The 2010 Maryland legislative session is quickly coming to close (April 12). Below is an “as of April 5, 2010” update on bills that we have tracked in our print edition; updates appear in italics. Please e-mail comments to email@example.com.
To view more information about specific legislation, please visit Maryland General Assembly.
EQUINE INDUSTRY SPECIFIC LEGISLATION
SB 62: Making MHIB Self-Funded
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) requested this bill that would increase the fees for licensing and inspecting horse stables and will direct the revenue collected from these fees into the Maryland Horse Industry Fund. This increase will help the Maryland Horse Industry Board meet increased costs associated with stable inspections.
The Maryland Horse Council supported this bill, lest legislators decide to keep the stable inspection fees in the general fund, but cut MHIB’s general fund allocation, which would then make the MHIB rely on the feed fund program. This is problematic because the feed fund was intended to provide funding for marketing programs and grants, not underwrite the stable inspection program.
This bill passed the Senate on a vote of 34-9 and was duly assigned to the House Environmental Matters Committee, which heard the bill on March 31. Members of both the Maryland Horse Council and the Maryland Horse Industry Board spoke in support of the bill. The chairman of the Committee asked the representative present for Maryland Farm Bureau if the Bureau also supported the bill, and the MFB representative confirmed that it did.
The bill received a favorable report from Environmental Matters on April 5.
SB 414/HB 248: Approved Helmet Requirement for Minors on Public Roads & Trails
This legislation would require anyone under the age of 18 to wear a properly secured safety helmet when riding on a highway, an equine-riding path, or any other property open to the public or used by the public. It also provides for penalties.
We originally saw this bill, sponsored on the House side by the still relatively new delegate from Anne Arundel & Prince George’s Counties (D), Joseline Pena-Melnyk, last year, which absurdly required all such safety helmets to be approved by the Snell Foundation, which is involved with helmets for bikers. MHC was active on amending this legislation in 2009, which did not pass. Del. Pena-Melnyk has heeded this MHC’s counsel this year and incorporated MHC’s recommendations in both the initial bill and in subsequent amendments.
Each bill received an unfavorable from its respective committee, emphatically killing the bill – which is just as well, as the members of the Maryland Horse Council’s legislative committee where not thrilled with all the last minute, cockamamie amendments the well-meaning but mis-guided sponsor kept throwing into the bill, necessitating an excessive amount of babysitting and grassroots lobbying to course correct the bill.
SB 21/HB 265: Penalties and Condition of Sentencing
SB21 was introduced by Senators Robey (Howard County) and Raskin (Montgomery County) and would increase the fine and sentence for anyone convicted of animal cruelty. It would also leave to the judge’s discretion whether that person would ever be able to own an animal. While the House bill stalled, SB 21 passed the Senate and was heard on March 30 in the House.
The Maryland Horse Council’s executive committee reviewed these bills and supported them.
RACING & SLOTS
HB 14: Restriction on Slots Location
This bill would prohibit video lottery facility located within 1,000 feet of a church, community center, playground, school, or shopping center, unless the proposed video lottery facility is located on the site of an existing horse racecourse. The bill received an unfavorable from the House Ways & Means Committee on March 27.
HB 596: Repeal of Citizenship and Residency Requirement for Employees of Licensee
Repealing the requirement that at least 85% of a horse racing licensee’s employees be U.S. citizens who have maintained a permanent place of residence in the State for at least 2 years immediately before being employed. This certainly seems sensible, given the relatively new federal restrictions making it more difficult for foreign workers to establish residency, and given the horse industry’s dependence on foreign labor (because, despite record unemployment, very few U.S. born citizens are willing to do entry level manual labor). The bill was heard March 18, but as of April 5 appears stalled.
SB 882/HB 1077: Temporary Slots at Rocky Gap
SB 882, introduced by Senator Edwards (Allegany County) and Senate President Miller, would allow a temporary slots establishment to be housed in the Rocky Gap Lodge until a permanent facility could be built. Then, it would allow the permanent facility to be connected to the Rocky Gap Lodge. In addition, no admissions or amusement taxes would be imposed on proceeds from the slot machines. HB 1077 has seen really no action, mostly likely due to the positive action on SB 882, which passed with amendments, crossed into the House and was heard on March 30.
HB 598: Standardbred Registration Requirements
HB 598 would require that a Standardbred horse can only be registered with the Maryland Standardbred Race Fund Advisory Committee if the horse was conceived during the previous season by the horse’s dam having been covered by a Maryland stallion registered with the Advisory Committee. HB 598 removed the requirement that the foal had to have been conceived in Maryland. This bill was scheduled for a hearing the Ways and Means on March 18, but now appears completely stalled.
GENERAL AG-RELATED LEGISLATION
SB 90: Farm Quarantine
MDA also requested this bill that would expand the authority of MDA to quarantine farms that MDA has reason to believe have been exposed to or contaminated by a radiological or chemical toxic material or agent or is infected or infested with a disease or pest. It would restrict the use of farmland, livestock, crops, or farm products. The bill includes penalties and safeguards as MDA would be required to consult with the Governor and the Secretaries of Health and Mental Hygiene and Department of the Environment before issuing quarantine. The amended version of SB 90 (which includes poultry) passed the Senate 43-0 and crossed into the House in early February, and was finally heard on March 31, and received a favorable today, April 5.
The Maryland Horse Council, while not opposing the legislation in general, has expressed some concerns about language and definitions in this bill, specifically the terms of announcement or notification (MHC believes the bill inadvertently allows MDA to limit its notification requirements, which could advertently put certain livestock industries at risk); no definition of what actually constitutes a “quarantine” per se (such as language spelling out specifically what steps can be taken to impose/enforce the quarantine, e.g., prohibiting entry of persons, vehicles, etc.), a conflict between an individual’s right to oppose a quarantine versus a prohibition against an individual’s right to resist a quarantine; and lastly, vague and extremely broad lanhuage regarding farms exposed to or contaminated by radiological or chemical agents or toxic material – or infected or infested with any disease or pest. MHC will continue to actively provide comments on this bill.
SB 82: Commercial Feed Law
According to the Maryland Farm Bureau, this bill “updates Maryland’s Commercial Feed Law to reflect changes to the definitions of “commercial feed” and “adulterated” as proposed in the model bill presented by the Association of Feed Control Officials. The model bill has been broadly endorsed by industry, other state departments of ag and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The bill also mandates that a person may not adulterate or misbrand a commercial feed, distribute a commercial feed that is not registered with the Department (commercial feed does not include commodities that are not intermixed with other materials or adulterated), remove or dispose of commercial feed in violation of a ‘stop sale’ order, or detach, alter, deface or destroy, wholly or partially, any label or labeling required by law or regulation.” SB 82 has passed the Senate and crossed into the House.
AG LAND PRESERVATION BILLS
SB 95: MALPF Farmland Preservation Partnership Program
MDA requested this bill that would allow the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation to form partnerships to purchase qualified farmland and also makes some administrative changes. The bill passed the Senate and crossed to the House in early March; was heard March 31, received a favorable today, April 5.
MHC is questioning some of the language in the bill, as it could be interpreted to either include or exclude horse farms, and will continue to monitor this and other provisions.
SB 155/HB 160: Estate Tax Exclusion for Family Farm Subject in Ag Pres
This legislation was introduced last year as SB 175 and HB 1289. Both bills were given public hearings but were never voted upon which isn’t surprising since, were this legislation to pass, it would mean a reduction in state revenue at a time when the state needs all the money it can get. SB 155 and HB 160 do, however, enjoy bipartisan sponsorship and support. The bills would exclude from the value of gross estate the value of real property that is subject to a perpetual agricultural preservation easement. There are a number of family farms in the horse industry that have a keen interest in the outcome of these bills. As of April 5, both bills are stalled.
SB 396: Estate Tax, Ag Pres Deferred Payment
Introduced by Senator Middleton (Charles County), we originally saw this last year as SB 691 which had a hearing but was not voted upon. SB 396 would provide for a five-year payment deferral under specified circumstances for Maryland estate tax imposed on qualified agricultural property passing from a decedent to or for the use of an individual who enters into an agreement to use the property for farming purposes after the decedent’s death and would apply to decedents dying after 2010. If this bill passes, aren’t we glad that the MHC was successful last year in codifying horses and equestrian activities as officially and formally a legitimate part of agriculture? However, as of April 5, this bill stalled out.
SB 790: Estate Tax Exclusions for Family Farms in Ag Pres
This is another bill to reduce estate tax liability and help next generation families be able to afford to keep their family farms. Stalled.
HB 221/SB 592: Estate Tax Exclusion for Agricultural Pres
This legislation alters the determination of the Maryland estate tax by excluding from the value of the gross estate the value of “qualified agricultural property” that passes from the decedent to or for the use of a “qualified recipient.” The bill also requires the Comptroller to adopt regulations to provide for the imposition of additional State estate taxes if within 10 years of the decedent’s death, and before the death of a qualified recipient, the qualified recipient ceases to use the property for farming purposes. Stalled!
SB 960/HB 1189, Property Tax Exemption for Farm/Ag Property subject to Easement.
These bills would exempt from property tax any farm that is being actively farmed or is subject to an easement. It was introduced last year as HB 81, it had a hearing and died in committee. SB 960 was scheduled for a hearing in the Budget & Taxation Committee on March 23 and HB 1189 had a hearing on March 11 in the House Ways and Means Committee. Not surprisingly, given the budget situation this year, these bills also stalled.
HUNTING RELATED BILLS
For prior postings on legislation, please select “Legislative Information” from the categories in the lower right hand corner of this screen on the website.