New laws run gamut from se­ri­ous to silly

The Star Democrat - - OPINION -

A num­ber of new laws kicked in on Oct. 1 in Mary­land, rang­ing from the sig­nif­i­cant (firearms, high­way safety and veter­ans) to the silly (al­low­ing snow­mo­biles on high­ways).

Chief among them are three new laws re­gard­ing guns. There are now manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tences for those with past con­vic­tions who are found wear­ing, car­ry­ing or trans­port­ing a handgun. Also, the “red flag law” al­lows a judge to or­der the tem­po­rary sur­ren­der of firearms if some­one is deemed a threat to them­selves or oth­ers, through an ex­treme pro­tec­tive or­der. And of course, de­vices such as “rapid-fire trig­ger ac­ti­va­tors” are now banned in the state. This in­cludes bump stocks.

The big head­line among trans­porta­tion leg­is­la­tion that kicked in Oct. 1 is the ex­panded “move over law.” It now per­tains not just to emer­gency re­spon­ders like po­lice and am­bu­lances stopped on the side of roads, but also ser­vice trucks and other work ve­hi­cles with yel­low flash­ing lights. The law re­quires driv­ers ap­proach­ing one of these ve­hi­cles with red, yel­low or am­ber flash­ing lights that is stopped, stand­ing or parked along the high­way to, when pos­si­ble, move over a lane. The law was first en­acted in 2010 to pro­tect po­lice, then ex­panded a first time in 2014.

In other trans­porta­tion news, the bridge that car­ries U.S. 301 across the Po­tomac into Vir­ginia — and for which a $765 mil­lion re­place­ment is ex­pected to be fin­ished in 2023 — has been re­named. The Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge will now be called the Gov. Harry W. Nice/Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton Bridge. By the time you say it out loud, you will have crossed it. The honor for Mid­dle­ton comes at an odd time, it could be ar­gued, since the long­time state se­na­tor from Charles County, known as a staunch sup­porter of road im­prove­ment, was de­feated in the Demo­cratic pri­mar y in June.

As for snow­mo­biles on high­ways, that won’t hap­pen on U.S. Route 50, but in lim­ited ar­eas in Al­le­gany County. They do tend to get a bit more snow than we do on the Eastern Shore.

Some ben­e­fits for veter­ans have gone into ef­fect as well. Among them, ve­hi­cles leased to and used by dis­abled veter­ans will now have some reg­is­tra­tion fees waived. Also, spouses of de­ceased veter­ans will have their ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion fees waived. And veter­ans and ac­tive-duty ser­vice mem­bers will now get pri­or­ity reg­is­tra­tion at higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions.

In laws in­volv­ing crime, re­venge porn, also known as sex­tor­tion, is now a mis­de­meanor that could re­sult in a sen­tence of up to 10 years in pri­son, or a $10,000 fine, or both. Also, such post­ing of com­pro­mis­ing im­ages by phone or com­puter is now con­sid­ered do­mes­tic abuse.

The penalty for in­ter­fer­ing with a school bus driver or pub­lic trans­porta­tion worker has been in­creased from 90 days to a one-year sen­tence, and up to $1,000 fine. And per­ma­nent pro­tec­tive or­ders will now be avail­able for vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Here’s a law that had plenty of early dis­tant warn­ing, but of­fi­cially kicked in Oct. 1: Bat­tery-op­er­ated smoke alarms are no longer al­lowed to be sold in the state un­less they are sealed, tam­per-re­sis­tant units in­cor­po­rat­ing a hush but­ton and us­ing one or more long-life bat­tery. Smoke de­tec­tors in new con­struc­tion are now hard wired.

Maybe the fun­ni­est new law on the books, though, comes from Car­roll County just west of Bal­ti­more. Peo­ple there are now al­lowed to play card games on Sun­day.

So there’s a sam­pling of what is now law in the Free State. Let’s see what the Gen­eral As­sem­bly comes up with in 2019.

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