Marylanders to pay a bit more, in new ways, as of tomorrow

June 30, 1992|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- In increments small and large, in ways obvious and obscure, the state is about to dip its hand into the wallets and pocketbooks of Marylanders to cover some of the everyday costs of government.

Among 130 new laws that take effect July 1 are measures that raise license, permit and other fees the state charges. Many of the revisions are designed to make certain government services self-supporting.

Just in time for the Fourth of July, the cost of obtaining a permit to shoot off fireworks is about to go up.

But so, too, is the cost of a license to operate a horse riding stable. Applicants for handgun permits will have to pay more to cover the expense of fingerprint record checks. Employers will have to pay a fee if they bounce their checks to the state for unemployment insurance.

People sent to the state's drinking driver program will have to pay a fee to cover the cost of their own supervision. Chemical companies that want to register a pesticide with the state, or to take a pesticide off the state's registry, will have to pay a fee.

Real estate appraisers will pay a fee to cover the cost of administering their exam, and fees will be raised for chiropractors, land surveyors, livestock dealers and even wholesale seedsmen.

Normally, the bulk of bills passed by the Maryland legislature take effect July 1, but that changed this year.

In what critics jokingly dubbed the "Lazy Lawyers' Relief Act," the 1992 legislature decided to postpone the effective date of most new laws until Oct. 1. The delay will provide enough time for changes to the law to be printed in law book supplements so that no lawyers will be surprised.

"They were walking potential malpractice cases," said David S. Iannucci, chief legislative lobbyist for Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

This year, some 375 new laws will not take effect until Oct. 1. Despite that, this July's crop of laws includes several that are likely to be of lasting importance, including measures to:

* Expand the number of inmates eligible for the state's home detention program.

* Provide "challenge grants" as incentives for poorly performing public schools to improve.

* Continue state operation of the Baltimore City Community College.

* Grant budgetary independence to state-affiliated St. Mary's College.

* Transfer the Montebello Center, a rehabilitation hospital in Baltimore, to the private University of Maryland Medical System.

A so-called "potty parity" bill goes into effect that will require any "place of public entertainment" that can accommodate more than 100 people, and for which a construction permit is issued after May 1, 1993, to be equipped with the same number of public restroom toilets for women as there are toilets and urinals combined for men.

Another new law also clearly establishes that the state's policy for caring for children with disabilities or other special needs is to do so in-state rather than out of state if financially possible.

The bill expanding eligibility for Maryland's home detention program, one of several moves the state is taking to reduce the size of its prison population, is expected to increase the number of inmates confined at home from 156 last week to an estimated 600. Many of the new laws affect local governments. One will permit counties or municipalities to accept payment of property taxes and other related taxes and charges by credit card. Another repeals the Sunday blue laws in Wicomico County, a vestige from Colonial times.

Blue laws elsewhere in Maryland were abolished in 1987.

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