2019 End of Session Wrap-Up: Public Information & Ethics

This post summarizes the status of various public information and ethics bills that MACo took a position on during the 2019 Regular Session. County governments gather and maintain public information as part of their various functions. Compliance with the Maryland Public Information Act and maintenance of a high level of ethics in all government practices are priorities throughout the administrative agencies and legislative bodies of Maryland's county governments. Through its advocacy and professional education in…

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Forest Legislation Update: What’s Budding for Spring & What Remains Dormant

As we approach Sine Die and the end of the 2019 Session, here is a summary on the status of the various Forest Conservation Act (FCA) bills introduced this year. FCA reform has been a priority of the environmental community, particularly the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, for the last several years. House Bill 120/Senate Bill 203 would change Maryland's “No net loss of forest” goal. Under current goal, 40% of all land in Maryland must be…

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Maryland Passes First Statewide Styrofoam Food Container Ban

A Baltimore Sun article (2019-04-03) reported that Maryland has become the first state in the nation to pass legislation banning polystyrene food containers and cups after two prior attempts failed. The ban has been a legislative priority for the environmental community. HB 109, sponsored by Delegate Brooke Lierman, passed the General Assembly with a vote of 100-37 in the House of Delegates and 31-13 in the Senate. The bill will now go to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan…

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Fixing Food Deserts – Now There’s an App for That

Areas with limited food options (commonly known as "food deserts") pose a challenge to local government planning and health departments.  A Route Fifty article (2019-03-28) highlighted one potential food distribution solution being used in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The article described how the Allegheny County Housing Authority has partnered with  Pittsburgh-based nonprofit 412 Food Rescue to collect edible food that is either slightly flawed or just past its sell-by (but not expiration) date and distribute it for…

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MET 2019 Land Conservation Conference & Symposium Includes Special Focus on Counties

Registration is now open for the Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) 2019 Land Conservation Conference and Symposium. This year's conference runs from May 16 (Thursday) through May 17 (Friday) at the Maritime Conference Center in Linthicum Heights. Friday is largely targeted towards counties and will include panels with local elected officials and county technical staff. Attendees can register for one or both days. From MET's webpage on the event: Each year, this Conference gathers the land…

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Preservation Maryland Hosting “Pop-up” Offices in Rural Counties

A Preservation Maryland blog post (2019-03-12) announced this it will be setting up temporary "pop-up" offices in rural areas of the State. The offices are designed to easily allow government officials and members of the public to receive information about and discuss land preservation issues in their part of the state. The endeavor is being funded by the Rural Maryland Council. The pop-up offices will be open from May 3 through June 5, depending on…

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Leadership Academy Offers Free Climate Change Training to County Officials

A Bay Journal article (2019-03-20) recounted the history and current status of Maryland's innovative Climate Leadership Academy. The Academy, the first of its kind in the nation, offers training to state and local governments employees on planning and responding to climate change. While governments are the target audience, other groups are also able to participate. Educational sessions offered by the Academy vary in length and duration. The article stated that the creation of the Academy was announced during…

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NACo Urges Counties to Comment on New WOTUS Rule

A National Association of Counties (NACo) policy brief (2019-02-25) urged counties to comment on the recently proposed "Waters of the US" (WOTUS) definition under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). NACo urged counties to provide comments on how the proposed rule will affect county infrastructure, such as road ditches, flood control channels, bridge projects, stormwater drainage systems, and wastewater facilities. Comments are due by April 15. A water way designated as a WOTUS is subject…

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Status of Solar Legislation: Sunny Days or Full Eclipse?

Solar development, particularly the siting of utility scale solar facilities that produce more than 2 Megawatts of power, remains an ongoing issue at both the state and county level. This article summarizes the status of seven different solar bills in the waning days of the 2019 Session. Status of Solar Legislation in the 2019 Session HB 532/SB 744 Protecting Natural Resources and Preserving Productive Farms - Commission on the Development of a Blueprint for Solar…

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Septic System Legislation – What’s Passing & What’s Gone Down the Drain

As the March 18 deadline for bills to cross over from the opposite houses of the Maryland General Assembly approaches, here is a summary of the status of the various septic system bills introduced during the 2019 Session. While MACo did not take a formal position on all of the bills discussed below, MACo has worked closely with the bill sponsors, advocates, the Maryland Conference of Local Environmental Health Directors (Conference), the Maryland Association of…

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