Frederick County Council members expressed mixed feelings regarding proposed legislation that would ban the intentional release of balloons Tuesday.

Councilman Kai Hagen (D), the sponsor of the bill, said it was inspired, in part, by the Queen Anne’s County Board of County Commissioners passing a similar ban in a 5-0 vote in August.

In an interview before Tuesday’s meeting, Hagen said the legislation is designed to reduce mass balloon releases seen at large gatherings.

According to this proposal, up to a $250 fine could be assessed against anybody who “knowingly and intentionally” releases or organizes the releases of any balloons unless they are biodegradable and photodegradable. Hagen said at Tuesday’s meeting that he is considering removing “biodegradable” from the bill.

“This legislation is not designed to have anything to do with inadvertent releases of one or two or three balloons at a birthday party or the fair,” Hagen said.

The bill also provides exceptions for government agencies that release balloons for scientific or weather-related purposes.

While Hagen said he understands some people might think his proposal addresses a small problem and would be difficult to enforce, he emphasized that plastics, including those from balloons, pollute the air and are bad for the environment.

“If I were to walking down the street or driving my car or having a party in a park, or anything else, it would be against the law for me to litter thousands of pieces of plastic in the park, along the road, anywhere, and I wouldn’t be considered a good citizen for doing it,” Hagen said. “And yet somehow, if you send it up first, [and] distribute your litter across forests and farms and communities throughout Frederick County and beyond, it’s OK? ...

“I would just ask those people, why is it OK to litter up instead of down?”

Some council members, however, questioned the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting. Councilman Steve McKay (R) said it gave him “great heartache” to consider adding another county law that would be difficult to enforce.

Council Vice President Michael Blue (R) shared that view. Blue said he appreciated Hagen’s introducing the proposal, but would rather see more awareness of the issue than another law.

“I would rather see you educate than legislate,” Blue told Hagen.

Hagen said multiple times in the discussion the law’s main goal was to discourage mass balloon releases from schools, sports teams, and other businesses and organizations. At one point, McKay suggested drafting more specific language related to mass balloon releases.

Some seemed supportive, including Councilman Jerry Donald (D) — who asked if Hagen’s proposal was, in part, to raise awareness. Hagen said it was.

Councilman Phil Dacey (R) said his only objection was removing “biodegradable” but later added he would be open to voting “yes” if “photodegradable” were left in, which Hagen said he would research.

Hagen said even though it might be difficult to enforce, the law itself would deter pollution due to mass balloon releases.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(37) comments


I miss Kirbie


How did this lightweight get elected?


CM Hagen is right on this one. I just wish he would have gone further. The better solution would have been to follow the Massachusetts law. Which does not allow balloons with "lighter than air gases." If they can not fly they can be picked up by the user.

A proposed Massachusetts law would ban the sales of balloons filled with gases like helium that environmentalists say, when released to the sky, pose serious and potentially fatal risks to wildlife.

The bill, “An Act Relative to Helium Balloons,” was filed earlier this year by state Rep. Sarah Peake, a Provincetown Democrat.

If passed, the proposal would ban “the sale, distribution, and release of any type of balloon, including but not limited to plastic, latex, or mylar, filled with any type of lighter-than-air gas, both for public or private use.”


Some people are really worried about the wrong things in life


Honestly, I thought they were already banned, and was surprised when I saw a few memorial balloon releases on TV. While I feel bad for those who lost a loved one and want to memorialize them, the deflated balloons have to come down somewhere, where they become litter for someone else to pick up, or get ingested by sea creatures.


I wonder if we can "educate" those poor stupid sea creatures so they won't eat the ballons that allegedly smart people release? I believe legislation is better than education in this case.


Anyone thinking about breast implants?




The motto of the early environmental movement was " Think globally, act locally." Certainly applies here. It is a recognized issue and one, with the Bay and Atlantic relatively close, we could address. For more info:


This is tantamount to swallowing an elephant and and choking on a gnat. Since the environment is of such great concern to Councilman Hagen, please let him address a real problem. How about solving--or even attempting to solve--the massive congestion problems that exists on 270 in and out of Frederick every day? Now that's a real problem!

Besides, any positive environmental affects realized from outlawing mass balloon releases would not equate to even one day's worth of aforementioned traffic related pollution in Frederick Co. Solving the traffic problems and their manifold negative environmental affects would be a significant accomplishment. But no--that's too hard.

Indeed, the tens of thousands of cars stuck in traffic on 270 southbound in the morning and northbound in the afternoon, day after day after day, for last twenty to thirty years have a far greater ongoing negative impact on the environment than a few hundred errant balloons floating across the sky.

So Councilman Hagen, if you really wanted to help the environment you'd take on real problems, not just the low hanging fruit of mass balloon releases.


It is an easy problem to solve that requires very little resources so the cost benefit could be even higher than dealing with the traffic which is caused by too many people having too many children.


I recommend researching the New Plastic Economy. The central points to harness plastics as a viable, and existing resource, while confronting harmful plastics are:

Eliminate - all problematic and unnecessary plastic items.

Innovate - to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

Circulate - all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.

In your research you will find the global conglomerates who are, and have been taking their role in plastic contamination seriously; while creating packaging, and consumption goods. You can see these minor, but profound changes in clothing labels, food packaging.

It is unfortunate that the democratic representative chose to use the word 'ban' - taking the next mental step to confiscation is ... simple given the field of democratic leadership today.

This use of words conceals the fine and focused work globally already afoot, and how Frederick's action can add to this real step towards the ever-cycling environmental economy. But lucky for all of us, our governor, and the democratic governor have announced their intended climate action strategy in the form of building new bridges, adding more highway lanes, and the priviledge to pay a toll to ensure fossil fuel economics.

Balloon just seem ...


"Councilman Phil Dacey (R) said his only objection was removing 'biodegradable' but later added he would be open to voting 'yes' if 'photodegradable' were left in, which Hagen said he would research." A definition of the difference would be helpful, I'd look it uo and post it myself except unfortunately after reading this article I am too numb and stupefied


The county council has nothing better to work on?


Great to see they are working tirelessly on the issues that are important to Frederick County.


The problem is not the balloons it is tree hugger Hagen who is the problem. All the liberals elected this guy but this is all he can come up with. This is more stupid then what Billy Shreve would come up with


Sooooo....if balloons are released how do you tell if they are biodegradable? Helicopter, Airplane, Drone, Hot Air Balloon....wait, that's not allowed. Seriously, I do think that the mass release of many balloons is detrimental to a lot of things. However, our County Council has many other important things to address. It's time they did it.


This idea is poor timing. Not a county priority.

We have MD route 75 north that lacks adequate signage alerting tractor trailers of a low bridge in Monrovia. On a weekly basis, tractor trailers are getting stuck under the bridge. And this has been happening for multiple years. Blocking traffic and draining county resources every time. And yes, for those commenters that live to debate - I realize 75 is a state Highway. But it effects the county.

Recently, there was a serious accident on I-70, both directions shut down. And while this was going on, there were two trucks stuck under the bridge in Monrovia.

Again, 75 north lacks adequate signage. It needs addressed. But somehow, balloons are more important??

I understand Kai’s hobby is being a tree hugger. So think about the fuel burned every time people are dispatched to the bridge in Monrovia to free the stuck trucks. Think about the fuel burned when traffic is stuck sitting there waiting for the trucks to be freed.


When is the last time a truck got stuck under the railroad bridge on 75. I have not read about one lately. Is the problem fixed?


As stated, in my above post - within the last 2 / 3 weeks. When the county was gridlocked.

I do not track the events. I only become aware of the events when I have 99.9 on the radio in the mornings, which is rare.

And again, southbound - the signage is more than adequate. Any southbound trucks getting stuck are idiots. It’s the northbound that’s the issue. The sign is last minute and there is no where to turn around once a driver encounters the sign. Poor planning. Lacks common sense.

Far more critical than.......BALLONS




Oh, thank God, "ballon, noun: lightness of movement that exaggerates the duration of a ballet dancer's jump - Merriam-Webster" I was ricocheting between issues for a moment there


Trucks are vaporizing now. Shhhhhh


Not sure if you’re being funny or argumentative!

All our trucks are pre-emissions. And flying out to AZ next week to bring home another pre emissions that we just acquired

Business Owner

I agree with you but Maryland Route 75 and Interstate 70 are maintained/managed by the Maryland Department of Transportation. You need to send your issues to the State Delegate and State Senator.


Little steps are necessary before big steps. I am amazed at how many naysayers immediately reject something because it does not solve an entire problem, and also those who throw their hands up and declare the the entire problem is too big anyway. What happened to our spirit of accomplishment?


Have you noticed an issue with balloons? I can't remember the last time I saw a balloon launch or the last time I saw a dead balloon on the ground. Cigarette butts, fast food trash, plastic bags, but not balloons.


Maybe Blaine is picking up dead balloons for his "Sparkle and Shine" mayoral campaign. Thanks Blaine!


that is because they don't land here - they follow the jet stream and largely end up in large waterways, usually oceans. Yes it is still done and should be forbidden like any other littering action. Litter is litter regardless of bio/photodegradable status. It should not be allowed.


I have come across dead balloons more than once while hunting.


What a joke. And people elected this guy.


Echo silly insignificant minutia. Dealing with significant issues is apparently above pay grade.


It’s already against the law. It’s called littering. For some reason the police choose not to enforce it


More decorative than banana peels yet share similar qualities


Let's not set to work on real problems, no...let's focus on silly insignificant minutia that only appeals to a sliver of the constituents. What a legacy!


I truly like Kai as a person and have voted for him ever since he first appeared on a ballot, but I'm concerned about where he's headed as a legislator and advocate. The people are frankly over-regulated. From what straw or grocery bag we use to the balloons we use to celebrate. None of this holds

corporations - who are guilty of environmental degradation - responsible. It only provides another "probable cause" excuse for law enforcers to sit outside of a Birthday party, funeral, community event, order to selectively enforce a law. I understand Kai's collective approach, I just disagree. Instead of easy wins against the individual, roll up your sleeves and take on the insidious corporations in our community and region. Joining the fight against Rockwool, for example, would do more to save our regional environment in a year than the ballon law would do in hundreds of years.


And when was the last time you didn't pass a pair of discarded underwear in a parking lot without picking them up yourself. I admit it, i'm guilty too

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