ANNAPOLIS – Wednesday is the implementation date for much of the new laws penned during the 1997 General Assembly session.
Added to the books this week are statutes that make an effort to curtail suburban population growth, permit law enforcement officers to stop you for not using your seatbelt and open the courthouse doors in some serious juvenile court trials. And when you submit your car to emissions testing, you’ll now have to use the treadmill. SMART GROWTH
In an attempt to limit suburban sprawl, Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s Smart Growth initiative targets state financial incentives and infrastructure construction to designated growth areas.
Smart Growth seeks to revitalize the state’s urban centers, any areas inside the Baltimore and Washington beltways, and other specially designated regions, like enterprise zones.
This legislation “will go significantly toward reducing sprawl, protecting open space [and] preserving our agricultural forest land,” Glendening said in a recent interview.
The law will work with a companion initiative called the Rural Legacy program, which uses state money to preserve Maryland’s natural resources and open spaces.
However, Glendening points out that anyone willing to forgo state money for roads and sewers and who conforms to local zoning laws still is free to build wherever he wants. MOTOR VEHICLES
Police now can stop and ticket any driver and adult front seat passenger solely for not wearing a seat belt. Previously, officers had to observe another violation before issuing a seat- belt citation. Violations carry a fine of up to $25.
The state now requires the Motor Vehicle Administration to notify the parent, guardian or cosigner on a minor’s driver’s license if that minor is cited for speeding.
A third motor vehicle act prohibits the use of vehicular “sound amplification devices” that can be heard at a distance greater than 50 feet. The maximum fine is $50. EMISSIONS TESTING
In an effort to improve Maryland’s air quality, the state’s vehicle emission inspection program now includes mandatory treadmill testing for most passenger vehicles.
The treadmill test, which causes the car’s engine to be operated at different speeds, more accurately models real-world driving conditions than the stationary tailpipe test it replaces, state authorities say.
“It gives you a real picture of the amount of emissions an automobile releases,” said Quentin Banks, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. “The tailpipe didn’t.” CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Unless a judge has a compelling reason to close them, juvenile court proceedings will be open to the public in cases where the child has committed the equivalent of a felony crime under adult law. Court records in these cases remain confidential.
Lawmakers also directed the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to keep a list of convicted sexual offenders that have been released or that escaped. The department must send fingerprints and other information about the offenders to the FBI.
Under another new law, a person caught driving on revoked or suspended license due to drug- or alcohol-related charges will lose her vehicle for up to 180 days at her own expense. CHILD SUPPORT
The MVA will be authorized to release information about drivers to the Child Support Enforcement Administration, which will use the information to track down individuals suspected of child support delinquency. CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
The law now requires candidates for statewide office to provide electronic verions of their financial reports to the State Administrative Board of Election Laws. The board will make those records available to the public electronically.
Initially, candidates for other Maryland offices may voluntarily supply electronic files, but they will come under mandatory requirements in 1999. HEALTH CARE
A new law requires health care providers to supply patients’ medical records to patients and their parents, guardians, attorneys and other authorized representatives within 21 days of being requested to do so. It prohibits others, such as insurers, from obtaining this information without the patient’s consent, and imposes fines and/or prison terms on individuals who give or receive it illegally.
Another new law orders health care providers to offer counseling for pregnant women on testing for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as a part of prenatal care. BROWNFIELDS
In an effort to revitalize industrial land that owners want to develop but don’t due to fears about potential lawsuits over contamination, the state will now extend legal protection. The Brownfields law applies to abandoned or under-utilized sites polluted before October 1st whose owners clean up the area. SOCIAL SERVICES
A new law increases the penalties against an unauthorized person who sells or purchases federal food stamp program benefits or who knowingly deals in merchandise purchased with food stamp benefits. Violators could be fined up to $10,000 and/or go to jail for up to five years.
Lawmakers also ordered businesses to allow service dog trainers accompanied by a dog in training the same rights of accessibility given to the visually handicapped and hearing impaired. Business that deny entry to trainers could be fined up to $25. CHARITABLE DONATIONS
Maryland now requires anyone collecting charitable donations in a public place to label the collection container with the name and address of the charity and of any other business involved in the collection. The label also must indicate whether a portion of the money deposited is retained by the business. Violators face up to a $5,000 fine and/or one year in jail. BUSINESS
The state brings Maryland regulation of securities transactions into compliance with the National Securities Act of 1996. A new law defines and outlines penalties for securities fraud and other violations of existing investment law.
Lawmakers also offer a tax credit to businesses who hire and/or offer child care or transportation to employees with disabilities. The law will be in effect until Dec. 31, 2000. Capital News Service reporters Paul Briggs, Amanda Burdette, Michael S. Derby, Susan Freitag and Sonia Taylor contributed to this report.