New laws that took effect this week in Maryland

By: David M. Higgins II

Protecting Students from Sex Abuse

  • Schools are now required to contact all of an applicant’s past employers. The state also has rendered useless any agreements that would stop schools from reporting sex abuse investigations or related disciplinary action of an employee. Any applicant to a county school board or other schools in the state who will directly work with minors has to submit all contact information from prior jobs where kids were involved. Potential employers have to find out from those jobs — in writing — if the former employee was disciplined, fired or asked to resign during an investigation of child sexual abuse or misconduct, and whether any allegations were substantiated.

Student Athlete Safety:

  • By Oct. 1, every institution of higher education in Maryland must adopt a policy that allows students to express concerns about athletic programs and activities. Schools will be required to report students’ filed concerns to a state every July 1, starting in 2020.
  • The Policy on Student Concerns About Athletic Programs and Activities came after the tragic death of Maryland Terrapins football player Jordan McNair in June 2018. McNair’s death also inspired new transparency rules for UMD’s Board of Regents, which will now be required to steam meetings online, the Associated Press reports.

Brewery Modernization:

  • Maryland is set to increase taproom sales, production capabilities, self-distribution limits and hours of operation for the benefit of the craft beer industry, the Associated Press reports.
  • Under the new act, which went into effect July 1, Class 5 beer manufacturers (think Union Craft, Monument City, Heavy Seas, etc.) will have increased taproom limits of up to 5,000 barrels a year. For Class 7 microbreweries (like The Brewer’s Art, Nepenthe Brewing), taproom limits have also been increased to 5,000 barrels a year and their production cap has nearly doubled to 45,000 barrels a year.
  • In addition, the new law will remove the guided tour requirement for a carry-out beer at breweries (up to a case), allow Class 8 farm breweries to extend their hours until 10 p.m., loosen regulations on self-distribution, and make it possible for all classifications to now brew beer at an off-site location.

Free Rides:

  • The Maryland Transit Administration must offer free rides to all permanent members of the Executive Branch of State government, as well as college and university employees.
  • The current law allows employees of the Executive Branch of State — no college or university employees — to ride MTA local service for free, including Baltimore-area buses, Metro subway, and light rail. The new law includes all transit vehicles part of MTA’s light rail transit system, Metro subway, local bus service, Baltimore commuter bus service and other systems specified by MTA.

Child Tax Credit:

  • The state’s child and the dependent care tax credit are being expanded to make the credit refundable to taxpayers with a federal adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less. Before, eligibility for Maryland families was capped at those earning $50,000, whether single or married. Now that cap has been raised to $92,000. It’s estimated that Maryland families with two children spend $18,000 a year on childcare alone.

Clean Cars:

  • The state is expanding a tax credit for qualified plug-in electric vehicles to $3,000.

Foam Ban:

  • Foodservice businesses and schools are not allowed to provide food or drinks in expanded polystyrene foam foodservice products on or after July 1, 2020. Maryland is the first state to ban foam containers in an effort to fight pollution.
  • The law takes effect July 1, 2019, and requires the state to reach out to restaurants and publicize the ban.

Marijuana Ownership

  • A person will be able to have an ownership interest in up to four licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. State law also clarifies the existing limit of one ownership interest for licensed growers and codifies a limit of one ownership interest for licensed processors.

Opportunity Zones:

  • Tax incentives will be extended under Gov. Larry Hogan’s More Jobs for More Marylanders program to the state’s 149 Opportunity Zones.

New College Name:

  • The University of Maryland University College is changing its name to the University of Maryland Global Campus.

Oyster Sanctuary:

  • Permanently protecting oysters within five sanctuaries around the Chesapeake Bay, in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank, Tred Avon, St. Mary’s and Manokin rivers. The legislation was a priority of Democratic House Speaker Michael Busch, who died in April, and becomes law after the General Assembly overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.