Maryland’s General Assembly adjourned sine die last night at midnight, marking the end of the 2013 Legislative Session. All three of the National Aquarium’s primary interests – capital funding, education funding, and a bill to ban the sale and trade of shark fins – were approved by the General Assembly and await Governor O’Malley’s signature. The shark fin bill even received an honorable mention as one of the “winners” of the 2013 session.
The National Aquarium would like to thank the members of the Maryland General Assembly — and particularly our representatives in District 46 — as well as Governor O'Malley and Lt. Governor Brown for their continuous support of our mission to inspire conservation of the world's aquatic treasures.
Here's an overview of our legislative activities over the past three months:
National Aquarium receives $5 million in capital funding for new exhibit
The National Aquarium’s request for $5 million in capital funding was approved by both chambers on April 8th. The grant has been earmarked to fund capital infrastructure improvements including the development of a new interactive Atlantic shorelines exhibit.
Education funding for National Aquarium to admit Maryland school children increased by $154,000
The Governor included an additional $2 million in the State Aided Education Institutions (SAI) Funding budget and the increase was split evenly among the SAI institutions (others include the Science Center, Port Discovery, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation). Despite recommendations to limit the funding increase to all SAI organizations with the exception of one institution, both the House and Senate fully funded the SAI budget at the Governor’s request. We will receive an additional $150,000 ($474,601 in total) in FY2014 to help bring Maryland students to the Aquarium.
General Assembly passes bill to prohibit the sale and trade of shark fins
The National Aquarium’s primary conservation issue – a bill to ban the sale and trade of shark fins in order to curb the killing of nearly 100 million sharks a year – passed both chambers. The Maryland House of Delegates passed HB 1148, introduced by Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery County, by a vote of 119-15 in March and the Senate passed similar legislation – SB 592 introduced by Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery County – by a margin of 41-6 on April 4. Both bills passed with bi-partisan support, with final votes in the opposite chambers occurring before the General Assembly adjourned at midnight on Monday. The legislation now moves to Governor O’Malley for his signature.
If adopted, Maryland will become the first state on the East Coast and the sixth state in the nation to pass a law providing critical protection to sharks, and, therefore, supporting the health of the world’s ocean ecosystem. Other states that have laws in place are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington – as well as all three U.S. Pacific territories of Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands.
Read more about the issue here.