2023 Legislative Update

2023 Legislative Update

Updates from the 90-day Legislative Session

Over 2,000 bills were introduced over the course of the 90-day legislative session—a busy year for a legislature with over 50 new members and a brand-new gubernatorial administration. We started the session off strong, introducing ourselves to new legislators and refamiliarizing ourselves with our legislative allies from previous sessions. This effort did not go unnoticed, as many members of the House Health and Government Operations Committee were aware of our presence and requested our input on bills dealing with animal welfare and veterinary services.

SB390/HB325 – Provisions of Veterinary Services

As introduced, SB390/HB325 would have authorized out of state veterinarians to practice veterinary medicine in Maryland. Once authorized, out of state veterinarians could perform spays/neuters, provide health examinations, complete health certificates, and administer vaccinations. As originally written, the bill would have also allowed any individual working at a veterinary hospital or animal shelter to administer a rabies vaccine. The MDVMA recognized the dangers of this bill, and thus worked swiftly and diligently to ensure that this unacceptable legislation was fixed. After testifying in front of the House Health and Government Operations Committee and the Senate Energy, Education and the Environment Committee, our concerns were heard, and we geared up to alter the bill. We advocated tirelessly to amend this legislation so veterinarians could uphold their oath to animal welfare and public health. After negotiations, the bill was amended so that the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners could establish a process for expedited licensure of out of state veterinarians. The ability for out-of-state veterinarians to spay/neuter, provide health exams, and administer vaccines was struck from the bill. Additionally, registered veterinary technicians or clinical staff can administer rabies vaccines so long as the veterinary practitioner signing off on the certificate has ensured the individual administering the vaccine was appropriately trained. That individual also must be identified on the rabies vaccine certificate. The MD Board of Veterinary Examiners feels comfortable with this version, and thus, we offered our support on the amended version of SB390/HB325. This bill passed both the House and Senate and is headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

HB1227 – Veterinarians as Dispensers

This bill was introduced at the request of the Maryland Department of Health to include veterinarians as ‘dispensers’ in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Any veterinarian that dispensed controlled substances Schedule II-IV would have to report dispenses daily. That includes reporting ‘0’ dispenses. The Department feels that this bill is ‘closing a loophole’, as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program calls for all controlled substances to be reported, however, veterinarians were not included. There was a lot of concern from veterinarians around the State about how this would affect their day-to-day operations. We met with people from the PDMP and MDH on several occasions in hopes of finding compromise on a bill. During the hearing, the Chairwoman of the House Health and Government Operations Committee made it clear that she wanted consensus from all stakeholders on this bill. This bill did not make it out of committee before the legislative session ended, so we are continuing to work in the interim. MDH is aware of our asks—which include a lifetime exemption for veterinarians who do not dispense any drugs and an exemption for dispenses of 3 days or less. Additionally, we are working to amend the requirement to require zero-day reporting from veterinarians. We are working hard to help ensure veterinarians in Maryland protect the health of the public by mitigating diversion of dangerous substances while ensuring that our role in doing so does not result in expensive and deleterious reporting requirements for veterinarians. MDH and the PDMP seem receptive to working with us and we will continue the dialog. This issue will not be going away and will be reintroduced in the 2024 session, and it will be critical that members offer their input on this legislation when requested.