2018 Legislative Update: Victory for Baltimore City & Chesapeake Bay Funding
Blue Water Baltimore’s advocacy efforts resulted in some major wins, some disappointments, and some hopeful signs for the future this legislative season. As always, we are deeply grateful to all our members, supporters, and community partners who wrote letters, made phone calls, came to our rally days, and made donations to help support our efforts. We owe our progress to your passion and we most definitely couldn’t do it without you. Here’s a recap of the good, the bad, and our next steps.
Baltimore City will be foam free by 2019! Baltimore City Council unanimously passed Councilman John Bullock’s bill to eliminate expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam from food establishments. Mayor Pugh is set to sign the bill on April 19, 2018. City leadership was convinced by a passionate group of students from Baltimore Beyond Plastics, along with testimony from local businesses, and expert testimony from coalition partners, including Blue Water Baltimore, Trash Free Maryland, and Waterfront Partnership. The ban will go into effect in October 2019 after an 18-month implementation period.
The federal funding bill was passed to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. It includes $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, maintaining its current level. We will maintain vigilant watch on developments as the current administration has repeatedly threatened to eliminate these funds.
HB 0538/SB 0651 – The bill to ban EPS foam food containers throughout Maryland was not successful this year, despite our coalition’s significant efforts to secure votes, and the hundreds of letters and calls made by constituents. The bill passed out of the Senate, Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, but died after being voted down in the House Economic Matters Committee. We made significant headway in educating legislators and gaining advocates and partners and look forward to regrouping with our coalition to strategize for the future.
HB 0766/SB0610 – a bill to strengthen the Forest Conservation Act to strengthen existing legislation to protect forests throughout the state was also not successful. The Forest Conservation Act itself, passed in 1991, has potential to be one our best tools for protecting Maryland’s forests. This bill would have improved and updated the current law, but died waiting for a concurrence vote in the Senate on the last day of session.
We will be working with partners over the coming months to help prepare businesses in Baltimore City for the EPS foam phase-out. As for legislation at the state level, the fight isn’t over as the health of our communities and waterways is too important. Blue Water Baltimore will be taking stock with our coalition partners to determine the best path forward for the next legislative session. Stay tuned for updates! You can also get involved by becoming a donating member and signing up for advocacy action alerts.