The Maryland Horse Council and the Maryland Farm Bureau will either be monitoring or testifying on the following bills this week, which may be of interest to our readers.


HB 616: St Mary’s County Animal Regulations

House Bill 616 and its cross-filed cousin Senate Bill 838 would eliminate the statutory protection for dogs running off-leash while accompanying owner on horseback (among other things) and leaves it up to the County Commissioners to create all animal regulations. Maryland Horse Council has not yet taken a position on this legislation, as it is researching the background. Both bills are sponsored by the County Delegation.

SB 370 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research, Development, Regulation, and Privacy Act of 2015 

This bill would only allow the state to enact a law or take any other action to prohibit, restrict, or regulate the testing or operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the state.  Maryland Farm Bureau policy supports laws and regulations that prohibit any person, entity, or state agency from using manned aircraft, drone, or unmanned aircraft to conduct surveillance or observation under the doctrine of open fields of any individual, property owned by an individual, farm or agricultural industry without the consent of that individual, property owner, farm or agricultural industry. MFB supports the use of unmanned aerial systems in agricultural businesses provided written permission is obtained from the property owner. MFB will be supporting this bill with an amendment.

SB 590 Small Business Personal Property Tax Relief Act of 2015

This bill, sponsored by Governor Hogan, would exempt a person with personal property that has a total assessed value of $10,000 or less from paying personal property tax.  There is a provision in the bill that would have the state pay the county and municipality their portion on the exempted personal property tax.  This would be paid at a rate of 100% in year one, 75% year two, 50% year three, 25% year four and 0% year five and on.  MFB supports the lowering and eliminating of taxes.


SB 455 Starting School Year After Labor Day

This bill would prohibit public schools and publicly funded prekindergarten programs from opening for pupil attendance prior to the day after Labor Day. Starting school after Labor Day will benefit the number one industry in the state, Agriculture. Attendance at Maryland’s State Fair, 4-H and FFA programs and a decrease of available labor during the last two weeks of August are the primary areas negatively affected by starting school earlier than Labor Day. It is projected that small family owned agriculture businesses, such as creameries, produce, and horticulture operations lose up to 1/3 of their local student workforce because of the current school calendar.  MFB supports SB 455.

HB 449 Hydraulic Fracturing

Another bill that would prohibit all forms of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in the state of Maryland. This bill would prohibit hydraulic fracturing until 2023 and only after a panel reports back to the Governor with their findings toward the possible impact hydraulic fracturing would cause on the public health and communities. This has already been taken into account by a commission, which was established by former Governor O’Malley and the Department of Natural Resources. Millions of dollars were invested to determine the best management practices and effects on the areas where drilling would occur. MFB opposes HB 449

HB 458 Exploration and Production Waste and Waste From Fracking 

This bill would prohibit any individuals in the state of Maryland from accepting, receiving, collecting, storing, treating, transferring, or disposing any waste from hydraulic fracturing. This bill would define waste from either the exploration or production of hydraulic fracturing as wastewater and wastewater solids that come to the surface as a result of hydraulic fracturing. It also includes any natural occurring brine that is released and any fluids that return to the surface after a hydraulic fracturing is completed. MFB believes that the best management practices in dealing with wastewater, fluids, solids, and other natural occurring sources, should be dealt with at the regulatory level and not through legislation and so opposes HB 458.

HB 550 Business Transparency and Financial Disclosure Act

This bill would require operations that receive at least $50,000 in grant or loan funds from the state to have to submit disclosure reports to the state agency that granted the funds.  These reports would be due annually. Grant and cost-share funding for farm best management practices would be subject to the bill.  MFB opposes this bill because it complicates the use of BMP cost-share funds for farms.

HB 755 Public Information Act – Enforcement, Fees, and Exemptions

This bill would make Nutrient Management Plans available under a Public Information Act request.  The only information that would not be made public would be the farmer’s “personal information,” which is defined in the bill as an individual’s name, home telephone number, personal email address, and social security number.  Maryland Farm Bureau opposes the release of private farm business plans and thus opposes this bill.

HB 1043 Sewage Systems 

This bill authorizes a person to install or replace an on-site sewage disposal system that does not utilize a Best Available Technology (BAT) nitrogen removal technology on properties located outside the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area. MFB has policy that we urge the State Health Department to re-evaluate the current regulations concerning septic systems and request that they provide flexibility that will eliminate undue economic hardship on landowners.  We support requiring the use of BAT septic systems in environmentally sensitive areas where significant impact to the Bay can be demonstrated. This bill only changes areas that are not in environmentally sensitive areas, so MFB supports this bill.