Posts Tagged 'government affairs'

Government Affairs Update: 90 Days in Annapolis

government affairs and policy update

The Maryland General Assembly was gaveled into its 434th session today at noon in Annapolis.

maryland shark fin bill

Hot topics in this election year session include raising the minimum wage, expanding pre-kindergarten programs, and revisiting Maryland’s stormwater law. You can read more previews of the 2014 legislative session in the Washington Post’s 10 Things to Watch list, the Baltimore Sun’s 8 People to Watch list, or see what our partners at Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Maryland League of Conservation Voters will be working on over the next 90 days.

As part of the National Aquarium’s mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, our Government Affairs team is committed to helping shape conservation and environmental policy at the local, state, and federal levels and engaging our community every step of the way. Weekly Legislative Updates, along with our blog and social presence, will serve to communicate the Aquarium’s legislative activities during the 90-day session. You can read the Aquarium’s 2013 End of Session Report recapping last year’s work in Annapolis.

While the list of Senate and House pre-filed bills are available for viewing, the bulk of the 3,000 pieces of legislation predicted to be introduced this session will be filed in the coming weeks. The Aquarium’s legislative agenda will evolve as the session progresses and bills are introduced. Stay tuned for updates on our policy priorities, the status of the Aquarium’s Capital Budget request and education funding, and ways you can get involved.

For more information on how the National Aquarium is living its mission in our home state, visit

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our legislative update emails and follow me on Twitter for real-time updates from Annapolis throughout session!

Want to know who represents you? Find your legislator here.



Looking Forward to 2014!

Before we get too far into this exciting new year, we’d like to first take a moment to thank our amazing online community for their support and love in 2013!

national aquarium thanks you

Together, we were able to accomplish some pretty amazing things this past year and we’re excited to see just what 2014 has in store for us.

Here’s what some our experts are looking forward to in the New Year:

Jenn Dittmar, Manager of National Aquarium Animal Rescue

I’m looking forward to continuing to rehab our current cold-stun patients and coordinating their releases later this year.

national aquarium kemps ridley turtle

I’m also looking forward to hosting the annual dolphin count and coordinating exciting upgrades to our seal rehabilitation facility!

Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

I’m really looking forward to a busy field season in 2014.  We have projects scheduled from New York to Virginia and I always look forward to winter ending so we can start restoring habitats again.

Masonville Cove

This year, I’m also excited about the opportunity to host the National Wildlife Federation and our other state affiliate partners for NWF’s Annual Meeting.  Conservation partners from across the country will be joining us in Baltimore in May and I can’t wait to show off our wonderful Aquarium and our local field projects!

Jack Cover, General Curator

In 2014, I’m looking forward to finding new ways to use our exhibits and animals to raise awareness of the diversity of life that can be found in a healthy beach ecosystem.

longsnout seahorse

Every shell found on a beach has a story to tell and I hope to share many of these stories with you all in the New Year!

Sarah Elfreth, Government Affairs

I’m thankful for the Aquarium community’s support in helping Maryland become the first state on the East Coast to ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins.

maryland shark fin bill

I’m excited to work on other policy issues aimed at protecting aquatic life in 2014!

Holly Bourbon, Curator of Fishes

My team will be focused on so many exciting things in the New Year. Chief among them are our brand-new exhibit, Blacktip Reef, and the settling of animals from our closed Washington, DC venue into their new homes here in Baltimore.

national aquarium loggerhead turtle

One animal from DC, a loggerhead named Brownie, is particularly exciting for us. Brownie is part of the Loggerhead Head Start program, which gives sea turtle hatchlings a head start at a great life . In 2014, I hope to see him reach a releasable size!

Leigh Clayton, Director of Animal Health

2014 is already shaping up to be a very busy and exciting year for me.

In just a few short weeks, I’m be in Orlando, Florida lecturing at the North American Veterinary Conference, one of the largest vet conferences in the US. My lectures will mostly focus on reptiles, covering everything from insectivore nutrition to oral disease.

I’m looking forward to seeing a paper written by one of our prior interns, Dr. Kathy Tuxbur, published in the Diseases of Aquatic Organisms journal. A lot of Kathy’s work with us as an intern focused on horseshoe crabs and the carapace lesions and branchitis that can sometimes present in the species.

national aquarium baby sloth scout

Lastly, I’m looking forward to seeing our newest baby sloth, Scout, continue to grow and mature!

Heather Doggett, Director of Visitor Programs and Staff Training

I am excited to spend more time with my family outdoors, enjoying nature and doing some new citizen science activities with my four-year-old.

local wildlife

I’m hoping to take more hikes in 2014 and record what we find!

What are you looking forward to this year? Tell us in the comments section! 

More Fish, Less Clams: Affordable Access to National Aquarium

government affairs and policy update

I am sure I speak for other Aquarium staff when I say that one of the most fulfilling aspects of our jobs, especially after a rough day, is to live vicariously through our visitors – witness their anticipation as they enter the Aquarium beneath a 35-foot replica of a Maryland waterfall, experience their enthusiasm as they see our new Blacktip Reef exhibit, hear all about the dolphins or sharks from the excited (and excitable) children in the parking garage elevator.

amazing jellies

The Aquarium experience is made even more inclusive as the weather gets colder and the crowds filling the Inner Harbor get smaller. The coming of autumn signals my favorite time of the year – affordable access season at National Aquarium.

Despite our “national” designation, we are still very much Baltimore’s Aquarium. To celebrate our local roots and to give back to the community that has given us so much, the Aquarium is proud to host a number of programs that allow locals to visit their Aquarium for less:

  • Fridays After Five has been a cornerstone of the National Aquarium for decades in the fall and winter as college students visit for the first time, families from around the Baltimore region come back to see what’s new and couples on first dates share a romantic stroll through the world’s aquatic treasures. Visitors pay just $12 on Friday evenings between September and March.
  • Launched last fall, Maryland Mornings provides Maryland residents with $10 off for adults and $5 off for children from September through February, Sunday through Friday, with entrance before noon – all with just a valid proof of state residency.
  • Annual Dollar Days (the first weekend of December) provide access to our more than 17,000 animals for – you guessed it – $1.

So brave the brisk weather, be a tourist in your own backyard and take advantage of these terrific programs. Bring a date, bring a friend, bring the entire family – just don’t forget your driver’s license!


Government Affairs Update: My One Year Aqua-versary

government affairs and policy update

This week marked the one year anniversary of my joining the National Aquarium as Government Affairs Manager. It has been an incredibly rewarding rookie year full of challenges, growth, and no shortage of animal encounters. I am undoubtedly most thankful for (apart from being able to hold not one but two baby sea turtles) the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to meet, work with, and learn from here at the Aquarium, in the environmental community, and in the halls of Annapolis.

Now that I’ve officially gotten my feet wet, been in over my head, dived right in, and whatever other cliché, Aquarium-related pun I’ve heard upon telling people where I work, I thought it would be best to reflect on the past year and exactly what I’ve learned. This year has taught me:

  1. Collaboration is key. Whether it is internal or external, government affairs simply would not be successful without a little help from friends. From our amazing Guest Services and Biological Programs staff who facilitate unforgettable tours for public officials to every member of the Marketing team who helps communicate the Aquarium’s advocacy work, I would be lost without the entirety of the National Aquarium team. Our work with other environmental groups in the region, such as Blue Water Baltimore, Trash Free Maryland, and the Choose Clean Water Coalition, just to name a few, ensures that we stay up to date with the latest conservation issues and guarantees that we all have a stronger advocacy voice.
  2. Know your strengths. Maryland, Baltimore, and the entire Chesapeake region are brimming with phenomenal environmental groups that are doing great things to protect our natural resources – but the National Aquarium is one of a kind. We have the opportunity to physically reach 1.4 million visitors annually with our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. Because we are a truly national attraction, the National Aquarium has a $314 million annual economic impact and $18 million fiscal impact on the State of Maryland and Baltimore City that helps boost the local economy. Communicating these unique strengths – and using them for the public good – is at the heart of everything we do. Oh, and did I mention we have dolphins?

    Chesapeake "photobombing" a nice family moment for Maryland Delegate Eric Luedtke.

    Chesapeake “photobombing” a nice family moment for Maryland Delegate Eric Luedtke.

  3. You are never finished telling your story. I probably say the words “well when you have a 32-year old building, sitting on a pier, full of a corrosive material…” about five times a week in order to describe the Aquarium’s very serious capital challenges and subsequent needs. Or, “did you know that more than 75,000 Maryland schoolchildren, teachers, and chaperones visit the Aquarium for free every year?” when discussing the Aquarium’s education priorities. In reality, the life of a government affairs professional is not wholly unlike the film “Thank You for Smoking.” I talk. A lot. Only instead of tobacco, I talk about economic impact, tourism, and sharks.
  4. “Think globally, act locally.” As the National Aquarium, we have an obligation to communicate the importance of the world’s aquatic treasures. But sometimes, especially when working on issues in Baltimore City and Maryland politics, communicating the importance of local treasures such as Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Chesapeake Bay, and Maryland’s coastline is the start of a larger conversation. For example, what we do to help save the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States and the economic lifeblood of the region, can serve as a case study for similar efforts in Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, or the Mississippi Delta. Similarly, the National Aquarium’s efforts to help pass the shark fin ban bill in Maryland will not only help the sharks off our own coast but will (and has already) inspire others to pass similar legislation.
  5. Stay true to your mission. Above all else, I have learned that the National Aquarium is a private, nonprofit conservation organization with a strong commitment to our community. While giving a tour this morning, one of our talented team members greeted the guests by saying, “Welcome to your Aquarium.” His statement made me pause and consider the brief but powerful message. The original Pier 3 building was constructed using taxpayer funding and the State of Maryland and Baltimore City occasionally supplement a portion of our capital costs. 1.4 million guests and 75,000 Maryland school children, teachers, and chaperones walk through our doors every year (see, I told you I say it a lot). Our conservation work around the state ensures that we practice what we preach on a daily basis. Our advocacy work in the halls of Baltimore’s City Hall, the Maryland State House, and Capitol Hill gives a voice to critical conservation efforts. And our access programs, from Fridays After Five to Maryland Mornings, help ensure that it remains your Aquarium.

It has been a wonderful year – and I’ve only just gotten my feet wet.


A Blue View: The Environment Up Close at the 2013 Maryland General Assembly

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

January 15, 2013: The Start of the Maryland General Assembly

Listen to John discuss the important environmental legislation that will be debated during this session of the Maryland General Assembly. *

The 433rd legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly opened on January 9, and with it, several environmental issues that will shape the future of life in Maryland are being debated.

Issues like shark finning, plastic consumption, hydraulic fracturing and wind energy affect the people of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed every day, and the quality of life in our state going forward.

Our government affairs team will be hard at work in Annapolis this year to advocate on behalf of these environmental initiatives.

Want to stay up to date on National Aquarium’s legislative efforts?  CLICK HERE to sign up for e-mail updates!

*Editor’s note: The audio and script for this week’s A Blue View incorrectly referred to 2013’s legislative session as the 429th. It is the 433rd.

Maryland Legislators Announce Recycle for Real Bill

National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli with Sen. Bill Ferguson, Del. Maggie McIntosh and Del. John A. Olszewski after their announcement of Recycle for Real.

National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli with Sen. Bill Ferguson, Del. Maggie McIntosh, and Del. John A. Olszewski after their announcement of Recycle for Real.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, Delegate John Olszewski, and Senator Bill Ferguson today announced Recycle For Real™, a legislative initiative to boost Maryland’s recycling rates. The bill aims to create a “fully refundable 5-cent beverage container deposit that will provide a financial incentive for Marylanders to redeem and reuse the billions of beverage containers sold in the state each year,” according to the press release.

Revenue from unredeemed beverage containers would go to benefit statewide environmental programs as well as recycling programs in Maryland counties and Baltimore City.

Maryland’s recycling rate is currently a dismal 22 percent – the majority of the approximately four billion beverage containers used every year find their way into Maryland’s landfills, highways, the Inner Harbor, and all around the Chesapeake Bay.

Plastic pollution has gotten out of hand in our local waters! Photo via Chesapeake Bay Program

Plastic pollution has gotten out of hand in our local waters! Photo via Chesapeake Bay Program

If passed by the Maryland General Assembly, Recycle For Real™ has the potential to increase the state’s beverage container recycling rate to 75 percent. Maryland would join 10 other states currently operating deposit programs and have an average recycling rate of 76 percent.

National Aquarium’s Government Affairs team will be working with the sponsors of Recycle For Real™ and other conservation groups over the next few months in Annapolis to make sure this initiative is successful.

Want to stay up to date about the container deposit bill and other National Aquarium conservation priorities?  CLICK HERE to sign up for legislative updates!

Stay tuned for more updates on Recycle for Real™ and other important local conservation initiatives. 

Gearing Up for a Busy Legislative Session in Maryland!

national aquarium flags

Today at noon, Maryland’s lawmakers will gather for the 433rd session in the state’s history to deliberate on an estimated 2,500 bills (ranging from education funding to what to name the official state sandwich!).

For the next 90 days, these lawmakers will debate and pass legislation that will affect not only Maryland’s waterways but the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the sustainability of the world’s oceans. As part of National Aquarium’s mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, our Government Affairs team is committed to shaping conservation and environmental policy at the local, state and federal levels.

National Aquarium’s Government Affairs team will be fighting for the following conservation priorities at the State level:

  • Shark Fin Bill: Legislation that would make Maryland the first East Coast state to ban the possession, sale and trade of shark fins in order to provide critical protection to endangered shark populations;
  • Plastic Bag Bill: Legislation to curb the use of plastic bags, similar to laws passed in Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County;
  • Container Deposit Bill: Legislation to incentivize the recycling of beverage containers that would increase recycling rates from (a dismal) 25 percent to 75 percent or more.

Want to stay informed? The National Aquarium Government Affairs team will be sending regular legislative updates on these conservation policy priorities and ways you can get involved throughout the session!

CLICK HERE to sign up for legislative updates!
For more information on how the National Aquarium is living its mission in Maryland, visit

Want to know who represents you? Find your legislator here.

We will also be bringing you periodic legislative updates on our WATERblog! In addition to pushing for these top conservation priorities, there are numerous bills being discussed that impact our community and environment. Is there an issue you’re passionate about this session? Join the conservation on Twitter and/or Facebook and let us know!

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