Effective July 1, No More State Song, And A Few Other New Laws
Several dozen new state laws take effect Thursday, July 1. The new laws, most of which the General Assembly passed during its 90-day session earlier this year, cover topics ranging from criminal justice to public schools, from college athletics to the state song. Here are a few highlights:
Compensation For Those Wrongly Convicted
Until now, the Maryland Board of Public Works had discretion over whether to compensate someone who served time in prison for a crime they did not commit, as well as how much money to give them.
Under a new law, an administrative law judge determines whether someone qualifies for payment, and the Board of Public Works is required to pay anyone who is eligible within 60 days of receiving the judge’s order. A formula calculates how much money they get, based on the state’s median income and the amount of time they served in prison.
The law works retroactively, applying to people who have been exonerated in the past but received less money than they would under the new formula. As a result, Sen. Delores Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat who sponsored the law, said it could affect “untold numbers” of people.
“There are still people in our state who have been exonerated by all standards, but who have not yet been served, and so that's what the current bill this year is working on — to standardize what happens to make it reasonable,” Kelley said.
The law also authorizes the administrative law judge to order state agencies to provide the exoneree with other services, such as a state ID card, housing for up to five years, vocational training, health and dental care for up to five years, or tuition at a local community college.
The law was named for Walter Lomax, who spent 39 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, then fought for compensation from the Board of Public Works.
Menstrual Products In Public Schools
This law requires local public school systems to provide menstrual products in at least two women’s restrooms at each high school and middle school and in at least one women’s restroom at each elementary school by October 1, 2022. All women’s restrooms at public middle and high schools must have menstrual products by August 1, 2025.
Though the idea for this law has been around for a few years, the pandemic made it more necessary, said Sen. Sarah Elfreth, an Anne Arundel County Democrat and the Senate sponsor of the bill.
“I spent a lot of my time on food distribution lines, as have our colleagues, and the number one product that goes kind of second to chicken and meat is tampons and pads, because they're considered a luxury item that a lot of families struggling paycheck to paycheck just can't afford,” Elfreth said. “I look at this as a kind of an education equity issue of making sure students can have everything they need to be able to sit at their desk and learn every day.”
No More State Song
After decades of unsuccessful efforts to get rid of the state song, the legislature finally did it. However, unlike previous proposals, the law taking effect Thursday does not offer a replacement state song. There is, simply, no more official state song.
For more than 80 years, the state song has been Maryland, My Maryland. The lyrics come from a poem by James Ryder Randall, who wrote it following a riot in Baltimore in April 1861, when southern sympathizers attacked Union troops.
The lyrics refer to President Abraham Lincoln’s “despot heel” and urges his fellow Marylanders to “avenge the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore.”
The song was “a plea for his native state to take what he saw as its rightful place among the states who left the Union to form the Confederacy,” according to a Maryland State Archives study of the song’s history.
Safety For Student Athletes
This law requires athletic programs at all public colleges and universities to adopt and implement guidelines to prevent and treat serious sports-related injuries and illnesses, as well as to supervise athletes who have potentially life-threatening health conditions.
The University System of Maryland, Morgan State University and St. Mary’s College of Maryland also must submit to the General Assembly annual reports on these health and safety guidelines.
The law is named for Jordan McNair, the 19-year-old University of Maryland football player who collapsed from heat stroke during a team workout in May 2018 and later died.
“We're talking about Jordan McNair, who graduated from McDonogh School and was one of the top-rated athletes nationally in football to graduate from high school that year,” said Sen. Chris West, a Baltimore County Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors. “It was very traumatic for Maryland athletes in general and McDonogh School athletes in particular, the University of Maryland football team, also.”
The law, West said, aims to prevent something like what happened to McNair from ever happening again.
A second part of the law allowing student athletes to be paid for their name, image and likeness does not take effect until July 1, 2023.
Cocktails To Go
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Larry Hogan authorized restaurants and bars to offer beer, wine and cocktails to go. The move was so popular that lawmakers decided to write it into state law — temporarily.
From July 1, 2021 until June 30, 2023, restaurants and bars will be allowed to continue offering carry-out alcoholic beverages, so long as the local liquor board signs off.
There are a few other stipulations. The alcohol must be purchased with food, and it must come in a sealed container with no holes or straws for sipping. And it cannot be sold or delivered after 11 p.m.
The local liquor board can also restrict these sales, such as by limiting the number of drinks a single person can purchase.
Changes At Maryland Environmental Service
The Maryland Environmental Service came under intense scrutiny after former director Roy McGrath left the agency to become Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff in June 2020. On his way out the door, McGrath negotiated a $238,000 severance payment, plus received thousands more in delayed expense reimbursements. When news of the severance became public, McGrath left his post in Hogan’s office. Since then, new details have emerged about hefty travel expenses and low morale at the quasi-public agency.
The law that takes effect Thursday restructures the agency’s board to limit the power of the person serving as director. It also creates more accountability for travel and other expenses by requiring the director — renamed “executive director” under the law — and deputy director to give the board explanations of all expenses over $500.
Under the new law, the MES board is prohibited from giving severance packages to executives who take other positions in state government within a year of leaving.