding a ways to increase use of composting and diversion of food and yard waste in the state. In his testimony, Kinnally noted MACo’s general support of composting and anaerobic digestion technologies but also requested five amendments that would both modify and expand the study’s scope. From the MACo testimony:

MACo has generally supported creating a regulatory climate that makes composting and anaerobic digestion practical activities in the state while not simply placing new mandates on county governments. As the bill acknowledges, flexible options are needed because, given Maryland’s diverse geography and demographics, a “one size fits all” approach will not yield successful results. …

The five changes would have the study:

  • Identify the infrastructure needs and challenges related to yard waste and food residuals composting and diversion unique to the different geographic regions of the state;
  • Identify any applicable sanitary and public health concerns related to yard waste and food residuals composting and diversion;
  • Develop, in consultation with local governments, model guidelines and best practices for the local identification of properties or development zones where diversion infrastructure may be developed instead of having MDE assume a land use role by making such identifications itself;
  • Consider a refuse disposal fee instead of automatically recommending such a fee; and
  • Receive the approval of the affected local governments before recommending a pilot food waste recovery program in the Elkridge and Jessup area.

The American Biogas Council, Institute for Maryland Self-Reliance, Compost Crew, and Maryland Farm Bureau testified in support of the bill. There was no opposition to the bill.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp had previously offered the same amendments on the bill’s cross-file, SB 62, on January 24.

Useful Links

HB 171 of 2017

MACo Testimony on HB 171

Delegate Robinson Webpage

MACo Bill Tracking Tool