This month brought with it some new laws that have taken effect, after their examination earlier this year by the General Assembly and Gov. Larry Hogan. Here’s a sampling of what’s now on the books in the Free State.
As of July 1, food service businesses and public schools technically are no longer allowed to provide food or drinks in expanded polystyrene foam containers. The onus is on the state to reach out to restaurants to publicize the ban within the next year.
The upshot of this is that those entities have until July 2020 before they could be fined or prosecuted. Both parts of this are a good idea. Clearly, something has to be done to reduce the pollution caused by styrofoam, which scientists have said can take millennia to break down. And it’s fair to give eateries time to make the adjustment. In particular, small businesses could take a hit if forced to change their packaging in a hurry.
Under one of the new laws that took effect, schools will be prohibited from entering into nondisclosure agreements involving sexual misconduct by school employees. Several states have made similar laws in recent years to stop what supporters of the measure often refer to as “passing the trash.” Supporters of the Maryland law say many parents often have not been aware that schools have been bound by separation agreements and could not mention allegations of employee misconduct, which allows accused educators to move from job to job. The Maryland law, which applies to both public and private schools, prohibits schools from expunging data from personnel files in cases of employee sexual misconduct. This is a good idea to help protect children, and long overdue.
An environmental law championed by the late House speaker Michael E. Busch, who died a day before the General Assembly adjourned in April, also went into effect July 1. The law protects oyster sanctuaries in the Chesapeake Bay, a move environmentalists say will help revive it. Hogan (R) vetoed the measure — and was overridden by the legislature — because he worried it would jeopardize the jobs of watermen. Five oyster sanctuaries are permanently protected to prohibit catching oysters in them. The sanctuaries are in the St. Mary’s River, Harris Creek, the Little Choptank River, the Tred Avon River and the Manokin River.
As of this month, Maryland is the first state in the nation to be able to create an oversight board charged with lowering prescription drug costs. Vincent DeMarco, the president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said last week this marks a “major milestone” in the effort to lower drug costs. The drug affordability board would cap the costs of certain prescription drugs when purchased by state and local government employers. If successful, it could be expanded to other employers. The board’s decisions to set caps will have to be approved by the Legislative Policy Committee, a panel of top state lawmakers. The board will be able to set upper-payment limits on prescription drug costs for state and local governments, with approval from a legislative panel, in 2022.
In Prince George’s County, a new law will allow some movie theaters to begin serving alcohol. To be eligible, the owners of the theaters must have invested at least $5 million in renovating or remodeling, and the average daily sales of food must exceed alcohol sales. St. Mary’s County already has a movie theater in Lexington Park permitted to sell beer and wine.
Maryland updated laws regarding the craft beer industry. It increased allowed taproom sales, production capabilities, self-distribution limits and hours of operation. This should be a boon to Southern Maryland’s burgeoning brewing businesses.
A person now can have 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. This is another budding opportunity for our region.
And here’s a good one: University of Maryland University College is changing its name to University of Maryland Global Campus. That’s catchy and has a broad-sounding reach. Too bad the folks at what’s now the University of System of Maryland at Southern Maryland (the former Southern Maryland Higher Education Center) couldn’t have been as creative.