ANNAPOLIS — It’s early, as General Assembly sessions go, but Del. Jay Jacobs, R-36-Kent, has focused his energies on protecting the watermen working the upper Chesapeake Bay.
He said the new catch-limiting system for fishermen, called ITQ for “individual transferable quota,” is unworkable.
“Pretty much all of the industry hates it,” Jacobs said.
The new quota system is based around a 10-year average catch for each commercial fishing license. The licenses are divided among the various kinds of fishery, such as gill netting and pound netting.
Jacobs said watermen have told him the new limits are about half of what they were last year. In one case, he said, “one guy started up last year, and he caught 12,000 pounds. His allocation now is 976 pounds.”
“Now, 10,000 pounds (permitted) is a high number. If you catch 10,000 pounds at $4 a pound, the total is $40,000 for six months’ work. That’s your gross.” Most fishermen would gross less money. He said the system has a disproportionate effect on watermen in the upper Chesapeake, where the only options are to fish for rockfish and catch crabs.
He’s one of 38 co-sponsors on a bill to repeal stormwater control funding requirements enacted for 10 counties and popularly known as the “rain tax.”
He is a co-sponsor for House Bill 177, which would modernize public access to their legislature. The bill says the General Assembly “shall make available to the public live and archived video streaming of each meeting of the Senate, the House, and a standing committee, including any hearings or voting sessions held by a standing committee.”
Jacobs supports a Maryland Farm Bureau request for a bill to expand the radius for farm vehicle tags from 10 miles to 25 miles.
“If you’re farming near Rock Hall and you take the grain to Lynch, technically, you’re in violation. It’s a problem in Kent County and in southern Maryland,” said Jacobs.
Each year, legislators file local bills at the request of towns or counties.
HB226 would allow the Kent County Commissioners, in their role as the Board of License Commissioners, “to issue a beer or wine tasting license to the holder of specified alcoholic beverages licenses; providing that the license authorizes, for tasting purposes only, the on-premises consumption of specified beer or wine.”
It moves businesses such as local craft breweries and wineries forward. The hearing by the Economic Matters committee is at 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17.
Another, HB242, will authorize a juvenile court “Truancy Reduction Pilot Program” in Kent County. It was to be heard by the House Judiciary committee Thursday, Jan. 30.
Jacobs said he is drafting a new bill to reopen the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center in Chestertown. He hasn’t abandoned hope.
“It may or may not be filed,” he said. “We’re trying to work out some fiscal issues. The whole idea is to try and reopen it. There were 94 jobs lost there” when it was closed by the state in 2010, said Jacobs.
He referred to a two-year-old study indicating a shortage of 280 beds in state mental health facilities. Reopening Upper Shore would bring back 40 beds.
HB145/SB145 is a fisheries management bill that Jacobs said will give the Department of Natural Resources too much power.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee on Jan. 28 and the House Environmental Matters Committee on Jan. 29.
He said the sponsors say it simply reflects what the DNR already does, but “it’s not just commercial (fishing), it would be recreational, too. They’re trying to push it off as something they already do. But the possibilities are endless about what they could do.”
The DNR could regulate fisheries by publishing a public notice for 48 hours. “That’s got the watermen fired up, it takes the legislative process out of it,” Jacobs said.
According to the bill, the notices could “open, close, set or modify a fishing season; modify or restrict a harvestable area” or set “permissible harvest times and days; a catch limit or target harvest amount; an allocation or a quota; a size limit; or reporting requirements.”
Jacobs takes a glass-half-empty view. “I don’t think watermen would get more, they’ll just restrict them more,” he said.
It removes the legislature’s role in reviewing proposed regulations, Jacobs said. The oversight is carried out by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review. According to the Maryland Manual Online, “Copies of all regulations ... are received by the (AELR). Unless submitted to the Committee, certain regulations or standards may be invalid (Code State Government Article, secs. 10-101 through 10-139).”