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 

2014 Legislative Update (by Steuart Pittman) Hiring Frank Boston to lobby for Maryland Horse Council will go down in history as one of the wisest decisions your Executive Committee has ever made. We knew Frank was well respected and had an all-star client list, but we had no idea how much attention we would get from him and where that would take us as an organization. We also had no idea how much work we were getting ourselves into or how much fun it would be. Our legislative committee included Jane Seigler, Christy Clagett, Steuart Pittman, Jennifer Webster, Royce Herman, Crystal Kimball, Joe Michael, Pete Radue, and Kathleen Tabor. Each week Frank and his assistant, Andrew Nicklas, did

a conference call with our legislative committee in which we talked through a bill tracking sheet that included 70 or so bills that we were monitoring, supporting, or opposing. Of the bills that we took positions on we provided written testimony on some and both written and oral testimony on others. We also used the conference calls to strategize on our campaign to block expansion of Sunday hunting both statewide and in various counties. We supported the bill to prevent sunset of the legislation

that created our Maryland Horse Industry Board. We wrote testimony in support of a bill to allow harness racing purse funds to support the organizations representing the industry. We opposed legislation increasing liability for owners of loose dogs. We backed up our friends at Farm Bureau extending the range of farm-use licensed vehicles and requiring economic analysis of the impact of changes to nutrient management regulations. We testified alongside Chesapeake Bay Foundation in support of a bill that would encourage establishment of composting facilities. We wrote to oppose a budget proposal that would have redirected Program Open Space and Maryland Ag Land Preservation funds to other uses. Many of these letters of support or opposition strengthened important relationships between Maryland Horse Council and our allies in Annapolis. It was our campaign against a plethora of Sunday hunting

bills, however, that put the Maryland Horse Council on the map as a powerful legislative player. We killed all of the statewide Sunday hunting bills and three county bills: Anne Arundel, Calvert, and Harford. We unfortunately lost the battle in the western counties of Frederick, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett, but are still working through the Governor’s office to prevent DNR from adding the Sundays in those counties that the law will authorize. Our primary opponent in the campaign to preserve Safe

Sundays was DNR itself. Despite the fact that its own 2009-2018 White-Tailed Deer Plan did not recommend Sunday hunting as a population control method, and even included a public opinion survey showing that both landowners and the public oppose it, DNR actively lobbied in support of Sunday hunting bills with very little backing from deer hunters themselves. Te key to our success was an extremely active grass roots

campaign, particularly in Anne Arundel County, combined with strategically timed meetings with top leadership. Te use of the MHC Online County Forums was key in both Anne Arundel and Frederick Counties where the moderators maintained them. Frank Boston was able to schedule individual meetings with at least twenty key legislators, including not only the chairs of the committees through which the bills passed, Del. Maggie Macintosh and Sen. Joan Conway, but also with Speaker Mike Busch and Senate President Mike Miller. We also got good press coverage in both the Annapolis Capital and Baltimore Sun.

Both Miller and Busch spent close to half an hour with our delegations of six MHC members from across the state. Tese meetings are hard to get during the middle of the session, but both men had been impressed by the visibility of our grass roots efforts and understood the size and scope of the Maryland Horse Council. Tey listened. Tey understood. And they used their influence in support of our cause. Speaker Busch encouraged us to meet with incoming

DNR Secretary Joe Gill and promised to speak to him that afternoon. On March 3 we met at DNR with Gill himself, his legislative director Rich Norling, Ashley Valis from the Governor’s office, Frank Boston, and five of us. Out of that meeting came a commitment from DNR to conduct a study this year comparing the effectiveness of various deer herd reduction strategies, including Sunday hunting, and their effect on outdoor recreation activities. As the year progresses we will monitor progress on that

study, conduct our own research, build the Safe Sundays Coalition with other outdoor recreation groups, and plan to introduce a 2015 Safe Sundays bill that includes effective deer herd reduction strategies.

We never know what will happen during a legislative

session in Annapolis. Tis year it was Sunday hunting. Next year it could be threats to horse racing. Another year it might be attempts to regulate what we do on our farms with our animals, or how easily we can be sued when something goes wrong. What we know for sure is that without a strong presence in Annapolis the horse industry is vulnerable. Your membership dues pay for this work, and your input and voice makes it successful. Please keep your membership current, come to meetings if you can, and when it’s time to contact your legislators, do it. It works! To stay up to date with the Legislative Committee, visit

The Horse Council thanks the legislators who have consistently supported us, including:

 

   


 

        


Maryland Horse Council membership is open to all associations, farms, businesses and individuals. To join, please visit, contact, or call 301-502-8929. The Maryland Horse Council is sponsored by B & D Builders, The Equiery, and Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit.

80 | THE EQUIERY | MAY 2014 800-244-9580 |


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