O'Malley concedes controversial septic ban unlikely this year
One of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's only new legislative priorities for the year -- a ban on most new septic systems -- will not be passed into law during this legislative session, the governor all but conceded on Tuesday.
Responding to a call from a key Democratic lawmaker who said the proposal should be studied further, O'Malley's office released a letter saying the governor agrees "we need to collectively look at what works in Maryland to address these issue ... this should include your ideas for pulling together stakeholders."
The apparent end of the effort to pass the proposal this year was nearly as quiet as its beginning.
O'Malley stunned the General Assembly, developers and even some environmentalists last month when in his State of the State address he called for outlawing construction of new septic systems in developments with five or more homes, and requiring anyone building two or more homes to use more expensive technology to limit nitrogen emissions.
His proposal was met with near silence from Democratic and Republican lawmakers assembled for the address.
In the weeks that followed, Republicans blasted it as an assault on rural homeowners, even many Democrats were reluctant to support it.
It was a call from Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore), who heads the House Environmental Matters Committee, to study the proposal further that all but ended any chance that the legislation would be passed this year.
McIntosh, who controls whether the bill would be voted on in the House, wrote in a letter Monday to the governor that a task force should study the idea and report back by Dec. 1.
McIntosh noted in the letter that growth and the proliferation of septic systems will ultimately reverse advances the state is making by investing in wastewater treatment plant upgrades.
"However, an outright ban could and would have a disproportionate impact on several counties in Maryland," McIntosh wrote, adding that she believes the proposal should be coupled with initiatives that help farms and rural counties.
That letter followed one to McIntosh on Feb.24, in which seven Democrats from rural and suburban communities - including some who control key budget committees -- wrote that they were concerned about how the proposal could hurt private sector investment in the state.
"Every county in the state would be impacted by this legislation and, for several counties, the cost to build out public sewage systems into more remote parts of the county would cripple development and expansion into those areas," the letter said.
The letter was signed by Dels. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary's), Norman Conway, (D-Wicomico), Mary-Dulany James, (D-Harford), David Rudolph, (D-Cecil), Galen Clagett, (D-Frederick), Steven DeBoy, (D-Baltimore County), and Sally Jameson, (D-Charles).
O'Malley is still pushing efforts to convince lawmakers to approve a $100 million venture capital initiative, and make changes to shore up the state's underfunded employee pension system.
He will testify Thursday on his plan to spur investment in offshore wind farms. And he has also decided to testify for a Republican-authored bill that would reduce Maryland's estate tax for family farms.
The bill is sponsored by Republican Del. Kathy Afzali, of Frederick, and 42 other delegates, including 17 Democrats and 25 Republicans. It would exclude $5 million of the value of qualified agricultural property from the estate tax. Maryland's estate tax also would not exceed 5 percent on amounts that exceed $5 million.
Now, families pay 16 percent estate tax on property valued at more than $1 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.
Aaron C. Davis
| March 2, 2011; 9:17 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis
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