A House of Delegates committee killed two bills yesterday that proponents said would further protect the Chesapeake Bay from pollution. Both are dead for this year's legislative session, which concludes at midnight tomorrow.
One bill would have extended environmental protections required along the Chesapeake's shoreline to nontidal rivers. The other would have required farmers who receive state money implement programs to reduce manure and fertilizer runoff into bay tributaries.
The House Environmental Matters Committee defeated the shoreline bill, 17-2. The measure would have extended the same limitations on development to a 1,000-foot shoreline along nontidal rivers -- the same limitations that now apply to a 1,000-foot rim around the bay and its tidal tributaries.
The current law protects about 10 percent of the state's land mass. The bill would have more than doubled the affected area and extended the law to include counties that don't border the bay, including Carroll, Howard and Montgomery.
Sen. Frederick C. Malkus Jr., a Dorchester Democrat who sponsored the measure, has called it a "fairness" bill. But many legislators saw it as an attempted pay-back to the rest of Maryland for helping to impose development limitations on the Eastern Shore that hurt property owners.
The bill requiring management of runoff from farms died by a vote of 15-4. The measure threatened to take away farmers' agricultural land assessment if they did not comply.
Committee Chairman Ronald A. Guns, a Cecil Democrat, said farmers already are making strong efforts to comply voluntarily. The Maryland Farm Bureau
opposed the bill, saying the state should spend more money trying to encourage environmentally sound farming.
An estimated 38 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorus that enters the bay comes from farm runoff. Both nutrients are blamed for algae growth that depletes the bay of oxygen needed by fish.
Judiciary chairman cleared of allegations
A legislative ethics committee has cleared a state delegate of allegations that he gave a tobacco lobbyist preferential treatment.
Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, did nothing wrong when he allowed lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano to testify on several bills three days after the hearing on them, according to the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.
In a letter Thursday, the ethics panel acknowledged that "this case might raise a few eyebrows and most assuredly is intensified by the notoriety of the lobbyist involved. However, the Ethics Committee has concluded that no ethical standards or guidelines were violated . . . and the issue, unfortunately, really boils down to a matter of 'perception.' "
Mr. Vallario, a Prince George's Democrat, said he has allowed others to testify late on bills besides Mr. Bereano, the highest-paid lobbyist in Annapolis last year.