The Maryland legislative session is now hot and heavy. Over 2,600 bills have been filed, and things are moving fast, with hearings, motions, amendments, and crossovers.

In the updates below, The Equiery uses the following terms with the associated meanings:

  • “Stalled” or “stalled out” can refer to bills that has had hearings weeks ago but no action has happened, or it can refer to bills that have been filed but have yet to receive a hearing, and at this late date are unlikely to have a hearing. This is one way a bill can die in committee, without overtly killing: death by neglect.
  • The Equiery uses “killed” to refer to a bill that receives an unfavorable report from its committee. To report a bill out unfavorably, i.e. to kill a bill, sends a much stronger message than just allowing a bill to die of neglect.
  • “Crossed over” means a bill was voted on favorably by its committee and by its house (House of Delegates or the Senate), and has “crossed over” into the other house, and thus is very much alive and kicking.

If we already reported that a bill was dead, we have not included it in today’s update. The list below is not comprehensive; there are a few more bills that could affect horse sports and the equestrian community – but this is all we could get done for today!

The Maryland Horse Council is the only lobbying organization representing the entire horse industry and equestrian community in Maryland. Its members include every sport and discipline, from racing to trail riding, from hunters, jumpers to jousters and drivers, dressage riders, carriage operators, breed association, lesson stables, training barns – you name it. MHC represents over 35,000 horse people. MHC is monitoring or is active on most of the bills discussed below.

MONIES RELATED TO THE HORSE INDUSTRY

SB708/HB 977 – Funding for Fair Hill

Synopsis: Authorizing the creation of a State Debt not to exceed $250,000, the proceeds to be used as a grant to the Board of Directors of The National Steeplechase Foundation, Inc. for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Fair Hill Race Course, located in Cecil County; providing for disbursement of the loan proceeds, subject to a requirement that the grantee provide and expend a matching fund. Although earmarked for NSF, the improvements would benefit aspects used by a variety of equestrian organizations and would greatly enhance Maryland’s bid to be the second U.S. host of an FEI 4-star event. MARCH 7 UPDATE: Both bond bills will be heard on Saturday March 11, the Senate at 2 pm, the House at 4 pm.

SB170/HB 150 – Racing Commission and International Race Cost Shifting

Synopsis: Moves $3 million out of racing’s purse dedication account to fund the Racing Commission and the International Thoroughbred Race.

MARCH 7 UPDATE: The racing industry is working hard to prevent the purse account from being siphoned off, either by this bill or by the Department of Legislative Services recommendations to cut over $12 million that racing is slated to receive from slots and casinos.

ANIMAL WELFARE, NEGLECT & CRUELTY

SB80/HB625 Animal Abuse Penalties and Restitution

Synopsis: Prohibiting a person from committing specified abusive acts involving 10 or more animals; establishing penalties of up to $2,500 or up to 3 years imprisonment for a violation of the Act; authorizing a court to order a person convicted of or found to have committed a delinquent act to pay restitution to specified entities for expenses incurred as a result of the violation; authorizing a court to order a minor convicted or found delinquent under Act, the minor’s parent, or both to pay specified restitution under specified circumstances; etc. Comment: It is unclear what the purpose of this bill is, and no matter how noble the intent, the wording appears flawed. The Senate Judiciary Committee killed the bill early on. MARCH 7 UPDATE: The House also killed the bill. To have both bills actively killed usually means someone is trying to send a message.

SB 631/HB941 Animal Abuse Emergency Fund

Synopsis: Requiring specified fines to be remitted to the Animal Abuse Emergency Compensation Fund; establishing the Animal Abuse Emergency Compensation Fund; providing for the uses, purposes, sources of funding, investment of money, and auditing of the Fund; requiring the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) to administer the Fund; providing that the Fund is a continuing, nonlapsing fund not subject to specified provisions of law; etc. Comment: The various county animal control divisions have long been seeking a mechanism by which they can pay for contracts with non-profits to shelter and care for seized animals. While most local animal control can handle small animals, they are generally not equipped to handle livestock. MARCH 7 UPDATE: Both bills appear to be stalled in committee…perhaps to die in committee.

SB 790/HB 455 Animal Cruelty standards.

Synopsis: Clarifying that a person who has charge or custody of an animal and who unnecessarily fails to provide the animal with proper air, proper space, proper shelter, or proper protection from the weather is guilty of violating a specified prohibition against abuse or neglect of an animal; and clarifying that a person who intentionally mutilates, intentionally tortures, intentionally cruelly beats, or intentionally cruelly kills an animal is guilty of violating a specified prohibition against aggravated cruelty to animals. Comment: This bill essentially cleans up and organizes the existing statutes so that when individuals are charged with misdemeanor or felony neglect or cruelty, the charges are more clearly defined. MARCH 7 UPDATE: The Senate bill has passed and crossed over to the House.

 

LAND-RELATED

HB 109/SB102: Repealing Certain Fence Law Provisions in St. Mary’s County

Synopsis: Repealing the requirement that joint farm fences be built to certain specifications (post-and-rail at 4 feet, bottom plank 8 inches from ground, plans/rail no more than 8 inches apart, etc.). Repealing the obligation of neighboring farmers to maintain joint fences. Comment: We find it interesting that St Mary’s had such specific fence laws! The Senate version has passed, crossed into the House and had a hearing today, March 7.

HB 155 MD Ag Land Preservation Foundation – Easement Termination

Synopsis: Making pre-2004 MALF easements eligible for termination “only under extraordinary circumstances” as opposed to when profitable farming is no longer feasible. MARCH 7 UPDATE: HB 155 has crossed over to the Senate.

SB254/HB1174: Tax Incentive for Conservation Easements

Synopsis: Providing a subtraction modification under the Maryland income tax for the first $250,000 in proceeds from the sale of a perpetual conservation easement on real property in the State. MARCH 7 UPDATE: The House bill will be heard on Wed. March 8.

SB 178/HB 606 – Bowie Race Course – State Purchase or Condemnation

Synopsis: Authorizing the State to acquire, by purchase or condemnation for public use with just compensation, private property relating to the Bowie Race Course Training Center if the owner of the Bowie Race Course Training Center does not meet specified requirements of law; and requiring that all proceedings for condemnation for public use or private property as authorized under this Act are to be in accordance with specified provisions of law and specified rules of procedure. MARCH 7 UPDATE: Still no movement; could be stalled in committee.

OTHER

SB 57/HB 646 Extending Tax Credits for Class F Vehicles

This would apply to trucks and trailers; MARCH 7 UPDATE: Senate version has passed and crossed over to the House.

HB 1296 – One time, Permanent Registration for Trailers Towed By Passenger Vehicles or Trucks. MARCH 7 UPDATE: This bill appears to be trucking along, and will have a hearing on March 9.

HB 216/SB 269 – Emergency Veterinary Care – Immunity from Liability. Synopsis: Providing that prohibitions relating to the practice of veterinary medicine do not apply to emergency veterinary care for which a person may not be held civilly liable; providing immunity from civil liability for specified people providing emergency veterinary aid, care, or assistance to an animal where the owner or custodian is not available to grant permission under specified circumstances. MARCH 7 UPDATE: The House bill passed and has crossed over to the Senate and has its first reading.

HB 16 Maryland Equestrian Day

Synopsis: Requiring the Governor annually to proclaim the day designated for the final race of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing as Equestrian Day. Comment: This is not a horse industry bill, but a good will bill put in by the sponsor. There is debate in the equestrian community about whether the selected date really makes sense, but no one wants to look a gift horse in the mouth; this bill had a hearing in January, but has not moved since. MARCH 7 UPDATE: We are probably safe in saying that this has stalled in committee.

SHARED USE OF NATURAL RESOURCES & SUNDAY DEER HUNTING WITH FIREARMS

MHC watchdogs a variety of bills that pertain to the shared use of natural resources, including but not limited to those bills, which expand firearm deer hunting. MHC works with a variety of hunting groups and with the Department of Natural Resources to find ways to reduce the deer herd (including, but not limited to, increasing managed sharpshooter hunts, marketing hunting and other lethal methods with firearms) in an effort to ensure fair-shared use of resources by all users.

For the 2016 legislative session, the Maryland Horse Council changed its long-standing opposition to the hunting of deer with firearms on Sundays, and it did this for several reasons, which have been detailed elsewhere. Primarily, MHC recognized that the patchwork of Sunday deer hunting exceptions had led to a crazy-quilt that was impossible for both DNR and the other recreational land users to follow.

As an alternative, the Maryland Horse Council has crafted a compromise concept that would allow for deer hunting on Sundays with firearms, but limit it to the mornings, giving other users Sunday afternoons. MHC’s compromise concept would allow deer firearm hunting on ALL Sundays during the deer firearm season, actually increasing the number of days and hours for deer hunters, while ensuring the other users have access in the afternoons, and simplifying the process for DNR for enforcement purposes.

For the 2017 legislative session, MHC is supportive of Sunday hunting bills that promote the compromise concept, such as the Montgomery County HB 310. HB 310 will be heard March 10. To learn more, contact MHC president Jane Seigler at admin@mdhorsecouncil.org.

MHC also remains committed to support agriculture and the Maryland Farm Bureau in its efforts to reduce crop damage by deer, and so MHC is supportive of efforts involving crop damage permits, as a way to take the pressure off the parks.

Check back later this week for more bills and information!