Starting Oct. 1, various laws will go into effect in Maryland, including laws to deter drunken driving, increase police accountability and public safety, promote workers’ rights, establish opioid addiction outreach programs and protect the freedom of the press.
COURTS & CIVIL PROCEEDINGS
Children in Need of Assistance, Guardianship, Adoption, Custody, and Visitation -- Blindness of Parent/Guardian (SB765): In cases with disabled parents, disabilities, including blindness, cannot discredit the parent unless proven that the disability is not in the best interest of the child.
Divorce-Corroboration of Testimony (SB359, HB274): Reversing previous laws, this allows courts to enter decrees of divorce on behalf of one spouse without the agreement of the other. It also establishes that a separation agreement is no longer sufficient to show both spouses want an absolute divorce.
Testimony by Perjurer (SB150, HB237): People who have been convicted of perjuring themselves, or lying under oath, will no longer be prohibited from testifying in court.
--By Sam Reilly
CRIMES, CORRECTIONS & PUBLIC SAFETY
Providing Alcohol to Underage Drinkers/Alex and Calvin’s Law (HB409): Following the death of Alex Murk and Calvin Li in a 2015 drunken-driving accident after a party, this law prohibits a person from allowing underage individuals to consume alcohol if they should have known that individual would drive under the influence.
Justice Reinvestment Act (SB1005): The law expands drug treatment in the state health department, and treatment for substance abuse and mental health through the corrections department, including risk and needs assessments to determine risks of reoffending. The law also calls for plans for inmate rehabilitation.
Public Safety and Policing Workgroup (HB1016): This law enacts a number of suggestions from the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup, including protecting law enforcement officers from being penalized or retaliated against for disclosing information, and establishing the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission within the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Seizure and Forfeiture (SB161/HB336): This law outlines procedures for seizure and forfeiture of property from a vehicle or other location, such as notifying the owner that it has been seized, within a specific amount of time. The law also repeals a provision that allowed for the forfeiture of drug-related money and weapons.
Child Abuse and Neglect (SB310, HB245): Anyone involved in an investigation of child abuse or neglect must report suspicions of another individual knowingly failing to report child abuse to the appropriate board, agency, institution or facility.
Criminal Law-Stalking (SB278/HB155): This law expands the definition of stalker from inciting physical fears or threats to include causing emotional distress.
Pretrial Release-Prior Crime of Violence (SB603): A District Court commissioner may not authorize the pretrial release of defendants who have been convicted of a specified crime or a crime of violence.
--By Sam Reilly
Equal Pay for Equal Work (SB 481): An expansion of the current law, this legislation prohibits employers from paying employees of one gender identity at a lesser rate than other employees. The bill also states that employers may not prohibit employees from discussing or disclosing salaries.
Minimum Wage for the Disabled (SB 417): Starting Oct. 1, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry cannot authorize a work activities center or other sheltered workshop to pay an employee with a disability a subminimum wage unless granted prior permission to do so. Until Oct. 1, 2020, however, employers with prior permission may continue to do so. Afterward, no employer -- under any circumstance -- can pay a subminimum wage to a disabled employee.
Apprenticeships (SB 92): Members of the Maryland Apprenticeships and Training Council and its consultants must reflect geographic, racial, ethnic, cultural and gender diversity within the state.
--By Katishi Maake
Student Journalists (SB 764): Student journalists in public elementary or secondary schools or public institutions of higher education have the right to exercise freedom of speech and freedom of the press in school-sponsored media, with some restrictions. Each county board of education and public institution of higher education must write a policy that may include limitations on abusive or threatening language or profanity.
University of Maryland Strategic Partnership Act (SB 1052): The law cements a partnership between the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore and calls for them to be named the University of Maryland. Additionally, it calls for the University System of Maryland to create a headquarters in Baltimore by July 1. The alliance leverages resources on both campuses to improve academic programs, and economic and community development.
Consumer Protection Provisions (SB 427): Private career schools and for-profit institutions can no longer enroll students in programs that are intended to lead to employment in fields that require a license or certification in Maryland, but don’t meet state requirements. Violations will be subject to civil and criminal penalties.
--By Katishi Maake
ENVIRONMENT & NATURAL RESOURCES
Greenhouse Gas Emissions (SB 323): This bill repeals the termination date of the current requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 2006 levels by 2020 and requires the State to reduce GHG emissions by 40 percent from 2006 levels by 2030.
Pollinator Protection Act -- Bees (SB 113) (SB 198/HB 211): Repeals the requirement that a person must request or provide an entry permit from the Maryland Department of Agriculture before shipping or transporting a bee colony or used bee equipment into the state. However, any colony or used bee equipment shipped or transported into the state must still carry an inspection certificate from the state of origin. This law will also ban the use of pesticides with neonicotinoids beginning on Jan. 1, 2018. Environmentalists say these pesticides contribute to the diminishing number of bees. Certified applicators will still be able to use them.
Solar Electric Generating Facility (SB 811/HB 440): Requires electric companies to issue final approval to operate a customer-generator’s solar electric facility on the company’s distribution facilities within 20 business days after the completion of the installation process and receipt of paperwork. An electric company must meet these requirements for at least 90 percent of installations during the year in their service territory.
Oysters: Aquaculture - Liability for Trespass (HB 799): Establishes that a person who willfully, negligently, recklessly, wrongfully, or maliciously enters any area leased to another person for aquaculture purposes to harvest, damage, or transfer shellfish or to alter, damage, or remove any markings or equipment is liable for specified damages, which may include attorney fees or court costs.
Oysters: Dredging (HB 319): Makes some provisions related to dredging for oysters, including limited authorization of dredge boats to be propelled by an auxiliary yawl boat, applicable only to vessels that meet specified standards. The law also repeals requirements for numbers that must be displayed on a dredge boat.
--By Eleanor Mueller
Maryland Income Tax Refunds - Warrant Intercept Program (SB 425/HB 390): If an individual has an outstanding warrant, county officials may request that the comptroller withhold that person’s income tax refund, including active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The state must also study the program to ensure there is no racial bias.
Senior Citizen Activities Center Operating Fund (SB 98, SB 805/HB 262): This law increases, from $500,000 to $750,000, the minimum annual funding to the fund, requires additional expenditures under specified circumstances, and alters how the funds are distributed to jurisdictions.
--By Eleanor Mueller
GAMING, RACING AND SPORTS
Gaming - Home Games (HB 127): Anyone 21 years or older can bet on home card games or mahjong as long as the games do not occur more than once a week and are played with friends. There is a $1,000 limit per 24-hour period and no fees may be charged.
State Lottery and Video Lottery Facility Payouts -- Remittance of Intercepted Prizes (SB 78): The bill repeals the 15-day waiting period for the State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency to transfer the lottery prize payout of a winner who is overdue on child-support payments.
--By Robbie Greenspan
HEALTH CARE & HEALTH INSURANCE
Opioid-Associated Disease Prevention and Outreach Programs (SB 97): The bill repeals Prince George’s County AIDS-related needle exchange program, and will instead authorize health departments or community-based organizations in every county to establish an opioid-associated disease prevention and outreach program, with the approval of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Hospitals - Designation of Lay Caregivers (HB 1277): A hospital is required before the patient is discharged to provide a patient or their legal guardian with an opportunity to designate a “lay caregiver.”
State Board of Physicians - Licensing Exemption - Physicians with Traveling Athletic and Sports Teams (HB 119): Physicians are exempt from state licensing requirements, including the requirement to submit to a criminal history records check.
--By Robbie Greenspan
Open Meetings Act - Agendas (HB 217): Agendas for public body meetings must be made available to the public at the time of the notice of the meeting or at least 24 hours before the meeting.
Open Meetings Act - (SB 17, HB 984): Public bodies will keep a written copy of minutes or video or audio recordings for five years instead of one of an open session.
--By Vickie Connor
Drunk Driving Reduction Act/ Noah’s Law (SB 945): The Motor Vehicle Administration will require people convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drivers found to have a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher to use the Ignition Interlock System Program for a specific amount of time. This bill was initiated after Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta was struck and killed by a drunk driver. A sticker honoring the officer will be on each interlock device.
Death or Injury by Vehicle (SB0160, HB157): The law increases penalties for offenders who commit vehicular manslaughter who have been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol previously. Offenders can now face up to 15 years in prison and $15,000 in fines.
Motor Vehicle Insurance -- Carrying Proof of Coverage (SB 0544, HB 0720): This law requires drivers to have a current insurance identification card -- paper, plastic or electronic -- with them or in their vehicle, or face a $50 fine starting July 1.
Historic Motor Vehicles - Authorized Uses and Inspections (HB 0058): This law requires historic motor vehicle owners to certify that it will not be used for transportation to employment or school, or for commercial purposes. The law changes some requirements for vehicles from 1985 or earlier.
HOV Lanes - Plug-In Electric Drive and Hybrid Vehicles (HB 1179): This bill issues an HOV permit to a “qualified hybrid vehicle,” allowing the vehicle to be driven in the HOV lane on U.S. Route 50
between I-95 / I-495 and U.S. Route 301, regardless of the number of people in the vehicle.
--By Vickie Connor