Good news for minimum wage earners, craft breweries and bees
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.