Maryland General Assembly 2010 Session: A Summary of Green Building-Related Legislation

Date: April 20, 2010

The Maryland General Assembly's 2010 session has come to a close, with the General Assembly having passed a number of bills related to green building. We'll be taking a look at HB 475, titled "Smart Green and Growing: The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010" and passed just before the session ended, later this week [Update: our summary of HB 475 can be found here]. The other bills of note to the green building industry concern, among other things, a new State initiative for Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, a new LEED mandate for community college projects, and homeowners' and condominium owners' right to use clotheslines to dry their laundry. Listed below are summaries of these and a few other relevant bills, with links to the text as passed:

  • HB 1164 substantially broadens Maryland's use of Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, sometimes referred to as "Green Procurement." It creates the Maryland Green Purchasing Committee, which is charged with drafting a strategy to increase environmentally preferable purchasing as well as a best practices manual for such purchasing. The committee is specifically directed to look into smart meters, the reduction of operating times for HVAC systems in State buildings, increased energy efficiency from new computer servers and data storage centers, and the purchase of food containers made of preferred materials. The Committee will have to report on its efforts annually to the General Assembly. Additionally, the bill mandates that recycled paper make up 90% of the paper purchased by the Department of General Services and directs that the State use compost for fertilizer "to the maximum extent practicable." You may have heard about this bill in the context of its proposed elimination of State purchase of polystyrene products, which ran into opposition from Solo Cup Co. That provision was eliminated from the bill as passed.
  • HB 1044 extends the requirements of the High Performance Building Act of 2008 to projects funded by the State's Community College Grant Program, under which the State pays for a percentage of new community college buildings and the local government pays for the rest. The High Performance Building Act provides that most new or renovated State buildings and new public school buildings are to be built to comply with the requirements of the LEED Silver rating or its equivalent. Most new construction on Maryland community college campuses will now also have to meet this LEED Silver or equivalent standard. Interestingly, on pages 3 and 4 of the Fiscal and Policy Note for this bill, the Department of Legislative Services surveys the cost premium for LEED compliance for completed State-built LEED-compliant buildings and estimates that new community college projects will see a two percent construction cost increase resulting from the LEED mandate. HB 1044 does not provide for additional state funding for these projects.
  • SB 224 bans homeowners' associations and condominium associations from enacting complete prohibitions on the use of clotheslines for clothes drying. While such associations may place reasonable restrictions on the placement, size and appearance of clotheslines, they can only do so after a public meeting. With this bill, Maryland joins a number of other states in passing so-called "right-to-dry" legislation. Clotheslines have in recent years experienced a resurgence in popularity as an energy-saving method of drying clothes. However, many HOA's and condo associations have enacted bylaws that ban clotheslines, which are often considered eyesores. Those bylaws will need to be revisited in light of SB 224.
  • HB 1062 permits Maryland counties and the City of Baltimore ("counties" for short) to create property tax credits for real property used for urban agriculture. The property subject to such tax credit must be between one-eighth of an acre and two acres in size, be used exclusively for agriculture, and lie in a Priority Funding Area. Counties are permitted to enact stricter requirements for the tax credit. Under Maryland's smart growth policy, Priority Funding Areas are those areas that Maryland state and local governments have designated for encouragement and support of economic development and new growth. These include the entire area inside the Washington and Baltimore Beltways and urban and dense suburban locations throughout the state. It is up to the counties to enact the credit, and they will take a revenue hit in so doing. Given the current economic climate, it is unclear how many counties will choose to create this tax credit in the near future, and how broad those programs will be.
  • HB 1112 permits Carroll County to alter its existing green building tax credit program by extending it to residential buildings. It is likely the county will elect to use this new authorization to provide tax credits for green residential building, as the bill was sponsored by the Carroll County Delegation. Carroll County's existing green building tax credit program was analyzed in this 2009 article for the Green Building and Sustainability Newsletter.

To date, Governor O'Malley has not signed any of the bills listed above. Maryland's Governors typically extend bill signings for several weeks after the close of the legislative session.