9.28.19 – Herald Mail – ANNAPOLIS
Hundreds of Maryland laws are going into effect Tuesday, spanning subjects from criminal justice reform to election law to the state’s medical cannabis commission.
A generous number of the bills fall under the subjects of criminal justice and health. Senate Bill 707, which passed in the 2018 legislative session but is going into effect Tuesday, bans the sale of bump stocks in Maryland. Penalties for offenses such as hate crime threats and solicitation for murder are becoming more severe, while gambling is being decriminalized.
Capital News Service reporters analyzed all bills going into effect Tuesday. Here is a roundup of some of those, broken down by subject.
Alcohol, cannabis and tobacco
The minimum age for purchasing or being sold tobacco products, which includes cigarettes, cigars, electronic smoking devices or “vapes”, and any related paraphernalia, will be raised from 18 to 21, exempting active duty military members 18 or older with a military ID. Retailers must display signs announcing the law and are subject to inspection and civil fines if the prohibitions are violated. Drinking and holding an alcoholic beverage in public under certain circumstances or having one in an open container will now be considered a civil rather than a criminal offense.
Small storefront retailers might become more competitive, as online sellers and facilitators will now be required to collect sales and use taxes on Maryland buyers, according to a state analysis. Under the new law, some sales tax revenues will also be redirected from the general fund to the education-focused Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund.
Moving companies in Maryland will now be required to register with and pay fees to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. As the department will be required to enforce the program and hire employees, expenditures are expected to increase by at least $230,000 starting this fiscal year. Movers were previously not required to register, according to Legislative Services.
If a person solicits or conspires with another to commit murder and someone dies, it will now be considered first-degree murder in Maryland with no statute of limitations. Previously, solicitation to commit murder was a misdemeanor with a statute of limitations of three years.
A person who uses electronic harassment with the intent of inducing a minor to commit suicide can now be imprisoned for up to 10 years and/or fined up to $10,000.
Laura and Reid’s Law, named after a woman who was killed while she was 14 weeks pregnant, will impose stricter penalties, including additional imprisonment of up to 10 years, on someone who has committed a crime of violence against a woman with the knowledge that she is pregnant.
Betting, wagering and gambling will be decriminalized in Maryland. The penalty for such offenses was previously imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to $1,000. Now, gambling is a civil offense with no possible jail time. Running illegal gambling operations will remain a misdemeanor with possible jail time under the new law.
Computer-generated images that are indistinguishable from identifiable children younger than 16, and engaged in sexual conduct, will now qualify as child pornography. Film, photo, video and “other visual representation(s)” currently qualify. Drawings, cartoons, sculptures and paintings do not. Penalties are up to 10 years in prison and $10,000.
The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention will study and gather data on “crime firearms” — those used to commit violent crimes and those possessed illegally. The state expects the study, which will conclude at the end of 2020, to cost about $90,000.
Drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians will face a maximum fine of $1,000, up from $500. The fines will contribute to a Pedestrian Safety Fund, which will be used for traffic calming, enforcement and education. —Ian Round
The sale of a minor will be reclassified to a felony offense. Under current Maryland criminal code, the trade, barter or sale of a child for money or something of monetary value is a misdemeanor offense with penalties not to exceed a fine of up to $10,000 and/or five years incarceration.
The transportation, possession, sale, manufacture, receipt or purchase of “rapid fire trigger activators” that were not owned prior to Oct. 1, 2018, is prohibited. Otherwise known as “bump stocks,” these devices increase the rate at which ammunition is discharged from a firearm. Penalties include a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or three years imprisonment.
Owners of handguns and other regulated firearms may be prosecuted for loaning weapons to individuals who they have cause to believe are legally barred from possessing them. This also extends to situations when there is cause to believe that someone may use the weapon to cause harm to themselves or others. Maximum penalties may include a $10,000 fine and prison time.
The penalties for drunk and drugged driving offenses are becoming more severe. If you have prior convictions for operating either a vehicle or vessel under the influence, or if you commit a homicide in the process, there are now longer sentences and more costly fines.
Human trafficking offenses will now be termed sex trafficking; forced marriage will be a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine. Between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, 22 people were sentenced to 39 counts of felony and misdemeanor human trafficking in state circuit courts.
Individuals may register to vote on Election Day at their local polling place with proof of residency. It will cost the state approximately $44,000 annually beginning in 2020 and local government expenditures will increase by $2 million from 2020 to 2022 and just under $600,000 each year thereafter.
An election service contractor must provide specified notice of ownership, investment, or avenues for influence that a foreign entity may hold in the business. It also authorizes the State Administrator of Elections to terminate a contract with an election service provider on the grounds of potential foreign influence in the company.
Fire and rescue employees who invest at least 10 years of service within Maryland, and who suffer occupational diseases, will be covered under workers’ compensation, allowing more employees to qualify for the benefits.
The University System of Maryland now cannot fire exempt employees — those who are not eligible for overtime pay — without cause. Previously, these employees were hired on an at-will basis, and could be terminated with or without cause.
Executive agencies such as the Health Department can no longer deny applications for occupational licenses or certificates based solely on an applicant’s criminal history, as long as it has been at least seven years since the conviction and no crime other than a minor traffic violation has occurred since. The bill does not apply to convictions for violent crimes.
Independent contractors and the staff of elected officials will be able to file complaints of employment discrimination. The bill broadens the definition of both “employer” and “employee” in employment discrimination, and is expected to cost at least $54,000 annually.
A five-year, $3.5 million annual fund to reduce the state’s backlog of more than 6,000 untested rape kits will be established. The state expects the backlog to be significantly reduced after five years, reducing the need for additional funding. The bill restricts $3.5 million from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation for at least fiscal 2020.
Minors will be granted the ability to consent to preventative HIV treatment, such as PrEP, a daily pre-exposure pill for those at high risk of HIV, without the permission of an adult.
Residents at comprehensive and extended care facilities will now have additional rights, including receiving written notice before being discharged and at least a three-day supply of medications at the time of discharge. The bill is a result of an attorney general investigation into nursing facility operator Neiswanger Management Services, said Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Brian Frosh.
Jails will be required to screen all inmates for opioid use disorder and provide methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine. Treatment is currently required if a doctor determines the inmate is an addict, but medical assessments are not mandatory.
The state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program will be required, rather than permitted, to analyze data in search of misuse or abuse of certain drugs, or violations of law or ethics by drug providers or dispensers.
Minors (younger than 18) are prohibited from using a tanning facility, repealing a former provision that minors could do so with the written consent from a legal guardian. These age restrictions do not apply to phototherapy administered by a health-care practitioner.
All doctors will be required to use ImmuNet, a database that tracks vaccines given to patients. Under current law, for most practitioners it is optional; parents will be allowed to opt out.
Electric low-speed scooters, like those used in popular scooter sharing services, will now be categorized under the same classification as bicycles, giving the user the same rights and responsibilities as bicyclists on roadways.
Applicants will now be able to leave the sex designation on licenses, identification cards or a moped operator’s permit as unspecified. In those circumstances, the Motor Vehicle Administration will use an “X” in that location of the license, card or permit.
The Motor Vehicle Administration will now be permitted to issue an electronic credential to supplement the required physical license or identification card. Alcoholic beverages license holders, and their employees, are authorized to accept the electronic credential as proof of age. The electronic ID can show both full and limited profiles depending on the required authentication in different situations.
Organizations conducting eSports competitions, which are matches involving video games, first-person shooters, real-time strategy and multiplayer online battles, may offer prize money or merchandise to winning participants. Currently, Maryland does not allow sports wagering, but eSports will not fall under that regulation because participants have control of an outcome, as opposed to sports betting where results are random.
The Commission to Restore Trust in Policing will continue to work for another year. Its deadline to submit a final report to the governor and the General Assembly has been extended to Dec. 31, 2020. The commission was created in the wake of revelations of corruption in the Gun Trace Task Force.