Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) plans to sign three high-profile environmental bills on Wednesday, touting victories that have largely been overshadowed by the dysfunction at the end of the 90-day session.
The bills — among more than 270 slated to get the governor’s signature at an afternoon ceremony — seek to curb use of residential septic systems, reduce polluted stormwater runoff and raise more money to upgrade sewage treatment plants.
The ceremony will also mark the first time in more than a week that O’Malley has been in the same room with House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert).
At a breakfast meeting last week, the three leaders talked about the possibility of holding two special sessions in coming weeks to finish work on a revenue package and debate gambling legislation. Work on both measures collapsed on the final night of the 90-day session.
Many details remain to be worked out before either possible special session.
Under one bill O’Malley plans to sign Wednesday, counties will have to adopt a “tiered” system of rules to limit new housing developments served by septic systems, especially in areas dominated by farmland and forestland.
As originally proposed, the bill sought to curb septic use by inserting the state into local land-use decisions, a strategy which gave pause to many lawmakers from both parties.
Anther bill will require localities to fund projects to reduce polluted runoff from roads, buildings and parking lots. Senate Republicans sought to kill the bill with a filibuster, with Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R-Cecil) calling it an attempt “to tax rain water.”
Under a third bill, which also drew opposition from Republicans, most Marylanders will see the yearly cost of their “flush tax” double to $60 starting in July. The tax, added onto water and sewer bills, is used to fund sewage treatment upgrades and other Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.