Maryland House, Senate pass bills banning balloon releases

Bills that aim to protect the environment by banning the intentional release of balloons into the air in Maryland have passed in both chambers of the General Assembly.

The House approved a bill on Thursday, 92-47, that would create a statewide ban on intentional balloon release. Last week, the state Senate approved a similar measure, 38-3.

But before the House vote, several opponents spoke out, including Republican Del. Haven Shoemaker, who represents Carroll County.

“Unless the sponsor has GPS tracking data that shows these balloons are emanating from Carroll County, leave us alone up there,” Shoemaker said.

Democratic Sen. Clarence K. Lam, who represents areas of Baltimore and Howard counties, is the Senate bill’s sponsor. He told Maryland Matters he hopes the bill reduces the amount of waste that ends up in the environment and raises awareness of the need to properly dispose of balloons.

Another Republican lawmaker, Del. Robin Grammer, who represents Baltimore County, wanted to know how the law will be enforced.

“How are we going to enforce a law that prohibits someone from releasing something that’s less than one-tenth of one ounce?” Grammer said.

Under both Senate and House bills, ‌the‌ ‌Maryland‌ ‌Department‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌Environment‌, ‌as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌local‌ ‌law‌ ‌enforcement agencies, would be responsible for enforcement.

Violators who are at least 13 years old could face a fine of up to $250.

Supporters of the bills said intentional balloon releases causes harm to animals and are detrimental to the environment.

Bans on intentionally releasing balloons are already in place in Queen Anne’s and Wicomico counties, as well as the Town of Ocean City.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report.

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