Governor Martin O'Malley today joined Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., House Speaker Michael E. Busch, and Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown to sign legislation to protect Maryland's environment and the health and prosperity of the Chesapeake Bay.
"This session, we made some important choices to further our progress on protecting our land, water and air," said Governor O'Malley. "Progress is not inevitable; it is the product of the good choices we make together so our children will inherit a better, more sustainable future. We've had one of the more successful sessions in recent memory for the Bay and our environment because we choose together to create a Maryland that is Smart, Green and Growing."
The Governor signed into law the Sustainable Growth and Preservation Act of 2012, which assists local communities in moving septic growth away from areas where it will contribute to wasteful land development practices and pollution, restores the Chesapeake Bay and protects the State's rural landscape; the Bay Restoration Fund, which doubles the Bay Restoration Fee by providing funding for upgrades to wastewater treatment plants that dramatically reduce levels of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Atlantic Coastal Bays, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries; and the Stormwater Management -- Watershed Protection and Restoration Program to require local counties and municipalities to establish a watershed protection and restoration program to pay for stormwater management, and stream and wetland restoration projects to improve water quality and reduce phosphorus and nitrogen levels entering Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
At a later date, once a budget agreement is reached, the Governor will also sign the Family Farm Preservation Act of 2012, which secures a sustainable future for Maryland's family farms by reducing the current estate tax rate from 16 percent to 5 percent to protect Maryland's farms valued over $5 million through a mandate requiring recapture of the tax obligation if the farm is taken out of agricultural use within 10 years.
"The Chesapeake Bay is the crown jewel of Maryland's natural resources and we must do everything we can to protect it," said Senate President Miller. "The passage of important environmental priorities this session will ensure that Maryland continues to be a leader in the protection of the Bay and the environment, while making certain that we can continue to sustain agriculture, promote smart growth and have a greener, healthier state for future generations."
"The big winners this session were a cleaner environment, cleaner waterways and a cleaner Chesapeake Bay, thanks to legislation supported by Governor O'Malley and the General Assembly," said Speaker Michael E. Busch. "Taken together, these bills will result in significant pollution reduction to the State's waterways and protect Maryland's crown jewel -- the Chesapeake Bay. I am pleased that we were able to make significant progress towards a better quality of life in the future, without jeopardizing investments in the State's economy today."
Recently, the Governor announced the Chesapeake Bay's juvenile blue crab population is at the highest level on record, and the overall blue crab population is at its highest level since 1993. Governor O'Malley's 2013 capital budget includes more than $211 million in funding to help the Chesapeake Bay, including $38 million in GO Bonds for grants to fund stormwater projects through the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays Trust Fund, and $8 million for oyster recovery.
Since taking office, the O'Malley-Brown Administration has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting the Bay and creating a cleaner, more sustainable future for Maryland's children. The Administration has many strategic goals that work together to produce a state that is smart, green and growing, including a commitment to Restore the Health of the Chesapeake Bay by 2025; Double Transit Ridership in Maryland by the End of 2020; Reduce Per Capita Energy Consumption in Maryland by 15% by 2025; Increase Maryland's In-State Renewable Generation to 20% by 2022; and Reduce Maryland's Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 25% by 2020.
The Governor also recently received the first-ever Vision Award from the Arbor Day Foundation for his outstanding commitment to environmental stewardship.