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Our Priorities This 2020 Legislative Session

As you’ve probably heard, Maryland is currently in the midst of our annual Legislative Session.

Our state’s General Assembly is meeting from January 8th – April 6th in Annapolis to discuss, debate, and advance legislation for the year to come.

During the 2020 Legislative Session, Blue Water Baltimore is supporting two priority bills that would positively impact Baltimore waterways if passed: the Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act and the Environmental Accountability and Transparency Act. These bills will help cut plastic pollution, hold polluters accountable, and empower Marylanders to help enforce laws that protect our state’s waterways. 

We are also supporting several pieces of legislation that protect environmental health in Baltimore. Examples include bills to end public subsidies for trash incineration (HB438/SB560), divert organic waste from landfills and incinerators (HB589), and ban the release of balloons into the atmosphere (HB0013/SB0028). 

Here is some more information about our priority bills and how you can take action to help them pass: 

Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act (HB209/SB313)

What will this bill do?

  • Ban plastic bags at most retailers (with some exceptions such as drycleaners)
  • Require stores to charge 10 cents per paper bag to encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags when shopping and help cover the costs of alternative bags. 
  • Establish a working group to study and make recommendations regarding single-use products, including the economic impacts of product bans and fees to low-income Marylanders. 

Why is this important?

  • Plastic bags cause pollution problems everywhere. They fly down streets, get caught in trees, clog storm drains, and get into our waterways where they choke plant life and animals and contribute to blight in our communities. 
  • This ban is an upstream solution and helps build toward a zero waste future. 

How can this bill be improved?

  • We support this bill’s goal of reducing plastic pollution but believe it can be improved to ensure it does not have a disparate impact on Marylanders experiencing poverty. 
  • We would like to see legislators explore ways to lessen the impact of this bill on low-income Marylanders, particularly people who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance program to purchase food. 

Environmental Accountability and Transparency Act (HB614/SB460

What will this bill do?

  • Establish an Environment & Natural Resources Ombudsman within the Attorney General’s office to assist residents with pollution complaints.
  • Create and maintain a website with information regarding pollution complaints, inspections of facilities, enforcement actions, and information on the status of facility permits. 

Why is this important?

  • In recent years, the Maryland Department of the Environment, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Natural Resources have faced staff reductions and taken fewer enforcement actions as a result. 
  • Marylanders have a legal right to step in to enforce environmental laws when governments fail to act. But in order to do so, residents must be able to easily access environmental enforcement data. 
  • By creating a point person for pollution complaints and posting information online, this bill will increase public access to information to help enforce environmental protections. 

Take Action

1. Contact your legislator. Sign up for our email list to receive alerts and information on how to contact your elected officials about our legislative priorities throughout session. 

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2. Spread the word. Share Blue Water Baltimore updates and Action Alerts with your friends, family, and neighbors. The more people who contact their elected officials about these bills, the more likely they are to pass!

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3. Join us in Annapolis. During legislative session, you can speak out in person about issues that matter to you. Join Blue Water Baltimore to meet with your elected officials, testify at a public hearing, write a letter, or speak out at a rally in support of clean water.


Taylor Smith-Hams serves as Blue Water Baltimore’s Outreach and Advocacy Specialist. She’s passionate about environmental justice and building a more equitable Baltimore. 

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