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Legislative Updates

The National Aquarium takes many steps in order to protect the world's aquatic treasures, including lobbying our local, state and federal governments. For more information on our priorities during the 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly, please contact Sarah Elfreth, government affairs director, at

April 7 marked Sine Die, the adjournment of the General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session in Annapolis, Maryland.

The National Aquarium’s government affairs team has been busy supporting a handful of select bills. Here is a brief look at how a few of our bills fared this session:

HB 118: Task Force to Study the Impact of Ocean Acidification on State Waters

The bill has been amended to create a task force to analyze the potential effects of ocean acidification on state waters and state fisheries and report back to the General Assembly with recommendations on potential strategies to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification by 2015. The task force will consist of members from the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of the Environment, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the National Aquarium and representatives from the watermen community, the Senate and the House of Delegates. National Aquarium staff testified in support of the bill. Read more about how ocean acidification is a global issue with local consequences.

Status: Passed the House of Delegates (102-30) on March 14. Passed the Senate (46-0) on April 7. The bill is now on Governor O’Malley’s desk for his signature or veto.

Read the Bill

HB 913 | Food Fish and Shellfish: Labeling and Identification Requirements

Requires restaurants and grocery stores to label seafood with the common name of fish or shellfish at the point of sale and prohibits mislabeling. The bill also requires restaurants and grocery stores to identify the origin of a crab product by state or country of origin. National Aquarium staff testified in support of the bill. Read more about how the bill will help combat seafood fraud and benefit the sustainable seafood movement.

Status: HB 913 did not receive a vote in the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Read the Bill

Polluted Runoff Bills

National Aquarium is a member of the Clean Water, Healthy Families Coalition, a group of environmental organizations from around the state. The coalition's legislative priority for 2014 is to defend the 2012 Watershed Protection and Restoration Program law to reduce polluted runoff and clean up local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Multiple bills have been filed to amend or repeal the 2012 law. The National Aquarium team will join other coalition members to communicate the harmful impacts of polluted runoff on wildlife or, to put it to a catchy tune, keep the weed killer out of my crab cakes. Listen to National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli and Blue Water Baltimore’s Executive Director Halle Van der Gaag discuss the harmful impacts of polluted runoff.

Status: Twenty different bills were introduced to repeal or weaken the 2012 stormwater law this legislative session—and none made it out of committee. Language was added to the budget that allows Maryland’s Department of the Environment to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Carroll or Frederick counties to establish an alternative source of funding for meeting their polluted runoff goals.

Read the Bills

HB 296 | SB 336: Natural Resources – Wildlands – Designation of New Wildlands

Expands state-designated wildlands from the current 29 areas to 38 areas (or from 44,000 acres to 65,000 acres). One of Governor Martin O'Malley's legislative priorities, the bill seeks to legally protect certain wilderness areas from development, cars and other impacts. You can read more about the issue in the Baltimore Sun. National Aquarium supports both bills and submitted written testimony to the committees.

Status: Both House and Senate bills passed both chambers. The bills are now on Governor O’Malley’s desk for his signature or veto.

Read the Bills

SB 394: Statewide Container Recycling Refund Program

Establishes a fully refundable 5-cent container deposit on beverage containers sold in Maryland. The bill also establishes redemption centers across the state. The deposit funds a Container Recycling Incentive Fund that implements the program and provides funding for state and local recycling centers, recycling education and environmental programs. If passed, the bill has the potential to increase Maryland's recycling rate of beverage containers from 22 percent to 76 percent. National Aquarium supports the bill. National Aquarium submitted written testimony in support of the bill.

Status: SB 394 did not receive a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.

Read the Bill

SB 568: Income Tax Credit – Floating Garden Equipment

Provides an income tax credit for the purchase of equipment used to create floating gardens—or wetlands—that use native plants and provide environmental benefits. The National Aquarium and other Baltimore area organizations have launched over 2,000 square feet of floating wetlands into Baltimore's Inner Harbor to help restore the health of the Bay. National Aquarium submitted written testimony in support of the bill. Learn more about how floating gardens can help create a healthier Chesapeake Bay.

Status: Received an unfavorable report from the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Read the Bill

SB 707 | HB 718: Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2014

Similar to legislation introduced last session, the bill enables county governments to pass county bag-fee laws that require retail and grocery stores to charge customers at least a 5-cent fee for paper and plastic bags. The National Aquarium submitted written testimony in support of the House bill and will submit written testimony in support of the Senate bill.

Status: Neither bill received a vote in either presiding committee.

Read the Bills


$2.12 million allocated for National Aquarium in the Capital Budget
The legislature increased funding from what the governor included in his Capital Budget ($1.5 million to $2.12 million) to fund critical infrastructure improvements and the renovation of the Aquarium’s Maryland: Mountains to the Sea exhibit.

Learn More About the Capital Budget

$474,601 allocated for National Aquarium’s Education Programs
The governor level-funded the State Aided Institution (SAI) portion of the Maryland State Department of Education’s budget. The Aquarium will receive $474,601 toward education programs to help bring tens of thousands of Maryland schoolchildren, teachers and chaperones to the Aquarium completely free of charge.

Learn More About Education Funding

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Legislative Updates Email

Legislative Updates

Sarah Elfreth
Government Affairs Director

National Aquarium - Sarah Elfreth

As the Government Affairs Director, Sarah advocates for the Aquarium’s mission at the local, state and federal government levels. Learn More