Caroline County Sunday Hunting, Animal Crime Penalties, Arabian Racing, Open Space & Preservation, Compounding of Vet Drugs

A key date in the ninety-day session of the Maryland General Assembly is “cross-over day;” this is the day that if a bill is not voted out of its original house, so that it can “cross-over” to the opposite chamber for debate, it is effectively dead for this year.

2016 cross-over day was March 21; the 2016 legislative session will officially adjourn on April 11 (also known as “sine die”), and so – as you read this, there is a rush of activity as committee chairs rush to wrap things up.  Hearings will be scheduled with much shorter notice, sometimes only a day in advance.  When there are hearings, many will allow only sponsors to orally testify (others may still make an appearance in the committee to support the sponsors and to be available for question, and may still file written testimony).

So, what bills are left in play that may be of concern to our readers?

Sunday Hunting: Caroline County

The Maryland Horse Council is seeking to combat the flurry each year (for the last 12 years) of what are called “local courtesy bills” which expand hunting by a day or two in small, geographic regions by brokering a state-wide compromise that would ensure the fair use of shared natural resources among all users groups. MHC succeeded in getting a bill drafted this year, Senate Bill 1061, courtesy of bill sponsor Joan Carter Conway, who is the chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. However, there were some problems with the language in the drafting process, and the bill never received a hearing. However, the concept of a compromise bill was favorably received by other legislators and regulators, and MHC will seek to move the concept of a compromise bill forward in the next session.

Of particular concern is House Bill 203, which will allow Sunday hunting in Caroline County for any game bird or game mammal on private land.  It is being heard today, March 29, the Maryland Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs.

MHC is urging residents of Caroline County who oppose this bill to contact their elected officials immediately (scroll down for names and contact email addresses):

Del. Christopher Adams:

Del. Steven Arentz:

Del. Jefferson Ghrist:

Del. Jay Jacobs:

Del. Johnny Mautz:

Maryland Equestrian Day

HB-660, a bill to designate and annual Maryland Horse Pride Day, stalled out in committee.

Funding Program Open Space & Preservation

MHC is actively supporting SB 383 and HB 462, which would restore funding for Program Open Space. The House approved its version and the bill is now scheduled for a hearing in Senate Budget & Taxation.

Tax Credits for Preservation and Conservation

House Bill 276 alters the existing preservation and conservation easement income tax credit by allowing (1) a member of pass-through entities to claim the credit and (2) easements conveyed to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to qualify for the credit. The bill specifies that the sum of all credits claimed by members of a pass-through entity in a taxable year may not exceed $5,000. The Comptroller must adopt regulations to specify the procedures for a member of a pass-through entity to claim the credit. The Maryland Farm Bureau is actively supporting this bill, and MHC is monitoring. The bill was approved by the House, has crossed over to the Senate, and will be heard in Budget & Taxation on March 29.

Perpetual Conservation Easements

Senate Bill 371 and its cross-filed cousin House Bill 1643 would provide a subtraction modification under the Maryland income tax for the first $500,000 in proceeds from the sale of a perpetual conservation easement on real property in the State.  Under current law when a farm family decides to preserve their farm by selling the development rights, the proceeds from that sale have to be claimed as personal income tax.  Typically, this moves them into a much higher tax bracket, which in turn has them pay a higher percentage of their income.  This tax increase is not only on the proceeds from the sale of the easement, but also on the entire yearly income.  This tax increase is in addition to what the family has to pay in Federal Capital Gains tax.  This bill would encourage farm families to preserve the farm for future generations. MFB supports this bill. Both bills stalled out in this session.

Increasing Penalties for Animal Crimes

Senate Bill 722 would increase the penalties for those convicted of crimes related to animals; penalties may include prohibition against owning animals in the future. However, the Maryland Horse Council has found it troubling that this bill would likewise criminalize vets who fair to notify authorities if they suspect abuse or neglect. This bill was given an unfavorable report by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and is officially dead.  The bill was cross-filed in the House (HB 1586) and stalled out in committee.

Arabian Racing at Fair Hill

House Bill 815, which would allow Arabian Racing at Fair Hill in Cecil County, has been passed by the House, crossed to the Senate and is scheduled to be heard by the Finance Committee on March 31 at 1 p.m.

Veterinarians, Pharmacies, and Pharmacists: Dispensing Compounded Preparations for Use by Companion Animals

MHC is supporting Senate Bill 614 and its cross-filed cousin House Bill1462, which would allow vets to compound drugs in bulk, provided the bill is amended for clarity.  MHC testified on the House bill and asked the Committee to include language clarifying whether it extended to equine veterinarians or not, although we did not take a position one way or other on whether it should.  MHC also asked the Committee to insert language to protect veterinarians from any reprisal by the federal government, as the type of compounding at issue in these bills is generally prohibited by FDA.

The Committee took both of the suggestions of the Horse Council.  The Committee amended the bill to so that it is clear that it covers small animal veterinarians only by specifically excluding drugs compounded for any “non-farm animal.”  The Committee also included language that requires any animal drug compounding to be done in compliance with federal law.

Both the Senate and House versions of the bill have cross-over.  The Senate committee will hear the House version on March 30.