SALISBURY – Officials in Wicomico voted unanimously this week to pass legislation banning the intentional release of helium balloons.
On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council voted 7-0 to pass legislation prohibiting the intentional release of non-biodegradable or non-photodegradable balloons into the atmosphere and making any intentional release subject to a civil infraction.
Since County Executive Bob Culver submitted the proposed legislation in September, the council has met with representatives spearheading efforts to implement balloon release bans in counties across the state. And in November, the county council introduced a bill amending the county code to include its own ban.
In a public hearing this week, Kerrie Bunting, a concerned citizen and executive director of the Ocean Pines Chamber of Commerce, thanked the county executive and the county council for considering local legislation. She noted the bill compliments efforts to introduce similar legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session in Annapolis.
“The question was asked last time, ‘Why should individual counties be concerned if it’s going to be brought up at the state level?’” she said. “The point is we don’t know if it’s going to go through at the state level. So if individual counties move to pass legislation it almost forces the state.”
So far, Queen Anne’s County has passed legislation banning the intentional release of Mylar and plastic balloons. But Bunting said other counties are following suit.
“I do believe Montgomery County is moving toward it, and I’m trying to push Worcester County,” she said. “But Wicomico definitely is further than any other in that process at the moment.”
In Wicomico County, the legislation would not apply to any balloons released by or on behalf of any state or federal agency for scientific or meteorological purposes, hot air balloons that are recovered after launch, or the negligent or unintentional release of any balloons.
The council on Tuesday also amended language in the bill to defer to any state legislation that may be enacted.
“It’s really a technical suggestion,” Council Attorney Bob Taylor said. “It doesn’t change the idea of the language that’s in there now.”
With no further discussion, the council voted unanimously to pass the legislation as amended.