The 441st session of the Maryland General Assembly opened on Jan. 8, 2020 and runs for ninety days; closing day, or “Sine Die” is April 6. Commonly known as “the legislative session,” over the last few decades, we’ve gotten used to a somewhat languid first 3rd of session, as bills get dropped, everyone gets the lay of the land; in the middle third, all bills are in and things would begin to ramp up, hearings are more packed, amendments start flowing. By the last third, everything would be fast and furious in the count down to Sine Die.
That was then. Back then we had Senate President-seemingly-for-life, the venerable Mike Miller, while on the other side was House Speaker, the late Delegate Mike Busch. Each man ruled his chamber with an iron hand, and there was a certain predictable rhythm to the session.
This is now. Now, Baltimore County Delegate Adrienne A. Jones is the new Speaker of the House, while across the proverbial hall Baltimore Senator Bill Ferguson wields the gavel in the Senate. 60 of the 188 lawmakers are only in their sophomore year – still pretty new on the job, and as the MHC Legislative Committee has seen, eager to make their mark! There has been no languid start to this session. These legislators are eager to “get ‘er done!” And thus, with a shotgun start, we are off!
As if things were not hectic enough, we are all learning to navigate the new website for the Maryland General Assembly, which has a lot of nifty new features, but has also made finding amendments a bit more challenging.
More bills are being dropped every day. The MHC Legislative Committee meets weekly to review new bills and the status of existing bills. Committee members and members of the community have already spent numerous days in Annapolis, either directly testifying or meeting with lawmakers.
Although MHC is active on or monitoring numerous pieces of legislation, it is critical that Maryland citizens reach out directly to lawmakers to express opinions. You can read the bills easily on the nifty new website, and you can easily click through links to reach your elected officials to express your opinions. if you are not certain who your delegates or senators are, the site will help you figure that out. Be sure that you include bill numbers and your complete address and contact information in your communications with legislators. The website is http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/ If you have questions or need help navigating the website and links, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
EQUINE HEALTH & WELFARE
Criminalizing Harassment of Carriage & Wagon Horses
WOW! We went seeking sponsors for this bill, and everyone wanted to jump onboard the wagons and the carriages! We have Senators Hough and Hester sponsoring version SB 505. We have Delegates Guyton, Bagnall, Boyce, Buckel, Hornberger, Lehman, R. Lewis, Metzgar, Morgan, and K. Young sponsoring HB171, and then Sen. Hester again sponsoring the Senate’s cross-filed version (SB 286) of the House Bill. This is all good news for the level of support for this bill. Currently it is illegal to maliciously interfere with or injure horses involved in racing, breeding, or showing/competition. MHC seeks to include all livestock HB171/SB286), or at least all equines (donkeys, mules, ponies as well as horses) (SB 505) engaged in any legal activity, which would then include carriage and wagon rides, as well as animals in parades, fairs, exhibitions, etc. MHC was inspired to broaden the existing law after a legally operating holiday wagon/carriage ride business experienced potentially dangerous interaction with some members of the public in recent years. We are receiving quite a bit of support in Annapolis on our concept, and we are hopeful that a final version of the bill will pass. Hearings are coming up, and if you would like to testify in support of this legislation, please contact email@example.com
Licensing of Pleasure and Sport Horse Breeding Stables
Over the last decade, there have been a number of high profile equine neglect and seizure cases (involving in some cases over 100 horses), owned by self-identified breeders, ostensibly breeding for the purpose of selling the horses. Unlike other stables offering services to the general public (such as boarding, lessons, training, and trail rides), breeding stables currently are not required to be licensed. Because neglect cases are complaint driven, by the time there is any “official” involvement, it is often too late for some of the animals. Adding breeding stables to those establishments that require inspection and licensure by the MHIB provides a pro-active way for oversight, ostensibly before the situation develops into criminal neglect. Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeding stables would continue to be exempt as they are already included under racing-related regulations. Following discussions with the MHIB about implementation of the law and about the current licensing program, the Maryland Horse Council has agreed to back burner the bill, pending the results of a new work group that will be formed to consider the licensing program and make recommendations for program enhancements that will strengthen the entire licensing program.
Funding for Retired Race Horses
This bill would require that 0.5% of the funds in the Purse Dedication Account (racing money controlled via regulation) be used to fund and award grants for the care, retraining, and promotion of retired racehorses. The bill would require the Maryland Horse Industry Board to administer the Fund.
Vet Board & Unauthorized Practice of Veterinary Medicine
HB 545/SB 189
This bill would allow the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners to issue cease and desist letters with penalties up to $5,000 for the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine. This bill would not change the current definition of the "practice of veterinary medicine;" it just addresses enforcement and penalties. Here is what existing Maryland law defines as the “practice of veterinary medicine,” illustrating who within the equine industry might be subject to the proposed penalties. In MD Code, Agriculture, § 2-301:
(f) “Practice of veterinary medicine” includes the practice by any person who:
(1) Diagnoses, advises, prescribes, or administers a drug, medicine, biological product, appliance, application, or treatment of any nature, for the prevention, cure, or relief of a wound, fracture, bodily injury, or disease of an animal;
(2) Performs a surgical operation, including cosmetic surgery, upon any animal;
(3) Performs dentistry on any animal;
(4) Performs any manual procedure upon an animal for the diagnosis or treatment of sterility or infertility of the animal;
(5) Represents himself as engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine;
(6) Offers, undertakes, or holds himself out as being able to diagnose, treat, operate, vaccinate, or prescribe for any animal disease, pain, injury, deformity, or physical condition; or
(7) Uses any words, letters, or titles in connection or under circumstances as to induce the belief that the person using them is engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine. This use is prima facie evidence of the intention to represent himself as engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine.
Are there exceptions to these definitions? Yes:
(g) The term “practice of veterinary medicine” does not include or apply to:
(1) Any person practicing veterinary medicine in the performance of civil or military official duties in the service of the United States or of the State;
(2) Experimentation and scientific research of biological chemists or technicians engaged in the study and development of methods and techniques, directly or indirectly related or applicable to the problems of the practice of veterinary medicine;
(3) A person who advises with respect to or performs acts which the Board, by rule or regulation, has prescribed as accepted management practices in connection with livestock production;
(4) A physician licensed to practice medicine in the State or to his assistant while engaged in educational research;
(5) A person administering to the ills and injuries of his own animals if they otherwise comply with all laws, rules and regulations relative to the use of medicines and biologics;
(6) A farrier or a person actively engaged in the art or profession of horseshoeing as long as his actions are limited to the art of horseshoeing or trimming and maintaining horse hooves;
(7) Any nurse, attendant, technician, intern, or other employee of a licensed and registered veterinarian when administering medication or rendering auxiliary or supporting assistance under the responsible direct supervision of a licensed and registered veterinarian;
(8) A person who floats (files) equine teeth or removes caps;
(9) A person who scales or cleans animal teeth;
(10) A registered veterinary technician when performing a procedure under the responsible direct supervision of a veterinary practitioner as provided by regulations adopted by the Board;
(11) A person practicing acupuncture in accordance with the principles of oriental medical theories if the person:
(i) Is licensed under Title 1A of the Health Occupations Article;
(ii) Is certified as an animal acupuncturist by the Board of Acupuncture;
(iii) Practices only acupuncture, acupressure, and moxibustion;
(iv) Cooperates and consults with a veterinary practitioner by:
1. Beginning acupuncture treatment on an animal only if the animal has been seen by a veterinary practitioner within the previous 14 days;
2. Adhering to the terms and conditions of treatment decided by the veterinary practitioner, including the degree of communication and collaboration between the veterinary practitioner and the person practicing acupuncture;
3. Reporting to the veterinary practitioner at the end of treatment or at monthly intervals, at the discretion of the veterinary practitioner; and
4. Not working on an animal for which the person has not been appropriately trained, in accordance with regulations adopted by the Board of Acupuncture; and
(v) Has successfully completed a specialty training program in animal acupuncture that:
1. Is approved by the Board of Acupuncture;
2. Is offered by a school holding nationally recognized accreditation;
3. Consists of at least 135 hours; and
4. Enables the person to:
A. Design effective treatments of animals based on traditional acupuncture theories and principles, including appropriate knowledge of functional animal anatomy and physiology;
B. Handle and restrain animals to the extent appropriate in the practice of acupuncture;
C. Demonstrate sufficient knowledge of animal diseases and zoonoses that would require the immediate attention of a veterinary practitioner; and
D. Communicate effectively with a veterinary practitioner;
(12) A veterinarian licensed in another jurisdiction while consulting with a veterinary practitioner in this State; or
(13) A student of veterinary medicine practicing veterinary medicine who has successfully completed 3 years of veterinary education at an institution approved by the Board and who works under the responsible direct supervision, as defined by the Board, of a veterinary practitioner.
Defining “Therapy Horse” in Veteran Service Programs
This bill defines the terms "service dog", "support dog", and "therapy horse" under the provisions of law governing the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program in the Department of Veterans Affairs, to assist in determining eligibility for grant money. The head scratcher for the MHC Legislative Committee was that the bill defines “therapy horse” as “a horse trained for interactions with veterans by a professionally accredited equine therapy program.” However, to the best of our knowledge, no such organization (i.e., one that trains therapy horses) exists. MHC has worked with our members who offer equine therapy programs to try to develop a workable definition that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to evaluate grant applications objectively, while ensuring that quality programs that may be small or have limited resources can still qualify for grants. In the fast and furiousness of the new session, MHC and the Department of Veterans Affairs have been engaged in wordsmithing at breakneck speed. Stay tuned. If you own or operate a stable which offers programs specifically designed for vets, please make sure your membership in MHC is current so that we can easily reach out to you during Session.
Valuation of Easements in MALPF Offers
HB 17/SB 244
While current law authorizes MALPF (which purchases easements on farms to ensure the land stays in ag use for perpetuity) to use the fair market value of the property at the time the written request was received to consider the property for the program, the law is silent on how long that fair market valuation would be considered valid; this bill would cap that validity period at a maximum of two years. MHC is monitoring this bill.
Repealing ability of St. Mary’s County to enter into installment purchase agreements for ag land preservation.
Repealing the county’s authority to enter into installment purchase agreement for ag preservation. MHC is monitoring.
Vehicles and Bicyclists
HB 230/SB 199
This bill would allow vehicle operators, under certain circumstances, to drive on the left side of the roadway in a no–passing zone to overtake and pass a bicycle. Due to the danger this presents to anyone hauling livestock trailers, MHC has submitted testimony in opposition.
HB 710 repeals the existing “narrow roads” exception to the three-foot rule AND permits vehicles to cross the center line to achieve three feet clearance from bicycles. http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2020RS/bills/hb/hb0710F.pdf
Credit For Business to Offset Minimum Wage Impact
This bill would allow a credit against the State income tax for certain wages paid by certain small businesses during the taxable year to certain minimum wage employees under certain circumstances. MHC is not taking an active position on this bill, but will monitor it. Meanwhile, Business & Farm members of MHC submitted some interesting comments, including this one from Ashley Adams Aycock:“I'm very disappointed because this doesn't make up for the damage the minimum wage bill creates. I support this as a means to compensate for the damage by the minimum wage bill. MHC should oppose any minimum wage increase. They don't take in account the other benefits including housing, or working student type situations that influence wages of farm workers. This bill and the minimum wage bill it is building off of show how terribly out of touch the MD Legislature is from the Farming and Horse Industries.”
Stay tuned to the MHC and The Equiery for more updates! And make sure your voice is heard by keeping your MHC membership up-to-date!