**Friday 4/6/18 SB 1098 passed second reader. This time including an amendment to protect renters. However, Food & Water Watch remains in opposition due to inclusion of the amendment requiring the Department of Public Works to hire an outside contractor to study their billing system and failure to protect places of worship.
Legislation to protect Baltimoreans from tax lien sales on unpaid water bills was meant to prevent Baltimore City from taking residents’ homes and churches due to unaffordable and incorrect water bills. But today, Senator Joan Carter Conway and the Baltimore City senate delegation, betrayed city renters and pastors by introducing amendments that exclude protections related to water bills for anyone who is not a homeowner.
After the groundbreaking Water Taxpayer Protection Act passed unanimously in the House, it is shameful that the Senate bill has been wiped of real protections for Baltimore’s churches and its residents. Though SB 1098 originally intended to combat unfair tax lien practices, the bill passed through committee today as a stripped down version that only provides a two-year moratorium on tax sales of water-only liens for homeowner-occupied properties. Worse yet, new language in the bill requires the Department of Public Works to hire an outside firm to study the water system that could mean a foot in the door to companies like Suez and Veolia actively seeking destructive water privatization schemes in the City.
It remains unclear why the Del. Mary Washington's original bill, which has garnered widespread public support from Baltimore residents and churches, failed to even make it to a vote in the Senate. Food & Water Watch does not support these last minute changes to the Senate bill and urges legislators to pass a floor amendment preserving the original content of this bill.