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Here's a snapshot of new Maryland laws on the books

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Rachel Baye
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Dozens of new laws take effect Saturday in Maryland, on topics ranging from marriages to gun safety to highway driving. WYPR state government reporter Rachel Baye spoke with Matt Tacka about a few of the new laws.

Tacka: 

Let’s start with the new law concerning marriages. What’s changing?

Baye:

What’s changing is the legal age to get married. Until now, Maryland allowed people to get married as young as 15. Now you have to be 17.

For context, the sponsor of this law, Howard County Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, has been trying to increase the marriage age for seven years before finally getting the bill passed this year.

The new law has several measures designed to protect 17 year olds from being forced into marriage. I’ll let Atterbeary explain:

Atterbeary: 

A judge has to make a determination after a hearing … that it is in the best interest of the child, for that 17 year old, to be married. The child has to be assigned an attorney to represent their interests. It has to be the 17 year old who's actually petitioning the court, whereas before … one of the parents could just walk down to the clerk of the court and say, hey, I want my kid to get married.

Baye:

Interestingly, the law also allows 17 year olds to get divorced. Until now, you could get married at 15, but not get divorced until 18.

Tacka: 

I understand you have been reporting on another new law that deals with protections for children. Tell me what this does.

Baye:

Right, this is known as the Child Interrogation Protection Act. It also failed for several years in the legislature before ultimately passing this year.

Put simply, the law prohibits police from interrogating children without the presence of a parent, guardian or attorney, except in specific situations where there’s an immediate public safety concern.

I spoke with Sen. Jill Carter, from Baltimore City, who sponsored this law. She said children who are interrogated without one of these adults present will often be pressured into giving a false confession.

Carter: 

One of the situations that I remember speaking about on the floor of the Senate was a young 16 year old in Harford County at the time, who was held for months and months and months until it was revealed that his commission of the crime was an impossibility. But he had falsely confessed.

Tacka: 

Related to crime, you mentioned a new law concerning gun safety. What is changing?

Baye:

This law requires stores that sell guns to have certain security measures, to prevent guns from being stolen.

It was controversial in the legislature. Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed it, saying the new requirements would be overly burdensome for gun sellers.

But legislative leaders said they worked with the industry to come up with rules they could support. And ultimately, the legislature overrode the veto along party lines.

Tacka:

Switching gears, there’s a new law that changes the rules for drivers. Explain what this does.

Baye: 

Maryland drivers are already required to move over a lane or slow down when they pass a stopped police officer, first responder or tow truck. Under the new law, other disabled or stopped vehicles along the side of the road are added to that list.

This is the sponsor, Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher from Montgomery County.

Waldstreicher:

We continue to have people killed at the roadside, because, you know, they had a flat tire, because their transmissions failed. Maryland was one of a few states that didn't have a full ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ law for all disabled vehicles.

Tacka:

I know there are a lot of laws taking effect. Any others you want to highlight?

Baye:

There are really too many to name. They deal with privacy issues, taxes, affordable housing — all sorts of things. One restricts the practice of declawing cats. Another increases the amount of money you get for serving on a jury.

Tacka:

Thanks, Rachel.

The WYPR news team will have more on new laws on Monday during Morning Edition.

Rachel Baye is a reporter for WYPR's newsroom.
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