SB 481 — Environment - Drinking Water Outlets in School Buildings - Elevated Level of Lead and Grant Program

Committee: Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs


Position: SUPPORT W/AMENDMENTS

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT WITH AMENDMENTS with regard to Senate Bill 481. The Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, including the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders. We offer this testimony on behalf of the families of more than 50,000 students served by over 150 PreK-12 Catholic schools in Maryland.

Senate Bill 481 would authorize grants to local school systems to assist with remedial costs for required lead testing pertinent to drinking water. Since Catholic and other nonpublic schools have also been mandated to test on the same schedule and in the same manner as local school systems, the grant funding for remedial costs should extend to nonpublic schools.

In 2017, the General Assembly passed a bill (2017 HB270) requiring lead testing of all water outlets in public and nonpublic schools. While we applaud the ends, the means resulted in an unfunded mandate on all public and nonpublic schools.

Our Catholic schools worked closely with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in conjunction with our public school counterparts to help develop regulations with regard to the aforementioned requirements. At the same time as our public schools, hundreds of Catholic and other nonpublic schools complied and tested their water outlets for the presence of lead, many at considerable expense.

Catholic schools regularly test for lead in their water systems, and did so long prior to any state mandate. We feel it is necessary to keep children safe from the dangers of lead. However, the change in testing schedule and newly mandated procedures that resulted from the 2017 legislation resulted in dozens of schools having to complete duplicate testing and incur significant costs in doing so.

Our schools will comply with all requisite testing, but it is grossly unfair for the state to reimburse only the local school systems for this mandate without allowing Catholic and other nonpublic schools to participate in the grant program for remedial costs. For these reasons, we urge this committee to adopt the attached amendments to SB 481.

Amendment One:

Page 2, line 20: after “LOCAL SCHOOL SYSTEMS”, insert “AND
NONPUBLIC SCHOOLS”

Page 3, line 3: after “LOCAL SCHOOL SYSTEMS”, insert “AND
NONPUBLIC SCHOOLS”

Page 3, line 6: after “LOCAL SCHOOL SYSTEMS”, insert “AND
NONPUBLIC SCHOOLS”