ANNAPOLIS — Some Frederick County lawmakers are again advocating for a proposal that would require labs housing dangerous substances to report to the Maryland Department of Health.
House Bill 655 and Senate Bill 392 are similar versions of legislation that has passed the House for three years in a row. The bill, however, has stalled in the Senate Finance Committee in previous years.
If passed into law this year, the Maryland Department of Health would have to develop a form to collect the addresses of biosafety level 3 labs, along with contact information for a point person at the facility.
That category of laboratory is one that contains dangerous infectious diseases such as hantavirus, Western equine encephalitis virus and others. Fort Detrick in Frederick contains biosafety level 3 laboratories, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Private labs currently do not need to report their location to the government and are currently “self policing,” according to analysis from the Department of Legislative Services. Attempts to survey the labs have been unsuccessful, it added.
The idea behind the law, House sponsor Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D-District 3A) said, is to help emergency responders know what they’re dealing with when responding to the locations. She briefly presented the bill to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. Sen. Ron Young (D-District 3) is the Senate sponsor; the committee did not act on his bill after a hearing on Feb. 8.
The proposal sets a $100 fine for the first time a biosafety level 3 lab fails to report. That increases to $500 for each subsequent offense.
If the bill were to become law this year, the Department of Legislative Services anticipates that it would cost the state $39,300 in fiscal 2019 and $10,800 in fiscal 2020 to hire contractual staff to manage the work required by the measure.