I hope everybody is staying safe.
There are a number of new Maryland laws that became effective on October 1st. Here is a summary of some of the most important ones.
Ban On Use of Use of Foam Containers – HB 109/SB 205 bans the use of foam containers. The ban on polystyrene was delayed from July until October to lessen the burden on the state’s restaurant industry, which has been badly hurt from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Law Preventing Discrimination Based on Hairstyle (Crown Act) – (HB 1444/SB531) The anti-discrimination hairstyle measure expands the definition of “race” to include all textures of hair and hairstyles often worn by African Americans. It specifically safeguards hairstyles such as braids, twists and dreadlocks that are designed to protect the ends of hair by decreasing tangling, shedding and breakage.
The regulation of Black hairstyles dates to the 17th century trans-Atlantic slave trade when millions of Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas for labor, and has continued for centuries in both public and private arenas. The U.S. Army, for instance, banned twists, dreadlocks and cornrows in 2014. It lifted the ban in 2017 amid public outcry.
Ban On Retaliation for Inquiring About Your Own Salary (HB 123/SB 217) prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for inquiring about their own salary.
Hate crime expansions
1) Hate Symbols (HB5/SB161) The use of a noose or swastika to intimidate someone or a group will be barred, and the state’s definition of a hate crime will be expanded. The noose and swastika measure prohibits the use of both symbols, actual or depicted, on any property without permission of the owner or occupant with an intent to threaten to intimidate. Violating the law is punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000.
2) Collins Law (HB917-SB606) amends the state’s hate crimes statute to include crimes “motivated either in whole or in part by” hate or bias. Maryland’s existing law covered race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, national origin and homelessness, but required the “sole” motivation for a crime to be hate or bias to prosecute it as a hate crime. Dawn and Richard Collins Jr., parents of the bill’s namesake, campaigned for the legislation in honor of the younger Collins, 23, who was fatally stabbed at a University of Maryland, College Park bus stop in 2017.
Outbreak preparations (Olivia’s Law) – (HB 187/SB 329) will require colleges and universities to create plans to address the outbreak of infectious diseases. It’s named for Olivia Paregol, a University of Maryland freshman from Howard County who died in 2018 after contracting adenovirus. Forty students were sickened that year, including 15 treated at hospitals.
Serious conditions as a result of adenovirus are rare, but they are more common in people with compromised immunity. Olivia was taking a medication to combat Crohn’s disease, weakening her immune system. Her death could have been prevented if the university had not waited 18 days to notify students and parents that the virus was spreading through the College Park campus.
Child Support Relief for Prisoners – Imprisoned parents who owe child support will see some relief starting in October. A new law will allow inmates to have their child support order frozen while behind bars if they are serving a jail sentence of six months or more. Until now, the threshold was 18 months. The law hopes to address the mountain of child support debt that can accrue while a parent is behind bars. An investigation published earlier this year found the system sets poor parents up to fail — saddling many fathers with massive debt, sometimes driving them from their children and sending some into an underground economy to make money.
Speed Camera Suspension of Licences – (HB46/SB177) repeals the state’s authority to suspend a car’s registration if its driver fails to pay a ticket issued for a speed or red light camera violation. Maryland was the only state to allow such suspensions. The state still will be able to refuse to renew a driver’s registration due to unpaid fines.
Passing A Cyclist will allow drivers to drive on the left side of a road in an area marked “no passing” to safely pass a cyclist traveling in the same direction.
Fair Housing — HB231/SB50. The HOME, or Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Act, expands Maryland’s fair housing policy by prohibiting landlords from discriminating against individuals based on their source of income, to include government subsidized housing vouchers, when renting or selling property.
Minority Businesses — HB404/SB499 requires the Department of Commerce to include information on the percentage of economic development assistance distributed to minority businesses.
Repeal of Sodomy Law HB 81 repeals Maryland’s sodomy law. The ACLU reports several states dating back to Illinois in 1961 have already repealed these laws, which were historically used in a discriminatory manner against the LGBTQ community.
Strangulation — HB233/SB212 adds an additional prison sentence of up to 25 years for intentionally strangling someone during an assault.
Sexual Solicitation — HB246/SB231 bans individuals from seeking the consent of a parent or guardian of a minor when attempting to sexually solicit a minor.
House of Ruth — HB620 requires money deposited in donation boxes at Baltimore-Washington International Airport security screening checkpoints go to support House of Ruth Maryland, a center aiding victims of intimate partner violence.
Firefighting Foam Ban — HB619/SB420 bans the training use of fire-fighting foams that contain polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, as of Oct. 1, 2021. As of that date firefighters must use non-fluorinated foam during training. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS chemicals don’t break down in either the environment or the human body, and can build up over time leading to adverse health effects.
Maternal Mortality — HB286 is designed to address racial disparities in maternal health care. This bill requires meetings convened under the Maternal Mortality Review Program to include stakeholders reflecting the racial and ethnic diversity of women most impacted by maternal deaths in the state. According to the group’s 2019 annual report, at least 40% of the 15 pregnancy-related deaths in 2017 were among non-Hispanic Black women. It is now required for this data to be taken into account and reflected in the diversity of the program.
Suicide Prevention — SB810 permits the State Highway Administration to post suicide prevention information, which includes a hotline number, on highway electronic signs within five miles of a zone designated as a high risk for suicides.
Nursing Homes — HB 364. This week each hospital or nursing facility in the state must begin ensuring personnel wear an identification tag when providing patient care. This mandate comes at a time when elderly care and vulnerability have been critical issues during the pandemic.
Remember to Vote –
Ballots requested by mail are now coming to people’s homes. (My wife’s ballot came earlier this week.) Here is some good commentary by my former colleague, Marc Korman on the two state ballots initiatives. I agree with what he says below:
Question 1: This statewide ballot question would grant the Maryland General Assembly the same power 49 other states have–a power most Marylanders assume we have–to move money around the budget submitted by the Governor. This would not impact Maryland’s requirement for a balanced budget and would require the General Assembly to fund the budget within an overall amount set by the Governor. It would also create a line item veto for the Governor on any budget changes the legislature makes. Finally, the legislation does not take effect until the next Governor’s first budget. Bottom line: The People’s Branch should have the authority to fund the People’s priorities. VOTE FOR THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
Question 2: The second statewide ballot question would authorize sports betting in the state of Maryland, something every jurisdiction around us has already permitted. The revenue–possibly $20-$40m annually–goes to the education lockbox to fund our state’s education programs. For many of us, the state’s incremental expansion of gaming from lottery to slots to table games to sports gaming has not been our first choice. But given the actions by other states in our region the fact is much of this gambling will occur whether in Maryland or not. If we can help fund education programs with these dollars, we should. VOTE FOR THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT