Good news for min­i­mum wage earn­ers, craft brew­eries and bees

The Avenue News - - NEWS - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­

Mary­land’s min­i­mum wage made an­other small jump on July 1, while col­lege stu­dents gained the pos­si­bil­ity of more money to off­set tu­ition costs and pub­lic school stu­dents will be­gin learn­ing about the dan­gers of opi­oid use.

Those were some of the laws passed dur­ing the past Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion that went into ef­fect at the be­gin­ning of the month.

The rise in the min­i­mum wage from $8.75/hour to $9.25/hour, how­ever, was part of a sched­uled in­crease made into law a few years ago.

The state min­i­mum wage rose from $7.25/hour to $8/ hour on Jan­uary 1, 2015, and in­creased to $8.25/hour on July 1 of that year.

It was raised to $8.25 last July, and is sched­uled to be- come $10.10/hour in July of next year.

The weekly min­i­mum wage is $370 for a 40-hour week, and the yearly min­i­mum wage for Mary­land is $19,240.

For col­lege stu­dents seek­ing fi­nan­cial aid, Mary­land pro­vided re­lief by be­com­ing the first state to ban the prac­tice of schol­ar­ship dis­place­ment at pub­lic col­leges.

Ba­si­cally, if a stu­dent was re­ceiv­ing fi­nan­cial aid from a state col­lege or uni­ver­sity, and then re­ceived money (grants, loans, schol­ar­ships) from some other agency, the school would re­duce their fi­nan­cial aid by that same amount.

In ef­fect, it pun­ished stu­dents for seek­ing ad­di­tional sources of fi­nan­cial aid. Uni­ver­si­ties said it was done in or­der to re­dis­tribute lim­ited fi­nan­cial aid re­sources to other stu­dents in need.

Un­der the new law, col­leg- es and uni­ver­si­ties are only al­lowed to de­crease fi­nan­cial aid un­der cer­tain con­di­tions, such as when the stu­dent’s to­tal fi­nan­cial aid pack­age ex­ceeds the cost of col­lege.

Fed­eral law re­quired stu­dents ob­tain­ing money from pri­vate schol­ar­ships and grants, and who were also re­ceiv­ing fi­nan­cial aid from the school they were at­tend­ing, to re­port that aid to the school.

Some schools would then re­duce the aid be­ing of­fered to the stu­dent by the same amount.

Pri­vate col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties are ex­empt from the new law putting con­di­tions on schol­ar­ship dis­place­ment.

The av­er­age col­lege stu­dent in the United State grad­u­ates with a stu­dent loan debt of $37,000 (in Mary­land, the av­er­age is $28,000).

With opi­oid over­doses join­ing can­cer, strokes and heart at­tacks as one of the top causes of death in Mary­land, the state leg­is­la­ture passed the Start Talk­ing Mary­land Act (among sev­eral other bills ad­dress­ing the opi­oid abuse).

The new law re­quires state pub­lic schools to have de­fined ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams on the dan­gers of heroin and opi­oid abuse, start­ing as early as el­e­men­tary school.

Schools will also be re­quired to have on hand the drug nalox­one, which can be used to treat opi­oid over­doses, as well as train­ing staff to ad­min­is­ter nalox­one.

Planned Par­ent­hood, tax­payer pro­tec­tion

In re­sponse to feared fed- eral fund­ing cuts to Planned Par­ent­hood, the leg­is­la­ture passed a law that will di­rect $2 mil­lion from the state Med­i­caid bud­get and $700,000 from the state’s gen­eral fund to fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices.

Ho­gan ve­toed the bill, but was over­rid­den by the leg­is­la­ture. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has not yet cut fund­ing to Planned Par­ent­hood.

In or­der to bet­ter pro­tect Mary­land res­i­dents from iden­tity theft and tax fraud, the comp­trol­ler’s of­fice has been given more power to stop tax fraud and hold fraud­u­lent fil­ers and tax pre­parer’s ac­count­able.

There are now new safe­guards in place to pro­tect tax­payer in­for­ma­tion. The Field En­force­ment Di­vi­sion of the comp­trol­ler’s of­fice has been given more re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­ves­ti­gate po­ten­tial tax fraud.

Boost­ing craft brew­eries, bees

Craft brew­eries in the state will now be able to sell up to 2,000 bar­rels of beer an­nu­ally. Pre­vi­ously, they were re­stricted to 500 bar­rels.

This change was made in or­der to help put a Guin­ness brew­ery in south­west Bal­ti­more County, in a for­mer Sea­gram’s bot­tling plant. It will be the only Guin­ness brew­ery in the United States.

Craft brew­ers in Mary­land will also be able to ask for per­mis­sion to buy 1,000 bar­rels from dis­trib­u­tors to sell in their tap­rooms. Ex­ist­ing brew­eries may keep their usual hours, but new brew­eries must close their tap­rooms at 10 p.m.

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