By Capital News Service and MarylandReporter.com
This Saturday, many of the laws passed during this year’s General Assembly session go into effect.
Some key new laws Oct. 1 include measures to:
- require ignition interlocks for drunk driving and increase penalties for killing people while driving drunk;
- make drivers carry cards showing current insurance coverage;
- reform asset forfeiture by police;
- expand protections for equal pay for equal work and employees discussing their salaries;
- improve child custody rules for parents with disabilities;
- change rules for divorcing couples;
- keep nonviolent drug offenders from spending long times in prison;
- improve public oversight of the police;
- encourage more reporting of child abuse and neglect;
- withhold tax refunds for people with outstanding arrest warrants;
Other new laws deal with solar hookups, pesticides that kill bees, freedom of the press for students, and gambling on card games at home (no kidding).
Last year’s CNS compilation of the new laws went viral, and was the most read story of 2015 on this website.
Here is a roundup, by subject area, of some of the legislation that begins Saturday:
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 specified 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 (SB544, 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
COURTS & CIVIL PROCEEDINGS
Children in Need of Assistance, Guardianship, Adoption, Custody, and Visitation — Blindness of Parent/Guardian (SB765): In cases with parents with disabilities, these disabling conditions, including blindness, cannot discredit the parent unless proven that the disability is against 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): This law will try to keep more nonviolent offenders and minor drug offenders from going to prison or staying in prison for a long time. It 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 more 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 about other officers. It also puts a member of the public on the hearing board for police.
Seizure and Forfeiture (SB161/HB336): This law fundamentally reforms how and when law enforcement can seize money and other assets from people suspected of crimes. The asset forfeiture process has been abused in the past, and property has been taken from people with no connection to crime.
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 crime of violence or with a weapon.
–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 does not allow employers to prohibit employees from discussing or disclosing salaries.
Minimum Wage for the Disabled (SB 417): Starting Oct. 1, over four years, this law eventually prohibits any employer from paying subminimum wages to people with disabilities as currently allowed.
–By Katishi Maake
Student Journalists (SB 764): Expands the rights of freedom of speech and of the press to student journalists in public elementary or secondary schools or public institutions of higher education.
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. Additionally, it calls for the University System of Maryland to create a headquarters in Baltimore. The alliance leverages resources on both campuses to improve academic programs, and economic and community development.
Consumer Protection Provisions (SB 427): Establishes criminal and civil penalties for private career schools and for-profit institutions that enroll students in programs intended to lead to employment in fields that require a license or certification in Maryland, but that do not meet state requirements for those licenses or certifications.
–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% from 2006 levels by 2020 and requires the State to reduce GHG emissions by 40% from 2006 levels by 2030.
Pollinator Protection Act — Bees (SB 198/HB 211): Bans the sale of certain pesticides believed to kill bees, unless applied by a certified applicator.
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.
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.
–By Eleanor Mueller
Maryland Income Tax Refunds – Warrant Intercept Program (SB 425/HB 390): If an individual has an outstanding arrest warrant, county officials may request that the comptroller withhold that person’s income tax refund, including for 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 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