The flip of the calendar to Oct. 1 brings not only a new month, but it also means that hundreds of new Maryland laws go into effect. Here’s a sampling of some of them.
Moving over and making roads safer
When you’re driving and see pretty much anyone stopped on the side of the road, now you have to move over one lane — or slow down if that’s not possible.
Previously, drivers had to move over for emergency vehicles and tow trucks, but now the law is expanded to include any vehicle with its hazard lights on or using road flares or other warning devices. If you can’t change lanes, you must “slow to a reasonable and prudent speed.”
If you’re caught violating the move-over law, you could be hit with a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $500.
The sponsor of the change was Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, a Democrat from Montgomery County. In the House of Delegates, Del. Anne Healey of Prince George’s County led a team of 16 delegates who co-sponsored a similar bill.
Another new traffic safety law allows vehicles doing roadwork for the government to use green flashing lights to alert motorists to their presence, a measure sponsored by Del. Jay Jacobs, an Eastern Shore Republican and 10 other delegates. Sen. Jack Bailey, a Southern Maryland Republican, pushed a similar bill in the Senate.
And in Baltimore City, Del. Robbyn Lewis was the lead sponsor of a bill that makes it clear that you generally cannot drive in the dedicated bus lanes. The city government will be allowed to set up a monitoring system that takes pictures of vehicles in bus lanes, with violators subject to fines of up to $75.
If you’re caught by a police officer, however, the fine is up to $500.
Limits on interrogating children
When children are taken into police custody, officers will not be allowed to question or interrogate them until the child’s parent or guardian is notified and the child has a chance to speak with an attorney.
In the past, up to 90% of children waived their rights to an attorney “leaving them vulnerable to rights violations,” according to the ACLU of Maryland, which was among those who pushed for the measure. The ACLU estimates that children in custody, who often don’t have an attorney, give false confessions more than three times as often as adults.
“No longer should children have to endure the injustice of facing criminal charges, prosecution, and incarceration without their basic due process rights protected,” Yanet Amanuel, ACLU of Maryland’s policy director, said in a statement.
Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed this bill, called the Child Interrogation Protection Act, but lawmakers overturned the veto. The lead sponsor of the bill was Baltimore Sen. Jill P. Carter, a Democrat. A similar bill in the House was sponsored by Del. Sandy Bartlett, an Anne Arundel County Democrat.
Raising the age for marriage
For years, opponents of child marriage have been working to eliminate the practice in Maryland. This year, they succeeded in passing a law raising the minimum marriage age to 17.
And 17-year-olds will face restrictions before they can marry: They must have permission from all living parents or guardians, or one of them must show proof of pregnancy or having given birth to a child.
A 17-year-old seeking to be married also must file a petition in court and be interviewed separately from their potential spouse and their parents or guardians before the a judge can authorize a marriage license. They would be counseled about domestic violence and sex trafficking, and if they’re marrying a legal adult, that person would be subject to a background check.
(Previously 15-year-olds could marry if they had permission from a parent or guardian and a female partner in the relationship was pregnant or had given birth; 16-year-olds could marry with parental permission or evidence of pregnancy or childbirth.)
Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Howard County Democrat who has led the charge for child marriage reform for seven years, said Maryland is “moving out of the dark ages.” Many other states have already raised the minimum age for marriage to 18, making Maryland an attractive state for adults to marry minors, Atterbeary said.
“There’s a slow movement across the country to change these very archaic laws,” Atterbeary said.
Sen. Sarah Elfreth, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, sponsored the Senate version of the legislation.
Safety requirements for gun shops
Firearms dealers must take additional safety precautions or risk losing their licenses.
Gun shops must have a burglar alarms, a video surveillance system and at least one of the following on their windows and doors: bars, grates, security screens or commercial-grade metal doors. When shops are closed, guns must be locked in a vault, safe or secure indoor room. If practicable, gun shops are directed to install barriers to prevent vehicles from being crashed into the building.
For a first violation, a firearms dealer could face a civil fine up to $1,000 and subsequent offenses could result in losing their state license.
The gun shop safety law was sponsored by House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, who said earlier this year that the goal is to cut down on thefts of guns that end up being used in crimes.
Some counties, including Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County, already have security requirements for gun shops. Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. told lawmakers earlier this year that the law includes “common-sense policies to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals.”
The governor vetoed this bill, and lawmakers overturned the veto.
‘End the Wait’ for people needing services
The End the Wait Act directs the state health department to come up with plans to cut in half its waitlists of children and adults needing services for intellectual or developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, autism and other medical conditions.
Tens of thousands of people are on multiple waitlists for services such as therapy and in-home care, according to Sen. Craig Zucker, a Montgomery County Democrat and primary sponsor of the act. Some children are waiting so long that they get too old for the services that they’re on the waitlist for, Zucker said.
Under the bill, the Maryland Department of Health must have a plan to get at least half of wait-listed Marylanders into the programs by 2024. Starting that year, the governor is required to put “sufficient funds” in the state budget to pay for expanding the programs.
Zucker’s bill was so popular that the majority of state senators signed on as co-sponsors. The House version was led by Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk, a Democrat representing parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties.
Help for cats and dogs
Cat declawing is a thing of the past in Maryland, under a law that nearly bans the practice, which animal welfare advocates say is cruel and inhumane.
The only exception: Licensed veterinarians can declaw a cat if it’s “necessary for a therapeutic purpose.”
“October 1st can be called ‘the best Caturday ever’ as we strike another blow against animal cruelty by banning the declawing of cats,” read a statement from Carol Oliver, legislative chairperson for the Feline Rescue Association.
The lead sponsors of the declawing bill are Sen. Cheryl Kagan and Del. Lorig Charkoudian, both Democrats from Montgomery County.
And dog owners should take note that a new law limits the length of time you can keep your pup outside in extreme weather to 30 minutes.
If it’s 90 degrees or hotter, the dog must have shelter or shade to remain outside longer, and if it’s 32 degrees or colder, the dog must have shelter. The lead sponsors of this law were Del. Mary Lehman, a Prince George’s Democrat, and Sen. Chris West, a Baltimore County Republican.
And when fire and rescue dogs are retired, fire departments will be allowed to reimburse adopters up to $2,500 per year for the dogs’ veterinary bills, under a law sponsored by Sen. Ben Kramer, a Montgomery County Democrat.