MHC Update


Legislative Report T e 2017 Maryland Legislative session has ended. During the

three-month session, 1,200 bills were introduced in the Senate, and 1,661 in the House, for a total of almost 3,000 bills. Each week during session, MHC legislative committee member Kim Egan Rutter scanned all bills introduced that week, fl agging those of interest to the horse industry and the broader equestrian com- munity. During our weekly conference call, we evaluated these new bills, discussed and arrived at our position, and determined our lobbying strategy. During the course of the session, the MHC Legislative Committee closely monitored about 30 bills (plus their cross-fi led counterparts) that could have an eff ect on horse peo- ple, their farms, businesses and even their pets. We testifi ed at a number of hearings, wrote and submitted written testimony on a number of other bills, and took formal positions without exten- sive testimony on others. Although budget constraints caused us to cut back on the use of our professional lobbyist, Frank Boston, nevertheless, our all-volunteer army was a force to be reckoned with, and legislators and other interest groups gave us repeated recognition as a signifi cant and respected group. As has been the case in recent years, we worked on a number of

bills related to deer hunting on Sundays. T is issue has consumed the resources of MHC (as well as the Legislature) for many years. Prior to the 2016 legislative session, we worked on a compromise position that we hoped would put the issue to bed. T e compro- mise bill, which would have permitted Sunday deer hunting in the fi rearms season, statewide, until 10:30 am, did not advance in 2016 for technical reasons, not for lack of support. In the sum- mer of 2016, the Horse Council, the Montgomery County Farm Bureau, the Montgomery Agricultural Producers, and MHC members in TROT and the Potomac Hunt, among other groups, worked with Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo of Montgomery County, to craſt a similar bill that would apply in Montgomery County only. Aſt er lengthy negotiations, the fi nal bill (HB310) called for hunt-

ing until 10:30 am on Sundays throughout the deer seasons (bow and fi rearm) and preserved the existing three full day Sundays (one for bow, one for fi rearm and one for the Junior day). T e bill will sunset in fi ve years, during which data on its eff ect on the deer population can be collected. Because the County Coun- cil was threatening to put in its own, all day/all Sundays bill, and because the bill adopted the “Sunday mornings only” approach of our own proposal, MHC supported the bill. It is noteworthy that during the hearing before the powerful Senate Education, Health and Environmental Aff airs Committee, the Chair, Senator Joan Carter Conway, who has been a great supporter, asked “where are my horse people?” and called the MHC President up to the witness table to ensure that we were on board with the bill - sig- nifi cant evidence of our growing presence in Annapolis! T e bill passed both houses, and as of this writing, awaits signature by the Governor. It is our hope that this bill can become a template of a statewide resolution of this thorny issue. T is hope may be starting to become reality, as the Kent County

Sunday hunting bills (SB629 and HB312), which initially sought to allow Sunday hunting on private land all day on all Sundays, were amended to restrict that to mornings only in the fi rearms | 800-244-9580

season until 10:30 am, except for the Junior Day, and one other Sunday in the fi rearms season. T e bill would still allow for all- day/all-Sundays in the bow season. T e House version of the bill passed both houses. Similarly, the Wicomico bill (HB 894), which initially called for all day Sunday hunting on the fi rst Sunday of the bow season and on all Sundays in the fi rearms season, was amended in the Senate committee to provide for Sunday hunting until 10:30 am only in the fi rearms season. As of this writing, it does not appear that the House had time to approve the Senate- amended bill before the Legislature adjourned at Midnight on April 10, so the Wicomico bill is probably dead for this year. Other bills we were active on included SB178/HB606, which

concerned the fate of the Bowie Race Course Training Center. As initially draſt ed, the bill would have allowed for the State to purchase or condemn the Center. We testifi ed in favor of preserv- ing equestrian use, and it appears that the Maryland Jockey Club has recommitted to preserving the site as an equestrian training center. T e bill was substantially amended to include provisions for funding improvements to several tracks as well as the Bowie facility, and the Senate version passed. We successfully testifi ed against a proposal (SB172/HB152) to

shiſt the cost of the Maryland Racing Commission and the Inter- national T oroughbred Race from the State to the Purse Dedica- tion Account. SB99/HB171 creates a study to review methods of diverting and

benefi cially reusing organic waste. T e law expressly states that the Maryland Horse Council must have a seat at the table. Both bills passed both houses. T ere are dozens more bills that we weighed in on, concerning,

e.g., land preservation easements (we supported HB155, which passed), standards for animal cruelty (we supported SB790/ HB455, which passed), creation of a State bond to support capital improvements at Fair Hill ($100,000 bond was approved). We also monitored bills on many, many more topics, e.g., immunity from civil liability for emergency veterinary care, regulation of kennel licensing, farm labor, tax issues, fox hunting regulation, and more. A complete summary of all the bills we followed and what action we took on them, and their ultimate outcome can be found here: If you have any questions about any of these bills, please let us know. Finally, MHC, in conjunction with the Maryland Horse Indus-

try Board and other industry partners, hosted our 3rd MD Horse Industry Day in Annapolis on Jan. 31. Hundreds of diverse horse people from around Maryland came to the State’s Capitol to advo- cate for the industry and meet their legislators, and learn how to eff ectively lobby at the grass roots level. We had a great turnout of elected offi cials and cabinet secretaries and other Hogan admin- istration offi cials. Next year we are looking forward to an even bigger and better event, and we hope you can join us in making our voice heard to our legislators!

“Where are my horse people?” -Sen. Joan Carter Conway in a hearing regarding for HB 310

MAY 2017 | THE EQUIERY | 73

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