New laws run gamut from serious to silly
A number of new laws kicked in on Monday 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 primary in June.
As for snowmobiles on highways, that won’t happen on Route 5, but in limited areas in Allegany County. They do tend to get a bit more snow than we do in Southern Maryland.
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 Monday: 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.
And in a proclamation that codifies what has long been regarded as true, the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons is now the state’s official paleontology collection and research center.
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.