March 1, 2018

The Flag is up and the Race is on! Maryland Horse Council Legislative Update

March 1, 2018

The flag is up, and we already halfway through the 2018 session Maryland General Assembly! So far, over 2,900 bills have left the start box and are now somewhere on course. Most bills will not cross the finish line on April 9th. Most bills are simple “not fit enough” to finish (as in they are just “bad bills,” poorly conceived or executed pieces of legislation, albeit usually well-meaning). Like the Olympics, all are allowed to start, regardless of qualifications. Once having left the start box, each bill must navigate obstacles worthy of any four-star course, from committee to chamber, crossover and back again (for a map of the course, click here. Presumably, only the best and most fit bills will finish the course on April 9th; if the bills then pass the vet check (i.e. are approved by the Governor), they become law; the medal ceremonies (bill signings) will be held throughout May.

Once again, the dedicated volunteers of the Horse Council's Legislative Committee are monitoring the legislative goings on and taking action, as necessary, on behalf of Maryland horse people. Serving on this year’s committee are

  • Jane Seigler (immediate past president of the MHC, former board member for Potomac Valley Dressage Foundation, founder and former owner of Reddemeade Stables/Equishare, attorney with focus in federal regulatory matters);
  • Crystal Brumme Pickett (former MHC secretary, founder and former publisher of The Equiery, treasurer for the Maryland Steeplechase Association, jt MFH for Howard County Iron Bridge Hounds);
  • Jacqui Cowan (Plantation Walking Horses, Chesapeake Walking Horses & Trail Riders of Today);
  • Jennifer Webster (association manager for the Maryland Association for Wildlife Conservation);
  • Kim Egan (attorney specializing in federal regulatory matters and a foxchaser);
  • Christy Clagett (joint MFH for Marlborough Hunt Club; owner of and trainer for Larking Hill Farm, former board member for the Maryland Horse Breeders Association);
  • Steuart Pittman (former MHC president, current MHC vice president, founder of the Retired Racehorse Project, owner/manager Dodon Farm, candidate for Anne Arundel County Executive);
  • Joseph S. Michael (Deputy State’s Attorney for Washington County, serves on Wildlife Advisory Commission for Department of Natural Resources, foxhunter, sportsman and farmer);
  • Royce Herman (former treasurer for MHC, Tuckahoe Equestrian Center and Mounted Cowboy Shooting);
  • JoAnne Stone (foxhunter, pleasure rider and retired professional for Maryland General Assembly).

As we have in most sessions of the past decade and a half or so, MHC is responding to proposals to expand Sunday deer hunting with firearms, which was, until the early 2000s, prohibited in Maryland. Since that time, various bills have been introduced to allow Sunday deer hunting with firearms in certain counties, and then to expand it once it was initially allowed in those counties. MHC’s position has been that one weekend day per week should be preserved for other stakeholders (horseback riders, walkers, bikers, birdwatchers, etc.) to have quiet and safe enjoyment of the outdoors.

In recent years, most Sunday hunting bills have been focused on a specific county or counties. This year, a much more sweeping bill (SB 817, cross-filed as HB 1338) was introduced, and the vast majority of counties would see a big increase in full day Sunday hunting in both gun and bow seasons under these bills. In other words, this is the statewide, full day Sunday hunting bill that was defeated more than a decade ago.

House Bill will be heard on Wed. March 7, and this is an opportunity for our members to personally express their opinion to lawmakers. A strong grassroots presence is always impressive to our elected officials because it means people care.  If you are willing to testify on March 7, email admin@mdhorsecouncil.org

But there are more bills of interest to MHC than just Sunday Deer Hunting bills, and to date, we have been active on the following:

HB 222/SB 268 Vehicle Laws: Overtaking and Passing Bicycles, Farm Equipment, Farm Tractors, and Animal-Drawn Vehicles

We have filed comments expressing safety concerns, as these bills would allow drivers to cross a double yellow line to pass slower moving vehicles such as bicycles and farm equipment (including horse trailers).

HB 1037/SB 434 Creation of a State Debt: Talisman Therapeutic Riding Farm

We have filed testimony supporting a bond for the Talisman therapeutic riding center on the Eastern Shore – and we would do that for most bond requests for equestrian programs.

HB 7/SB 182 Income Tax Credit: Venison Donations

Our fellow farmers support this, and we have filed a letter to support them and these bills, which would provide a $50 tax credit to offset expenses for venison donated to the Maryland Food Bank or the Maryland Chapter of Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry.

HB 1232 Race Purses & Funding Retired Racehorses

On Wed. Feb. 28, the horse industry worked impressively together to showcase for the House Ways & Means Committee how Maryland is on the leading edge of aftercare and new careers for Thoroughbred racehorses.  MHC, along with a host of other equine groups, submitted comments to point out some problems with this bill that would dedicate 1% of purse funds for aftercare of retired racehorses and sanctuary thoroughbreds. While all the horse groups believe this bill is well meaning, it is problematic and ill conceived and urged the committee give it an unfavorable review.  

To find out which other bills MHC is monitoring, pick up the NEW March issue of MHC’s Equiery in a tack or feed store near you, or visit equiery.com and click on the digital issue in the upper right-hand corner. (MHC Members will receive complimentary copies of The Equiery in the mail.)

To find more information about, or the current status of, any of these bills, to find out who your legislators are and how to contact them, and for more information on how bills are created and move through the legislative process, go to: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frm1st.aspx?tab=home.

Know of a bill you think we should monitor? Let us know! Email admin@mdhorsecouncil.org

For more information about how to make your voice heard effectively in Annapolis, check out MHC “Grassroots Lobbying Brochure"