Dozens of New State Laws Now on the Books

Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Dozens of new laws that passed during the 2021 Maryland legislative session took effect on Friday. The bills cover a variety of topics ranging from police reform — which was at center stage this year — to racial equity and gun sales.

Overall, 771 bills were passed this year in the Maryland General Assembly. A list provided by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services shows some of the most “popular” topics this legislative calendar.

Business

SB 689: Establishes a mentoring program within large and established minority businesses for startup and small minority businesses. It studies a one-on-one assistance program for minority businesses to submit bids and proposals for procurement contracts.

Consumer protection

SB 327: Lets financially exploited older or susceptible people file a civil complaint against their exploiter, in addition to the current criminal penalties. It survives the death of the individual.

HB 1000: Prohibits a nonfamily guardian of a minor or disabled person from distributing or disbursing property without court authorization. It also matches the penalty for the guardian to that of a trustee.

HB 804: Establishes a whistleblower reward program within the Office of the Comptroller.

Crime

SB 494: Authorizes courts to sentence a minor convicted as an adult to less prison time than a convicted adult would receive. Courts are also prohibited from imposing a life sentence without the possibility of parole or release. Minors are guaranteed the right to solicit the court to reduce their sentence.

Employment

HB 290: Extends the time to file employment discrimination complaints with the Commission on Civil Rights from six months to 300 days.

HB 581: Requires essential employers during a declared state of emergency to provide essential employees safe working conditions, including available safety equipment and free disease testing, a right to refuse to perform an assigned task; to provide federal or state-funded public health emergency leave and to report test results to the Maryland Department of Health.

SB 473: Requires employers with 15 or more employees to allow workers to use any earned pay leave for bereavement leave for an immediate family member.

Environment

HB 391: Expands restrictions on intentionally releasing balloons into the atmosphere. The following groups are prohibited from intentionally releasing a balloon into the atmosphere: a person 13 or older, a corporation, a partnership, an association, a nonprofit agency, the state, or any unit of a political subdivision. It also requires certain local governments with enforcement authority to report the violation.

HB 298: Requires the Power Plant Research Program to include an evaluation of the impact of electric power plants on climate change as part of its ongoing research.

HB 1207: Requires members of the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities to reflect the state’s facial, gender, ethnic and geographic diversity. It also requires the commission to meet at least six times per year and hold at least four community listening sessions.

Guns

HB 4: Requires people to complete sales, rentals or transfers of rifles and shotguns through a licensed dealer. The dealer must also conduct background checks through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check Systems.

Police reform

SB 178: Allows certain people to review disciplinary records of law enforcement agents for misconduct, internal affairs investigations, hearings and disciplinary decisions for review under the Maryland Public Information Act. It also requires “no-knock” search warrants to first be approved in writing by a police supervisor and the state’s attorney, and executed only between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., absent critical circumstances.

SB600: Requires law enforcement to report any “potential police-involved death” of a civilian to a new independent investigative unit in the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland.

Other

HB 1261: Allows wills, powers of attorney and advance directives to be authorized electronically and witnessed remotely.

HB 130: Establishes the Commission on LGBTQ Affairs in the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives.

As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Glynis Kazanjian. Click here for the WTOP News website.