New Maryland laws target veterans’ licenses, chicken feed, elections -- Gazette.Net


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Starting Wednesday, Maryland’s veterans will be able to have their military service noted on their driver’s licenses, one of several new laws that took effect on New Year’s Day.

While newly legal same-sex weddings in the state, which began Tuesday, may be drawing the most attention, the other laws cover topics ranging from Baltimore city elections to carcinogens in chicken feed.

Driver’s license applications from the state Motor Vehicle Administration will now give veterans the option of having their veteran status marked on their license, a move that could help some ease back into civilian life after returning from combat, according to Sen. James N. Mathias Jr. (D-Dist. 38) of Ocean City, who sponsored the bill along with Del. Norman H. Conway (D-Dist. 38B) of Salisbury.

“There’s the whole issue with returning troops of post-traumatic stress disorder,” Mathias said. If veterans suffering from the condition get into trouble with law enforcement, police will immediately be able to take their military service into consideration, he said.

The notation also will allow the state to keep veterans apprised of benefits or programs for which they may be eligible, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

A prohibition on chicken feed that contains arsenic — a known carcinogen — also takes effect Wednesday, due to a law sponsored by Del. Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring.

The law — the first of its kind in the nation — bans the use of roxarsone, a chemical added to chicken feed to protect the animals from parasites, and most other arsenic-containing additives.

Arsenic can build up in the chickens’ bodies as well as in their manure, which the rain can wash into the Chesapeake Bay, Hucker said, adding that arsenic has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

“This is a big win for Maryland residents,” Hucker said.

Pfizer, which produces roxarsone, voluntarily suspended sales of the product in 2011, but the ban remains important in case the drug is sold again or another company markets a similar product, Hucker said.

And while roxarsone is no longer used by Maryland chicken farmers, the poultry industry has expressed concern that if the drug is put back on the market, the new law could stick Maryland chicken farmers with higher feed costs than those borne by their competitors in other states.

Another new law changes the year in which Baltimore city holds its municipal elections so they coincide with the presidential election cycle.

A pair of city charter amendments during the past 15 years put city law at odds with state law regarding when the city’s elections should be held, and resulted in city elections being scheduled for the year after gubernatorial elections.

But the new law, sponsored by Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Dist. 45) and Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks, both of Baltimore, changes the election year. The move is expected to save the state $270,000 and the city $3.7 million in costs associated with holding off-year municipal elections, according to Department of Legislative Services.

Another new law requires credit-reporting agencies to put a “security freeze” on a minor’s credit report if requested by a parent. The law, sponsored by Sen. John C. Astle (D-Dist. 30) Annapolis and Del. Craig J. Zucker (D-Dist. 14) of Brookeville, is an effort to protect children from identity theft.

dleaderman@gazette.net