500 new laws take effect in Md. tomorrow Measures touch all ages, walks of life

June 30, 1991|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- This business of making the state's laws is a matter of life and death -- and just about everything in between, as more than 500 new laws that take effect tomorrow make clear.

For those not yet born, Maryland's General Assembly offered up a new commission intended to find ways to reduce infant mortality.

For the dearly departed, legislators voted to continue the operations of the State Board of Morticians and even authorized the State Anatomy Board to sell cadavers to out-of-state medical research centers.

And for all the rest stuck between the cradle and the grave, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the state's 188 lawmakers combined to produce laws likely to affect their lives regardless of where they live, how much money they earn or what kind of work they do.

For example:

* If you have children younger than 10, a new state law will require that they be secured in child safety seats or seat belts whenever they ride in cars or trucks. If they are younger than 4, or weigh 40 pounds or less, they must be in child safety seats.

* The same law also expands Maryland's mandatory seat belt law for adults to include drivers and passengers in light trucks.

* Need new tires for your car? You may be hit by a new dollar-per-tire fee (or it may be passed on in the cost of each tire).

The money is to go into a tire-recycling fund set up to help eliminate the estimated 5 million to 15 million scrap tires that have accumulated at unregulated dumps around the state.

* If you are disabled, the Motor Vehicle Administration will now be required to provide you with a placard for your car that is big enough to hang from the rearview mirror. A separate new law says that if disabled drivers display their special registration plates, they may park at meters for twice the maximum time permitted for other motorists.

The list of new laws touches seemingly every aspect of life in Maryland: child-care centers, civil rights protections, drug abuse, breast cancer detection, harbor dredging, auto insurance, campaign financing, trucking regulations, bomb threats, alcoholic beverages and presidential primaries.

Medal of Honor winners -- four have been identified as living in Maryland -- may now order their own special license plates.

People passing bad checks could face a penalty of up to $15 a check instead of the current $10 limit.

Twenty-seven specific types of anabolic steroids, the drugs often favored by bodybuilders and other athletes, will be outlawed in Maryland.

Would-be taxicab drivers may find themselves the subject of background investigations as a prerequisite to being hired.

Musical performers who panhandle for a living may legally do so in public places.

Although hundreds of new laws are about to take effect, many of the most controversial measures addressed by the 1991 General Assembly either have already taken effect or have delayed dates of implementation.

A controversial new law designed to assure that abortions remain legal and widely available for Maryland women would have gone into effect tomorrow but is being petitioned to referendum by opponents and cannot become law until voters make their desires known in the November 1992 general election.

Several new laws to raise cigarette and sales taxes or to otherwise get the state's budgets for 1991 and 1992 in balance went into effect June 1.

A revision of the state law that governs which governmental meetings must be open to the news media and public will not take effect until July 1, 1992, although members of a new Open Meetings Compliance Board may be appointed by the governor before then.

A sweeping new tree-conservation bill, intended to make developers replant trees for the ones they cut, technically goes into effect tomorrow, but the actual replanting requirements will not take effect for another year. State and local governments will have until then to prepare their forest-conservation plans and regulations.

But a number of significant actions by this year's legislature will take effect tomorrow:

* Expert testimony on "battered spouse syndrome" may, as of July 1, be admitted as evidence in Maryland trials to show the state of mind of women who contend they murdered or assaulted their husbands or lovers as the result of a long history of beatings.

* Health insurance policies written in Maryland will be required to provide coverage for baseline mammograms for women 35 to 39, a mammogram for women 40 to 49 every two years (or more frequently if recommended by a physician) and an annual mammogram for women older than 50.

* The troubled City Jail in Baltimore will become part of the state prison system, its name officially changed to the Baltimore Detention Center. The transfer is intended as a long-term savings for the financially strapped city.

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