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April 11, 2017

2017 Annapolis Legislative Summary

 

Legislative Report

 

The 2017 Legislative session has come to a close. In the course of the three month session, 1200 bills were introduced in the Senate, and 1661 in the House, for a total of almost three thousand bills. Each week during the session, MHC legislative committee member Kim Egan Rutter scanned all bills introduced that week and flagged those of interest to the horse industry and the broader equestrian community. At our weekly conference call throughout the session, we evaluated the new bills that had been introduced during the preceding week that might impact us, discussed and arrived at our position, and determined our lobbying strategy. During the course of the session, the MHC Legislative Committee closely monitored about 30 bills (plus their cross-filed counterparts) that could have an effect on horse people, their farms, businesses and even their pets. We testified at a number of hearings, wrote and submitted written testimony on a number of other bills, and took formal positions without extensive testimony on others. Although budget constraints caused us to cut back on the use of our professional lobbyist, Frank Boston, nevertheless, our all volunteer army was a force to be reckoned with, and legislators and other interest groups gave us repeated recognition as a significant and respected group.

 

As has been the case in recent years, we worked on a number of bills related to deer hunting on Sundays. This issue has consumed the resources of MHC (as well as the Legislature) for many years. Prior to the 2016 legislative session, we worked on a compromise position that we hoped would put the issue to bed. The compromise bill, which would have permitted Sunday deer hunting in the firearms season, statewide, until 10:30 am, was late to come out of the official state bill drafting office, and did not advance. In the summer of 2016, the Horse Council, the Montgomery County Farm Bureau, the Montgomery Agricultural Producers, and MHC members TROT and the Potomac Hunt, among other groups, worked with Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo of Montgomery County, to craft a similar bill that would apply in Montgomery County only. After lengthy negotiations, the final bill (HB310) called for hunting until 10:30 am on Sundays throughout the deer seasons (bow and firearm) and preserved the existing three full day Sundays (one for bow, one for firearm and one for the Junior day). The bill will sunset in five years, during which data on its effect on the deer population can be collected. Because the County Council was threatening to put in its own, all day/all Sundays bill, and because the bill adopted the ÒSunday mornings onlyÓ approach of our own proposal, MHC supported the bill. It is noteworthy that during the hearing before the powerful Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, the Chair, Senator Joan Carter Conway, who has been a great supporter, asked Òwhere are my horse people?Ó and called the MHC President up to the witness table to ensure that we were on board with the bill - significant evidence of our growing presence in Annapolis! The bill passed both houses, and as of this writing, awaits signature by the Governor. It is our hope that this bill can become a template of a statewide resolution of this thorny issue.

 

This hope may be starting to become reality, as the Kent County Sunday hunting bills (SB629 and HB312), which initially sought to allow Sunday hunting on private land all day on all Sundays, were amended to restrict that to mornings only in the firearms season until 10:30 am, except for the Junior Day, and one other Sunday in the firearms season. The bill would still allow for all day/all Sundays in the bow season. The House version of the bill has passed both houses. Similarly, the Wicomico bill (HB 894), which initially called for all day Sunday hunting on the first Sunday of the bow season and on all Sundays in the firearms season, was amended in the Senate committee to provide for Sunday hunting until 10:30 am only in the firearms season. As of this writing, it does not appear that the House had time to approve the Senate-amended bill before the Legislature adjourned at Midnight on April 10, so the Wcomico bill is probably dead for this year.

 

Other bills we were active on included SB178/HB606, which concerned the fate of the Bowie Race Course Training Center. As initially drafted, the bill would have allowed for the State to purchase or condemn the Center. We testified in favor of preserving equestrian use, and it appears that the Maryland Jockey Club has re-committed to preserving the site as an equestrian training center. The bill was substantially amended to include provisions for funding improvements to several tracks as well as the Bowie facility, and the Senate version passed.

 

We successfully testified against a proposal to shift the cost of the Maryland Racing Commission and the International Thoroughbred Race from the State to the Purse Dedication Account. (SB172/HB152)

 

SB99/HB171 creates a study to review methods of diverting and beneficially reusing organic waste. The law expressly states that the Maryland Horse Council must have a seat at the table. Both bills passed both houses.

 

There are dozens more bills that we weighed in on, concerning, e.g.,  land preservation easements (HB155 - we supported - passed), and and the standards for animal cruelty (SB790/HB455 - we supported - passed), creation of a State bond to support of capital improvements at Fair Hill (SB708/HB977 - we supported - $100,000 bond was approved). We also monitored bills on many, many more topics, e.g., immunity from civil liability for emergency veterinary care, regulation of kennel licensing, farm labor, tax issues, fox hunting regulation, and more. Our Legislative Tracking Chart, which gives a complete summary of all the bills we followed, what action we took on them, and their ultimate outcome follows this discussion.

 

If you have any questions about any of these bills, please let us know. You can get full information about any of them, including their full texts, any amendments, which legislators voted for/against, etc. by going to mgaleg.maryland.gov and typing in the bill number in the ÒFind legislation by numberÓ box at the top of the home page.

 

Finally, MHC, in conjunction with the Maryland Horse Industry Board and other horse industry partners hosted our third MD Horse Industry Day in Annapolis on January 31, 2017. The day included constituent meetings with numerous legislators. Hundreds of Marylanders from around the state came to the StateÕs Capitol to advocate for the industry. We did our work, dug in, and accomplished a lot before a lunch convocation, which included an informative tutorial about how to be an effective grass roots lobbyist. We had a great turnout of MD Senators, Delegates, Cabinet Secretaries and other Hogan Administration officials and horse industry leaders from across the entire spectrum of our diverse industry - all coming together to make the point that MarylandÕs horse industry is wide, deep and strong. Next year we are looking forward to an even bigger and better event, and we hope you can join us in making our voice heard to our legislators!

 

Maryland Horse Council Legislative Committee

2017 Legislation Tracker

Bill

Title

Text

Status

HC Action

HOUSE BILLS

 

 

 

 

 

 

HB 310

Montgomery County Ð Deer Hunting Ð Sundays

Compromise bill for Sunday deer hunting on private land until 10:30 a.m., bow and firearm, except for 3 full day Sundays (1 bow, 1 firearm and 1 Junior)

PASSED

Support

HB 894

Wicomico County - Deer Hunting - Sundays

Authorizing deer hunting on private property on the first Sunday of bow season and every Sunday of firearm season. Amended to allow only until 10:30 on Sundays in firearms season.

Died

Oppose

Submitted written testimony, saying we would support if amended to 10:30 am limit.

SB 629

HB 312

Kent County Ð Deer Hunting Ð Sundays

Allowing Sunday hunting on private property during deer season. Amended to limit to 10:30 am in firearms season, except for the Junior Hunt and one other full Sunday in the firearms season

House version PASSED

We testified against original all day Sunday version

SB 103

HB 187

St. MaryÕs County Ð Foxes and Hounds Ð Repeal of Provisions

Repealing the provision that makes it unlawful to shoot hounds in pursuit of a fox.

Repealing the provision that makes it unlawful to trap and shoot foxes. Sponsor says intent was to Òclean up old law.Ó

House version PASSED

We testified and presented county legislative history on these bills.

HB 152

SB 172

2018 Budget Bill

Among other things, proposes to shift the cost of the Maryland Racing Commission and the International Thoroughbred Race from the State to the Purse Dedication Account. These provisions were amended out of the bill.

HOUSE BILL PASSED

 

We submitted written testimony and testified in subcommittee, opposing the shift of funds.

SB 178

HB 606

Horse Racing Ð Bowie Race Course Training Center Ð State Purchase or Condemnation

Allowing the State to purchase or condemn the facility if the owner were to stop using it as a thoroughbred training center. Amended to remove those provisions and to provide funds for improvements at Bowie and other tracks.

Senate version PASSED

We testified in favor of preserving equestrian uses at Bowie.

SB 99

HB 171

Dept. of the EnvÕt Ð Yard  Waste & Food Residuals Diversion & Infrast. Ð Study

Requiring MDE to study methods of diverting organic waste and to consult with MHC.

BOTH BILLS PASSED BOTH HOUSES

MHC submitted written testimony in support.

SB 954

HB 1203

Talbot County Ð Deer Management Permits Ð Use of Rifles

Authorizing hunters with deer management permits to use rifles as long as the hunter holds a valid Maryland State Shooter Qualification Card.

Died

Sent letter of support

HB 1296

Vehicle Laws Ð Class G (Trailer) Vehicles Ð Permanent Registration

Authorizing a one-time, permanent registration for freight and non-freight trailers that can be towed by certain passenger vehicles or trucks, provided the trailer is not used for hire except for farm uses.

Died

Letter in support

HB 155

Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation Ð Easement Termination

Making pre-2004 MALF easements eligible for termination Òonly under extraordinary circumstancesÓ as opposed to when profitable farming is no longer feasible.

PASSED

Letter in support.

SB 708

HB 977

Creation of a State Debt Ð Cecil County Ð Fair Hill Race Course

Authorizing up $250,000 for capital improvements etc. at Fair Hill.

$100,000 bond was approved

MHC submitted written testimony

SB 790

HB 455

Criminal Law Ð Animal Cruelty Ð Applicability

Adding lack of proper air, space, shelter, and protection from the weather to the list of actions that qualify as criminal animal cruelty.

BOTH BILLS PASSED BOTH HOUSES

Letter in support.

HB 216

SB 269

Emergency Veterinary Care Ð Immunity from Liability

Granting immunity from civil liability to veterinarians providing veterinary assistance at the scene of an emergency on in transit to a veterinary hospital.

BOTH BILLS PASSED BOTH HOUSES

Monitor

HB 334

SB 573

Local Government -- Regulation of Animals Ð Kennel Licenses  

Lowering the number of dogs that qualify for a kennel license requirement from 15 to 8.

BOTH BILLS PASSED BOTH HOUSES

Monitor

HB 788

SB 844

Natural Resources Ð Hunting Ð Deer Management Permits

Allowing Sunday hunting all year for deer management permit holders for all deer hunting seasons. 

HOUSE BILL PASSED

Monitor

HB 1307

SB 1016

Labor and Employment - Regulation of Farm Labor Contractors and Foreign Labor Contractors

Requiring foreign farm laborers to register. Apparently designed to prevent undocumented labor but also designed to prevent abuse of said labor.

Died

Monitor

HB 1628

Money for Special Equestrians

$120,000 grant for Special Equestrians Committee facility in Balto County

Died

Monitor

SENATE BILLS

 

SB 57

HB 646

Income Tax Credit Ð Class F Vehicles Ð Extension

Extending the existing tax credit for Class F vehicles (can include horse trailers) to 2019.

SENATE BILL PASSED

Monitor.

SB 80

HB 625

Criminal Law Ð Animal Abuse Ð Penalties and Restitution

Increasing misdemeanor animal cruelty to felony abuse if the cruelty involves 10 or more animals.  Penalty of 3 years in prison/ $2,500.

Died

Monitor

SB 84

Maryland Animal Abuse Registry

Requiring anyone convicted of animal cruelty to register for 5 years.

Died

Monitor

SB 143

Injury to or Death of Pet Ð Damages

Repealing the damages cap of $7,500 for injury to a Òpet,Ó defined as Òa domesticated animal,Ó not including livestock.

PASSED

Monitor.

SB 254

HB 1174

Income Tax - Subtraction Modification - Perpetual Conservation Easements

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.

Died

Monitor.

SB 519

Frederick County - Hunting - Nongame Birds and Mammals

Removing Frederick County from the list of jurisdictions that require a license for hunting non-game mammals in open season on private property Ð apparently focused on groundhogs.

PASSED

Monitor.

SB 631

HB 941

Criminal Law Ð Animal Abuse Emergency Compensation Fund Ð Establishment

Establishing an Animal Abuse Emergency Compensation Fund. 

BOTH BILLS PASSED BOTH HOUSES

Monitor

SB 1141

HB 1629

Natural Resources Ð Hunting Licenses Ð Fox Hunting and Chasing

Altering the definition of "hunt" as it applies to the laws governing hunting and wildlife in the State to include the act of chasing or in any manner pursuing fox, whether armed or unarmed; repealing a provision of law excluding the sport of fox chasing from the definition of "hunt"; and repealing the exemption for an unarmed person participating in an organized fox hunt from the requirement under specified circumstances to obtain a hunting license.

Died

Could be back next year

Monitor

HB 16

General Provisions Ð Commemorative Days Ð Equestrian Day

Designating the last day of the Triple Crown as Equestrian Day.

Died

Monitor

SB 1166

HB
1657

State Designations Ð The Preakness Stakes as the State Cultural Event

Designating the Preakness as the State Cultural Event.

Died

Monitor

           

 

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