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.
House Bill 116 will require jails to screen all inmates for opioid use disorder, while Senate Bill 909 will require health care practitioners to obtain consent before performing certain bodily exams on patients who are unconscious or under anesthesia.
Age limits are also being changed in a variety of ways. The minimum age for purchasing tobacco products will be raised from 18 to 21, while the minimum age of detention within the Department of Juvenile Services is being raised from 7 to 12, with exceptions for violent crimes. Minors are also now prohibited from using tanning facilities.
Here is a roundup of some of the bills going into effect Oct. 1, broken down by subject.
Alcohol, cannabis and tobacco
Tobacco age: HB 1169 — 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.
Alcohol consumption: HB 88 — 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.
Cruelty to animals — payment for care: HB 135 — In current animal abuse cases, animal shelters shoulder the costs of care and treatment for the animal, without the option of adopting the animal out, until the case and custody are decided. This law, which covers dogfighting and cockfighting, would put the onus of animal care costs on the defendant, until the court case is heard and custody is decided.
Farm animal antibiotics: SB 471 — Administration of antibiotics to farm animals in Maryland will be further limited under this bill. Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) said during a hearing that the bill will close loopholes that allow antibiotics to be given preventatively by clarifying definitions related to risk and administration patterns. Veterinarians will also have more oversight, according to the Legislative Services department.
Nuisance insects: HB 1353 — The secretary of Agriculture is given authority to execute the program to control and remove insects that “pester or annoy only humans.” The new law establishes a Nuisance Insect Fund, requiring counties and municipalities to pay for 50% of the cost of treatment, and it receives $400,000 in funding from the annual state budget. —Emily Top
Online sales tax: HB 1301 —Online sellers and facilitators will now be required to collect sales and use taxes on Maryland buyers. 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.
Mover registration: HB 671 — Moving companies in Maryland will now be required to register with and pay fees to the Department of Labor. Movers were previously not required to register, according to Legislative Services.
Ticket resales — consumer protection: SB 891 — This bill protects consumers from buying event tickets on the resale market that have not yet been secured by the seller. Under the new law, sellers will have to disclose the status of any “speculative” tickets they list online and are required to refund buyers within 10 days of the event if the ticket is not secured.
Citizenship and immigration
Immigrant status and law enforcement: HB 214 — Unauthorized immigrants who are victims of crimes and are willing to help law enforcement may apply for a certain type of legal status. Victims must submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services a certification from local law enforcement agencies, which are not currently required to complete the forms if the victim satisfies the criteria. This bill requires them to.
Officer citizenship: SB 853 — This bill relaxes the citizenship eligibility requirements for police officers. Previously, officers had to be U.S. citizens, but now they can either be citizens or permanent legal residents who have applied for citizenship and been honorably discharged by the military. If officers fail to obtain citizenship, they must be terminated by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission.
Stacey’s Law/murder for hire: HB 493 — 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.
Electronic harassment: SB 103 — This bill broadens what constitutes electronic harassment in Maryland and toughens the penalties against it. 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. It builds off the original Grace’s Law, named after Grace McComas, a teenager who committed suicide in 2012 after “repeated and vicious harassment online by a neighbor,” according to a legislative analysis.
Laura and Reid’s Law: SB 561 — Named after a woman who was killed while she was 14 weeks pregnant, this new law 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. Laura Wallen, a Howard County teacher, had chosen the boy’s name of Reid for her child.
Post-conviction review: HB 874 — This bill authorizes courts to vacate a conviction if there is new information that calls into question the original ruling. The bill is rooted in the actions of the Baltimore City Gun Trace Task Force, where eight police officers were charged with crimes like filing false paperwork in 2017. Approximately 1,300 cases may have been affected, according to Legislative Services.
Decriminalizing gambling: SB 842 — 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. —E
Hate crimes: HB 240 —It will be illegal to threaten hate crimes — not just to commit them. Threats will be assessed the same misdemeanor penalty of a maximum of three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Hate crimes rose nationwide by 17%, and in Maryland by 35%, from 2016 to 2017, according to the FBI.
Child pornography: SB 736 — 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.
Jury duty: SB 236 — More people will be eligible for jury duty. A jail sentence (or potential sentence) of longer than six months currently disqualifies citizens from service; citizens will now be disqualified for sentences of a year or longer. —Ian Round
Pedestrian safety: SB 460 — 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.
Sale of children: HB 481 — 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.
Bump stocks: SB 707 –– 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.
Juvenile detention: HB 659 –– State law currently permits the Department of Juvenile Services to house children as young as 7 in detention facilities with juveniles up to age 21. Maryland will raise the minimum age of detention to 12, allowing for the exception of those who commit violent crimes or who are at risk of fleeing the court’s jurisdiction.
Loaning weapons: SB 346 –– 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.
Attempted suicide: HB 77 –– Maryland will no longer prosecute attempted suicide as a crime. The state previously recognized the act as a crime under English common law. There has been one conviction in the last five years. That defendant is serving a three-year suspended sentence and two years of probation.
Driving under the influence: HB 707 — 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.
Sex trafficking: HB 871 — 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 court.
Black History Month: SB 879 — Schools are required to incorporate interactive educational activities involving Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass into their Black History Month curriculum.
Student loans: HB 594 — Student loan servicer companies are now prohibited from engaging in any kind of unfair, deceptive or abusive trade practices. Using schemes to mislead student loan borrowers, misrepresenting or not including certain information, misapplying or refusing to correct payments and providing or refusing to correct inaccurate information are all prohibited.
Election Day pages: SB 364 — After completing training and an oath, kids in grades 6 through 12 can assist election judges on Election Day at polling places through the Page Program. Local boards of elections can choose to participate in the program, which can be executed with no additional cost.
Election law: SB 449 — Individuals may register to vote on Election Day at their local polling place with proof of residency.
University employee rights: HB 822 — 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. As of last fall, the University System of Maryland had 11,600 exempt employees, according to Legislative Services.
Criminal history — employment: HB 22 — This bill prohibits executive agencies such as the Health Department from denying 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.
Organ donation — unpaid leave, insurance: SB 742 — All employees will be eligible for unpaid organ donation leave for 12 weeks in any year and up to 30 business days for bone marrow transplants. It also prohibits insurance agencies from refusing to renew insurance policies to a donor based solely on their donation, but this provision will not go into effect until January 2020.
Workplace harassment: HB 679 — 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.
Composting: HB 510 — Landfills will be prohibited from accepting separated, compostable material — both yard waste and food — unless they can compost it themselves. As of January, the state had 18 composting facilities with five more planned. This is part of Maryland’s effort to divert waste from landfills. Maryland produces more waste per capita than the national average, and its landfills are near capacity.
Reusing water: HB 539 — Potable water and water from ice makers can now be diverted from residential septic systems and reused for beneficial practices such as gardening or composting. The water cannot be reused if it contains “constituents” that are harmful to the public health or environment, according to Legislative Services.
Noxious weeds: HB 808 — The Secretary of Agriculture is now required to create a list of the state’s noxious weeds. Violators of noxious weed regulations will face penalties that increase for multiple infractions.
Rape kit testing: SB 569 — This bill establishes a five-year, $3.5 million annual fund to reduce the state’s backlog of more than 6,000 untested rape kits. The state expects the backlog to be significantly reduced after five years, reducing the need for additional funding
Consent before medical exams: SB 909 — Health care practitioners will be required to obtain informed consent before performing prostate, rectal or pelvic exams on patients who are unconscious or under anesthesia. Citing Forbes, the state’s Department of Legislative Services notes some “troubling cases” in which medical students and trainees have performed pelvic exams without the patient’s consent. Maryland becomes the sixth state to enact such a requirement. —Ian Round
Preventative HIV treatment for minors: HB 1183 — Minors will be granted the ability 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. Minors currently have that ability when it comes to many other health conditions, such as pregnancy, substance use disorder and venereal disease. —
Nursing home care: HB 592 — 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. —
Opioid treatment in correctional facilities: HB 116 — 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.
Prescription drug monitoring: HB 25 — 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. If it finds any of these, it must inform those providers and dispensers.
Tanning age: SB 299 — This law prohibits minors (younger than 18) from using a tanning facility, repealing a former provision that minors could do so with the written consent from a legal guardian.
Energy bill assistance: HB 1189 — This bill establishes a program within the Department of Human Services that helps medically vulnerable people get financial assistance with their energy bills so their services do not get halted. Qualified individuals have a severe health condition that will be aggravated if utility services are turned off due to nonpayment of bills.
Elevated blood lead levels: HB 1233 — Maryland lowers its elevated blood lead level standard to match those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More regulations go into place in July.
Corpse custody: SB 147 — A grandchild is added to the list of people who have a right to determine the disposition of a relative’s body.
Parental support for hearing impaired: HB 1384 — It will allow individuals 21 and younger to borrow hearing aids for up to a year. Parents of a deaf child can take a free college course that teaches language or communication
Vaccination reporting requirements: HB 316 — 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: HB 748 — 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. Accordingly, operators will have the same rights and restrictions as pedestrians on sidewalks and in crosswalks.
Electric bicycles: SB 935 — Electric bicycles will now be categorized in three classes, dependent on motor functionality and speed, that determine where they can be used. A person younger than 16 is not permitted to operate a Class 3 bicycle — which has a motor that stops providing assistance at 28 miles per hour as the operator pedals — on a public highway.
Applicant’s gender on licenses, permits or IDs: SB 196 — Applicants will now be able to leave the gender 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.
Photos for ignition interlock systems: HB 55 — All new ignition interlock systems will include cameras to capture still images to use as proof of violations during the process of the breath analysis to determine the blood alcohol level before the vehicle starts. Current participants will not need to update existing devices unless it fails, they get a new vehicle, or they are removed and re-enter the system.
Driver’s licenses: SB 237 — Those convicted of possessing revoked, suspended or canceled driver’s licenses will no longer face incarceration and will be assessed fewer points. These penalties currently carry a potential two-month sentence, although the state assumes the number of people imprisoned is “negligible.” The state currently assesses 12 points for these violations; it will now be required to assess three.
Spousal inheritance: SB 317 — After fewer than five years of marriage, if a person with no living offspring but living parents dies without a will, the surviving spouse will inherit the first $40,000 of the estate. The rest is split between the spouse and the parents. After five years of marriage, that spouse would inherit all of the estate.
PIA and 9-1-1 records: SB 5 — If someone requests to see a 9-1-1 record for a victim of domestic violence, abuse or sexual crime through the Maryland Public Information Act, the employee accessing the record must contact the victim or their representative within 30 days of receiving the request and wait 10 days for their response on granting or denying public inspection. The employee may also redact portions of the record.
Diaper-changing stations: SB 330 — This bill requires public buildings constructed or having bathrooms renovated on or after Oct. 1 to install a diaper-changing facility in at least one public restroom. While there are currently no requirements for diaper-changing stations in public buildings, the Maryland Department of Transportation has indicated that only a small number of facilities do not already comply with the new law.