End of Session Wrap Up
This past Monday was the last day of the 436th Legislative Session of Maryland. This session 2,817 bills were introduced. Of those, 834 passed the General Assembly with most of those being local in nature. They now await Governor Hogan’s decision to determine their fate. From our perspective, we had a very productive session. We stopped bills that would have harmed our economy, passed bills that will help, and we will also receive funding for important projects here on the Lower Shore.
One of the more positive things to come out of session was the Governor’s operating and capital budgets. Both were passed with zero tax increases for the second year in a row! The budget includes funding for local projects at Salisbury University, the Ward Museum, Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, and the UMES Pharmacy building.
Priority Bills that Passed
HB1395 Disparity Grant bill
This bill increases the amount of funding to low-wealth counties, which was cut during the previous administration. Wicomico County will see at least an additional $1 million in each of the next two fiscal years. The bill moved quickly over the last week and passed with just 24 minutes left in session. I am very appreciative of teamwork of all of our local Senators and Delegates and the work they put in advocating for this important piece of legislation. The disparity grant bill was an example of us working together to restore funding back to Wicomico County.
HB1352 Wicomico County Board of Education Selection Referendum
This is one of three bills that are highlighted in this letter that were submitted on behalf of County Executive Bob Culver and the Wicomico County Council. It will allow voters to choose how they would like the members of the school board to be selected. If signed or allowed to become law by the Governor, the referendum will be on the ballot this November. The three choices will be a fully elected school board, a hybrid with five members elected and two appointed, or to keep the selection as is, with the Governor appointing all of the members.
HB1359 Wicomico County Class 9 Limited Distillery License / HB1316 Statewide Class 9 Limited Distillery License
This is the second bill that was drafted by the Wicomico County Delegation on behalf of the County Executive and the Wicomico County Council. It would allow our county to have class 9 distilleries. Currently, there are at least two investors interested in opening distilleries in our county. The new distilleries would create jobs and help our economic recovery. Early in session we learned the Delegate Arentz, from the Upper Shore, put a bill in that would do the same as the Delegation bill, but it would be statewide. Because of this, our local bill was held in committee to see how the statewide bill would proceed. Passing both would be redundant. Thankfully, the statewide bill passed and awaits the Governor’s signature. We are appreciative of Delegate Arentz’s efforts and cautiously optimistic that the bill will be signed and excited that we will see local economic growth because of this measure.
HB1521/SB1140 Civic Center Class B Alcohol License
The Class B Alcohol License for the Civic Center is the third bill that was put forth by the Wicomico County Delegation on behalf of the County Executive and the Wicomico County Council. The House bill was held in committee, but the Senate version of the bill passed.
Bills We Opposed that Failed
While it is nice to celebrate good bills that we supported that passed the General Assembly, a large part of our job in Annapolis is to stop bills that would be harmful to our area. In recent years there have been a number of bills that have targeted poultry farms and farmers on the Eastern Shore. If passed, many of these bills would create a hostile environment for our agriculture community. In addition to being misguided and anti-farmer, many of the bills would harm our region’s economy. Our area businesses provide products and services to farmers and poultry integrators like Perdue. If we were to allow anti-poultry bills to become law it would be very detrimental to many segments of our economy from car dealerships to restaurants and hotels- and even our local charities, who receive many donations from the Perdue family, employees, and the farmers who grow for them. I started fighting against these bills as the Mayor of Delmar and continue to stand up for our farmers as a member of the Environment and Transportation Committee, where many of the bills are heard.
Anti-Poultry Bills that Were Defeated
HB599 Poultry Litter Management Act
The Poultry Litter Management Act sought to directly regulate how poultry farmers and integrators handle chicken litter. Had this bill been successful it would have given our local poultry integrators more incentive to move to more of their operations to surrounding states like Delaware. One of the more egregious errors of the bill was in assuming that poultry litter was worthless. During the committee hearing we heard testimony from local farmers who testified that this bill would deny them the chance to make additional money in the sale of the litter. When our office spoke to local farmers they were against it. In fact, we received zero feedback from farmers in support of this bill. The bill was never scheduled for a vote in committee and did not advance.
HB1496 The Farmers’ Rights Act
This bill would have inserted the state into contracts between poultry farmers and poultry integrators. Like the Poultry Litter Management Act, we received zero feedback from farmers in support of this bill. The farmers we talked to were in unanimous unity against it. The bill was given an unfavorable report in committee and did not advance.
My takeaway from the 436th Maryland Legislative Session is that as a state we are beginning to turn things around. We aren’t passing tax increases or onerous regulations on our businesses. We are working together, across the aisle, to pass laws that will make a positive impact on our quality of life. I am excited about the progress we made this session and looking forward to building on our successes in the coming years.
I appreciate that you have taken the time to read our end of session wrap up. We will continue to advocate for the Eastern Shore, poultry farmers, and our Eastern Shore way of life. Together we’re making it happen!
Blessed to be your voice in Annapolis,