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Releasing balloons could cost you a $250 fine in Maryland

Lawmakers in one Maryland county want the practice of intentionally releasing balloons into the atmosphere to float away...for good.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — While many cities and towns across the United States are banning plastic products such as straws and bags, a new law proposed in Maryland will regulate the intentional release of balloons.

Under a bill sponsored by Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Howard and Baltimore counties, this new bill would draw a fine of $250; legislation that is similar to a Queen Anne's County law.

The bill, which will be considered during Maryland's next legislative session, will ban the intentional release or the organizing of intentional release of balloons into the atmosphere. 

Lam said he hopes that the bills will do two things: reduce the amount of waste ending up in the environment and will raise the awareness of the need to properly dispose of balloons.

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"I introduced this bill in response to repeated reports of released balloons landing in the Chesapeake Bay, washing up on our beaches, and harming marine life and farm animals; which were brought to my attention by similar legislation proposed in Queen Anne’s County by Commissioner Chris Corchiarino," Lam said.

The bill, according to Lam, will, however, have exemptions for both research and meteorological purposes. Additionally, the bill also has an exemption for the negligent or unintentional release of a balloon; which will prevent and protect children who let go of their balloon accidentally from being fined. 

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"Because released balloons can travel many miles, it is important that the efforts of local jurisdictions to ban balloon releases are supported by a statewide ban," Lam said. "The goal of this ban is to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the environment, protect rural farmers and their livestock, and to raise awareness of the need to properly dispose of balloons."

Lam said this is a bipartisan issue and has support from two Republican state senators representing the Eastern Shore.

"I think it’s a reflection of the fact that there is broad awareness of how these seemingly benign symbolic measures have real consequences for our environment, businesses, and farmers," Lam said.

The bill will be considered during the next legislative session, which begins on Jan. 8, 2020. If the bill becomes a law, it will go into effect on Oct.1, 2020.

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