Maryland's General Assembly has closed; here are five takeaways from how some of the Howard bills did

The Maryland General Assembly ended at midnight Monday. Lawmakers representing Howard County filed 13 bills in total. Here’s how some of them performed:

School fees

Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Democrat who represents North Laurel and Savage, proposed legislation that would enable local lawmakers to raise developer fees accrued from new construction projects from $1.32 per square foot to a maximum of $4.

The bill was amended to take away the $4 cap and to exclude senior housing.

The vote to exclude senior housing has already received condemnation from Councilwoman Deb Jung, a Democrat who represents the five Columbia villages and parts of Clarksville and Highland. When seniors “move out of their homes, the people who move in are families,” Jung previously said in an interview. “There will be an impact on the schools when people move into senior housing.”

Atterbeary — who previously said she was “not happy with the final version of the bill” because of the amendments — and Republican Del. Warren Miller were the only lawmakers in the House of Delegates to vote against the bill. The bill passed the House 136-2, and the Senate unanimously on Monday evening.

School board election by district

A bill proposed by Atterbeary that would allow for five of the seven members of the county’s Board of Education to be elected by councilmanic districts passed both chambers.

Atterbeary’s bill will have the other two members of the school board serving at-large — they would represent the entire county and would be elected by all county voters.

Plastic bag fee

Earlier this month, both chambers passed a bill that would enable Howard lawmakers to place a fee on plastic bags at the point of purchase in stores. The bill will soon go to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for his signature. A spokeswoman for the Republican said in an email Hogan will review the legislation.

A fiscal analysis found that revenue from the fees could be as high as $870,000 a year if each household in Howard County purchased three bags per week, based on 2017 census data. The revenue could only be used to support administrative costs or to start environmental programs — including one that would bring access to reusable bags.

Political contributions from developers

A bill that would have brought new stipulations on developer contributions to local political campaigns failed to make it out of Howard’s delegation.

The bill was introduced by Miller, a Republican who represents portions of District 9A, and was meant to target members of the County Council, who also sit as the Zoning Board — the body that approves or rejects requests to change or modify zoning and other land-use matters.

Miller previously said political contributions aren’t the only factor in county development decisions that spur overcrowding — but he believed his measure could help.

Ellicott City

Del. Courtney Watson in February pulled a bill that would have brought new flood control standards to buildings built in historic Ellicott City. Watson, a Democrat who represents the historic district, pulled the bill based on comments from the Maryland Department of the Environment. In a letter to local lawmakers, Watson encouraged them to adopt stronger standards.

A funding bill Watson cross-filed alongside state Sen. Katie Fry Hester would bring sustained funding to mitigation efforts in historic Ellicott City. The House and Senate bills were passed and now head to Hogan’s desk.

The bills were amended to prioritize historic districts impacted by flooding, which will “hopefully get the lion’s share” of funding, Watson said. For this year, the fund will receive $3.4 million through the state’s capitol budget. In the next three fiscal years, the fund can receive $8 million.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Jess Nocera contributed to this report.

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