Delegate Courtney Watson (District 9B) recently posted the following on Facebook:

FOUR WOMEN LEGISLATORS IN MARYLAND HAVE INTRODUCED A PACKAGE OF FIVE BILLS RELATED TO CLIMATE RESILIENCY

Members of the Maryland General Assembly introduced a number of bills today aimed at combating the increasing risks of climate change and sea level rise that threaten Maryland communities.

Katie Fry Hester, Maryland Senate D9 (D – Howard and Carroll), Senator Sarah Elfreth (D – Anne Arundel), Delegate Brooke Lierman (D – Baltimore City), and Courtney Watson – State Delegate (D – Howard County) introduced a “Resiliency Package” of legislation to increase the State’s preparedness in the wake of record flooding and devastating weather events that threaten communities across Maryland.

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Here is the image that goes along with that post:

Here is the text from the press release on January 27th:

Members of the Maryland General Assembly introduced a number of bills on Monday aimed at combating the increasing risks of climate change and sea level rise that threaten Maryland communities.

Senator Katie Fry Hester (D – Howard and Carroll), Senator Sarah Elfreth (D – Anne Arundel), Delegate Brooke Lierman (D – Baltimore City), and Delegate Courtney Watson (D – Howard County) introduced a “Resiliency Package” of legislation to increase the State’s preparedness in the wake of record flooding and devastating weather events that threaten communities across Maryland.

Senator Katie Fry Hester said: “Maryland is facing up to $19 billion worth of damage due to sea level rise and flooding by 2050. It’s really easy to look at numbers that big and far off and feel removed from the consequences of these events, but there are communities and families behind those numbers. People whose businesses and homes have been irrevocably changed, not to mention future generations who will have to face these challenges, most likely at a larger scale than we do now. We have a responsibility to address this challenge directly and prepare more aggressively to mitigate these risks now. That’s why my colleagues and I are fighting to provide communities with tools like FEMA’s new Building Resilient Infrastructure & Communities program or a chief resilience officer – to build a more resilient Maryland.”

Senator Hester’s MD Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) ACT of 2020 establishes a new position, accountable for Maryland’s resiliency and response strategy at the highest level. The CRO will oversee:

  1. Coordination across state and local agencies that are currently or will be impacted by climate change.
  2. Establishment of  baseline indicators, goals, and metrics to increase resilience.
  3. Efforts to identify and secure funding streams that contribute to resilience.
  4. Engagement of industry leaders impacted by climate change.

Senator Elfreth’s Resilience Authority legislation enables counties and large municipalities to independently, or jointly create Resilience Authorities to bond money and fund large infrastructure projects related to sea level rise, nuisance flooding, and erosion.

Senator Elfreth pointed to the increased flooding in her own district as a need to address this issue in the 2020 session: “Annapolis experienced 63 days of nuisance flooding in 2017 alone which shut down the City Dock, businesses, and threatened our public safety and historic communities. But this isn’t just an Annapolis problem. That’s why our Resilience Authority legislation provides a broad framework for different communities – from Ellicott City to Easton to Baltimore – to establish, fund, partner, and implement the Resilience Authority that best fits the needs of that community.”

Delegate Brooke Lierman, House sponsor of the Environmental Accountability and Transparency Act that seeks to increase citizen participation in environmental law enforcement by adding an ombudsman officer in the Office of the Attorney General, said, “A rising Chesapeake Bay, 100-year floods every few years, and rapidly rising temperatures in Baltimore are all alarms that it’s time for policymakers to heed: we have to take action now to ensure Maryland communities can prevent and mitigate the impact of climate change in our state. These policy proposals are integral to equipping our state moving forward.”

Sponsored by Delegate Courtney Watson, House Bill 78, Bay Restoration Fund – Authorized Uses will help local governments seek funding for climate resiliency projects including flood control from the state’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. The change in law makes flood control an eligible criteria in the third priority of the Waste Water portion of the Fund.

Delegate Watson who represents Ellicott City said, “For every dollar we spend on mitigation, we save $6 in damages from flooding. This underscores that we must move climate resiliency to the front burner. It’s a smart investment on the part of the state, and we have to move faster.”

Senator Hester’s MD PACE-R Financing Act will extend the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing mechanism to owners who wish to increase the resiliency of both residential and commercial property. PACE loans are currently used to finance energy efficiency improvements: local governments and lenders cooperate on loans secured by the property tax obligation – which does not appear on the owner’s balance sheet. This powerful financing tool will encourage individuals, organizations, and government agencies at the state and local levels to include resiliency in their retrofits and new construction.

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I am hoping to catch up with the two local legislators (State Senator Katie Fry Hester and State Delegate Courtney Watson) at some point to learn more about the five bills noted in this article. I am curious of the real impact and costs this legislation will have (always things I look at when evaluating proposed legislation).

Based on the graphic…I searched for two of the five bills that should by online for review. I found one based on the numbers in the graphic:

HB78: Bay Restoration Fund – Authorized Uses. Here is the fiscal summary of this legislation:

State Effect: Overall finances for the BRF Wastewater Account are not affected; the bill merely changes the priority ranking for certain projects and expands the authorized uses of the account. MDE can promulgate implementing regulations with existing budgeted resources. Revenues are not affected.

Local Effect: Local grant revenues and expenditures are likely affected by the change in priority ranking and could also be affected to the extent that BRF funding is provided for volume or quality control stormwater measures instead of other authorized uses. Any such impact cannot be reliably estimated at this time.

Small Business Effect: Minimal overall, but potential meaningful impact on some small businesses depending on the projects that receive funding under the bill.

A search for SB47 came up with different legislation…so not sure that number is correct in the graphic posted. Something for me to follow up on soon.

Article Update: SB47 noted above can be found at HB539: Local Governments – Resilience Authorities – Authorization and SB457: Local Governments – Resilience Authorities – Authorization. There is no fiscal summary of this legislation yet. Thanks to Delegate Watson for sending me the updated house bill number this morning and to Senator Senator Sarah Elfreth for sending me the correct senate bill number.

Scott E

1 COMMENT

  1. OK, whats with the gender bias in the reporting? Is it necessary we know they were women if this bill had nothing to do with their or constituents gender issues?
    I get we we are in a time that everyone wants to sound PC but think that fad has run its course.
    Then again this could be the very distraction that mainstream media packages its news…rather than focus on the issues, they gloss over the style of it.

    Put another way, this is more bureaucracy (taxes) with little in return just to support those high cost communities that are now uninsurable due to their risks. Basically now we the people are asked to foot the bill to “mitigate” these waterfront homes yet the owners are the ones who benefit when they sell them at higher “mitigated” costs.

    MD has no business insuring these homes built on waterfronts or flood zones. Let the owners do it through their insurance or better yet do the right thing and move out. Its just not sustainable in the long run and we taxpayers have to keep paying for these homes to be rebuilt. Now thats irresponsible and not eco friendly.
    Only boat owners should be allowed to do this kind of thing and bill their insurance for it.

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