We are halfway through the 2014 Maryland General Assembly 90-day legislative session. March 17 will be “cross-over day,” the last day on which a bill can be approved and voted out of its original chamber and cross over into the other chamber. If bills don’t leave their original committee by this date, it is safe to say that they are dead for this session (although, it is true that some bills do rise from the dead). After the 17th, all the attention will be focused on the bills that survived their original chambers and are now on the opposite side. Session closes on April 9, Sine Die day.

Below are some of the bills being being tracked by the Maryland Horse Council in the 2014 Maryland legislative session. The Maryland Horse Council is an umbrella association for all horse organizations, farms, businesses and individual horse people, representing the interests of the community on legislative and regulatory matters. Click here for more information about MHC, or to sign up for the MHC Legislative Blog in order to stay on top of what is going on in Annapolis!

To read the bills, monitor legislation, check on hearing dates or find out who voted and how they voted, click here for the homepage for the Maryland General Assembly and then enter the bill number in the search field.

ANIMAL RELATED BILLS

HB 80: Liability for Personal Injury or death caused by a dog

Establishing that the owner of a dog running at large is liable for damages for personal injury or death caused by a bite from the dog, regardless of whether the dog has shown any vicious or dangerous propensities or whether the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s propensities; establishing exceptions; retaining specified common law as to owners of real property and other persons who have the right to control the presence of a dog on property; stating the intent of the General Assembly to abrogate a specified decision; etc.

MHC is opposing this bill, as is the Maryland Association for Wildlife Conservation (Maryland foxchasers); as the bill is written, it lacks a definition of at-large, and could easily affect horse owners who trail ride with their dogs, farm dogs, all hunting hounds and dogs. Poorly written bill that could have negative consequences for the equestrian community.

SB 149 Animal Cruelty & Payment of Costs

MHC supports this bill, which will authorize a court to order a defendant convicted of a specified charge of animal cruelty, as a condition of sentencing, to pay, in addition to any other fines and costs, all reasonable costs incurred in removing, housing, treating, or euthanizing an animal confiscated from the defendant.

SB 285 Homeowner’s and Renter’s Insurance – Coverage for Dog Owners

MHC supports this bill, which would prohibit an insurer from refusing to issue or renew a policy of homeowner’s or renter’s insurance solely because the applicant or insured owns a dog, regardless of the breed of dog; prohibiting a policy of homeowner’s or renter’s insurance that provides liability coverage from excluding specified coverage arising out of contact with a dog under specified circumstances; etc. As with other bills, MHC looks for bills that could set negative precedents for the horse industry.

AG RELATED BILLS

HB 193 SB 27 Nutrient Management – Phosphorous Risk Assessment Tool

MHC is supporting this bill, as it required inclusion of an economic impact analysis for any changes to the nutrient management regulations.

HB 213 Local Government Permit Review & Explanation of Denial

MHC is supporting this bill, as it requires local jurisdictions, within a reasonable amount of time, to provide an explanation with a specific code reference when denying a building permit application. MHC has received numerous anecdotes about seemingly capricious denial of permits for run-in sheds and other ag buildings.

HB 256 SB 294 MHIB Sunset Extension and Program Evaluation

Extends the existence of the Maryland Horse Industry Board to 2026 (currently it will sunset in 2016).

MHC and The Equiery were troubled by the initial bill, which would have removed requirement that funds collected via “the feed fund” may be used only for edducatoin, research and promotional materials and activities intended to benefit the Maryland equine industry. When the feed fund was originally proposed, horse people were reluctant to support the feed fund is the worry that it would be used NOT for marketing and promotional purposes, but rather for administrative and overhead. The Maryland Horse Industry Board asked the Department of Agriculture to submit an amendment striking that provision from this bill. With this amendment, MHC supports the bills, each of which has now passed out of the their original chambers and have crossed over to the other sides.

HB 575 SB 221 Farm Trucks

MHC is supporting this bill, that would extend the range of farm vehicles operated on highways from 10 to 25 miles.

HB 861 SB 259 Ag Easements for Renewable Energy Generation Facilities

MHC is supporting these bills, which require an easement to authorize the landowner to use the land subject to the easement for renewable energy generation under specified circumstances, and requiring the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation to amend an easement to allow a landowner to use their MALPF land for renewable energy generation.

SB 70 Fertilizer – Labeling and Restrictions on Use and Sale

MHC supports this bill, which would clarifying specified fertilizer labeling requirements and specified restrictions on the use and sale of specified fertilizers and altering the definitions of the terms “guaranteed analysis”, “organic fertilizer”, and “soil conditioner”.

SB 77 Exempts Farm Trucks from inspection requirements

Of course MHC is supporting this bill!

SB 127  Manure Transportation Project

MHC supports this bill, with the inclusion of horses, which would require the department to pay 87.5% of costs association with transporting manure in this program.

SB 941 Ag Biz Highway Signs

MHC supports this legislation that would authorize the placement of 3×3 signs on roadways to advertise ag products or services, provided there is a permit from Department of Transportation.

ENVIRONMENT 

HB 1073 Administrative Penalties Statute of Limitations

MHC is supporting this, which impostes a 3-year statute of limitations on administrative penalities for environment violations, as no one wants to see the government be able to find someone ad infinitum.

SB 359 Watershed Protection, Defines gravel as pervious

MHC is supporting this bill. It is crazy that some jurisdictions have claimed gravel to be an impervious surface. In many, if not most, ag-related regulations, gravel is considered to be a pervious surface, allowing water to filter through it.

LABOR & EMPLOYMENT

HB 467 Employment of Minors

This bill would create an on-line process for applying for and verifying work permits for minors. MHC is supporting this, as we know that a major portion of our labor comes from horse-crazy minors!

TAXES

HB 789 SB 709 Income Tax Credit for Preservation and Conservation Easements

MHC is supporting this bill, as it allows not just individuals but also corporations to receive credit for conservation easements. Many family farms are held by family corporations.

SB 892 Estate Transfer of Qualified Ag Land

MHC supports this bill, which would exempt from estate taxation recaptured tranfer of ag property from descendent to a qualified recipient unless agricultural use ends before 10 years after decedent’s death.

RACING RELATED

HB 1426 Standardbred Purse Deductions

Requiring that an organization representing a majority of standardbred owners and trainers set an amount to be deducted from open purses to be paid to the organization. Hearing is Tuesday, March 11.

HB 988 and SB 527 Sunset Extension

Extending to July 1, 2024, the date on which the Maryland Horse Racing Act terminates; and requiring that an evaluation be made of the State Racing Commission and specified advisory committees on or before December 15, 2021. Hearing is Tuesday, March 4.