The following 2011 Legislative Report provides a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of the Maryland General Assembly’s actions related to environmental issues and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The report includes pertinent details on the fiscal year 2011 operating and capital budgets (House Bill 70 and House Bill 71), the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2011 (BRFA – House Bill 72), excerpts from the Joint Chairmen’s Report (JCR), summaries of enacted legislation, and a listing of unsuccessful bills. The legislation section of the report is divided among four categories: 1) Administration – enacted bills drafted and introduced on behalf of the Governor; 2) DNR Departmental – enacted bills drafted and introduced on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources; 3) Environmental – enacted bills related to natural resources, environmental, energy, and agricultural resources; and 4) State and Local Government – enacted legislation pertaining to state agencies, local governments, personnel, and procurement. Throughout the report, legislation is ordered by Senate bill number and any corresponding crossfile first, then House bill number.
A total of 2,353 pieces of legislation were introduced during the 2011 session of the Maryland General Assembly. Approximately 30% of those bills (707) successfully passed in both chambers. DNR’s Legislative Office tracked 240 bills during the 2011 session. Overall, the session was more noted by bills that failed to become enacted than those adopted. In addition to controversial social issues, such as medical marijuana use and civil rights, the following notable environmental legislation failed to progress: catalyzing off-shore wind development (Senate Bill 861 / House Bill 1054); evaluating the impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling (Senate Bill 634 / House Bill 852); and prohibiting septic systems in new housing developments (Senate Bill 846 / House Bill 1107).
The Department successfully progressed legislation that improves fisheries law enforcement and management by:
- authorizing the Natural Resources Police to issue electronic citations and conduct administrative inspections of commercial fishing vessels, vehicles used to transport fish for commercial purposes, and fish businesses, and removing mandatory hearing requirements before administrative suspension of fishing licenses (Senate Bill 414/ House Bill 396);
- requiring revocation of an authorization to catch oysters after citation for an oyster poaching violation and an administrative hearing (Senate Bill 159/ House Bill 273);
- requiring the revocation of an individual’s commercial fishing license if they are found by an Administrative Law Judge to have knowingly committed an egregious or repeat violation against striped bass or blue crabs (Senate Bill 635/ House Bill 1154);
- increasing the penalty for commercial fishing with a suspended license, a revoked license, or without a license, by establishing a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to one year (Senate Bill 655 / House Bill 1225); and
- authorizing the Department to regulate fishing gear (House Bill 111).
The Department successfully progressed legislation that improves aquaculture opportunities by:
- streamlining aquaculture permitting and leasing procedures, and consolidating aquaculture and seafood marketing activities in DNR (Senate Bill 847 / House Bill 1053); and
- allowing leasing of barren areas within existing oyster sanctuaries for aquaculture (House Bill 208).
The Department successfully progressed legislation that improves the Department’s internal operations by:
- streamlining and consolidating functions relating to land acquisition for open space, recreation, conservation, and other purposes within DNR (Senate Bill 849 / House Bill 1025); and
- enabling the Department to renew tree expert licenses bi-annually rather than annually (Senate Bill 80).
The Department also supported bills which improved management of invasive plants (House Bill 831) and increased deer hunting opportunities.
Budget challenges dominated the legislative session again this year. The General Assembly enacted a $34.2 billion budget for fiscal 2012 – an increase of $940.4 million, 2.8% above fiscal 2011 spending levels. Overall general fund appropriations increases by $1.5 billion, 11.2% above fiscal 2011, due to replacement of expiring federal stimulus funds. Federal fund spending decreases by $1 billion (10%). Special fund expenditures grow by $426.8 million (7.1%) compared to the fiscal 2011 working appropriation. Once again, the BRFA helped balance the State’s fiscal year 2012 budget through fund balance transfers, use of special funds in lieu of general funds, formula changes, and other provisions.
Revenue from the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Fund as well as $94.5 million of transfer tax revenues were transferred to the general fund. Approximately $100.9 million in general fund reductions, including $1.7 million from the Department of Natural Resources, will be restored from special fund sources. The BRFA of 2011 continued the suspended payments-in-lieu-of-taxes generated from park earnings for fiscal 2012 and 2013. The sales tax on alcoholic beverages was increased from 6 to 9%, effective July 1, 2011. A proposed repeal of the Maryland-mined coal tax credit was rejected.
A number of budget reduction provisions, commonly referred to as “back of the budget” provisions, affected all state agencies. With respect to personnel, the budget assumes no furlough or temporary salary reduction plan for the first time in three fiscal years. A one-time $750 bonus will be paid to all employees not in bargaining units that received alternative salary adjustments. The bonus funds, which will only be made to employees in State service prior to July 1, 2011, will be spread across the 26 pay periods of fiscal 2012. No funds are budgeted for salary increments, cost-of-living increases, or deferred compensation matching for fiscal 2012. The general prohibition on merit increments was statutorily extended through April 1, 2014, with an exemption provided in fiscal 2012 for staff deemed “operationally critical.” Higher prescription drug co-pays for active employees and savings due to favorable health trends are expected to save $13.4 million in the State budget. The legislature required the Governor to abolish an additional 450 positions by January 1, 2012 through the Supplemental Budget No. 1. The budget also directed reduced expenditures on electricity due to anticipated energy-saving actions and renovations in State buildings.
The State’s capital budget totals $3.098 billion, an increase of $36 million, compared to the fiscal 2011 working appropriation. Of the total amount, $925 million is funded with general obligation (GO) bonds; $15.902 million is funded with Qualified Zone Academy Bonds; $296.6 million is funded on a pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) basis in the operating budget; $47.5 million in additional general fund PAYGO is funded in House Bill 1213; $180 million (a $30 million increase from 2011) is funded with revenue bonds to be issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to support wastewater treatment plant upgrades; and $27 million is funded with academic revenue bonds for the University System of Maryland facilities. Once again, the capital budget includes funding for House and Senate initiatives originally introduced as individual bond bills.
We hope that you find the 2011 Legislative Report informative and useful. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Department’s Legislative Office at 410-260-8107. Our shared success in advancing the Department’s mission to protect and restore Maryland’s natural resources during the 2011 legislative session would not have been possible without the hard work of the many DNR employees who provided critical assistance and expertise. The Department’s legislative team during the 2011 General Assembly session was led by interim Legislative Liaison Rich Norling, Legislative Assistant Eileen Mosley, and Legislative Fellow Gregory Carlock. I would particularly like to thank Rich for his tireless advocacy on behalf of the Department this past session during my maternity leave.
For detailed information on legislation and issues related to the Maryland General Assembly, visit their website at www.mlis.state.md.us.
Olivia Campbell Andersen
Director of Government Relations
Maryland Department of Natural Resources