Same-sex marriage, a first-in-the-nation arsenic ban for chicken feed and a law designed to protect children's credit reports are among the Maryland laws taking effect on Jan. 1.
Some, including the marriage law and a Baltimore City charter amendment, were passed by voters in November. Others tweak existing rules, like renewable energy credits and car insurance. Here are the key laws you need to know about that take effect, according to a Maryland General Assembly document.
Same-sex marriage: The Civil Marriage Protection Act, passed in the 2012 session, petitioned to referendum and ratified by Maryland voters in November, takes effect as scheduled on Jan. 1. Maryland was one of the first three states to ratify same-sex marriage at the ballot box—in a fourth, Minnesota, a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman was defeated. Many Maryland jurisdictions have already allowed couples to apply for a marriage license to take effect on New Year's Day. The law does not force religious institutions to host a marriage they cannot condone, but does not change existing anti-discrimination laws. An Annapolis trolley operator opted to shut down his wedding service rather than provide services to same-sex marriages, Annapolis Patch reported in early December.
Veteran drivers' licenses: At a veteran's request, the state Department of Veterans Affairs will provide a veteran with a document certifying his or her status. The Motor Vehicle Administration will note veteran status on the license of a veteran who presents qualifying documentation.
Children credit freeze: Children are a popular target for identity thieves, who abuse children's clean credit histories to obtain loans and credit cards under their Social Security numbers. Foster children are particularly at risk. When these children become of age and don't know they've been victimized, they may find it harder to get a loan. Maryland's first-in-the-nation law will allow parents, for a fee, to freeze their children's credit record and prevent anyone from attempting to get credit under his or her name. There is no fee for children who have been the victims of this identity theft. Federal law signed in 2011 requires states to run credit checks on older foster children.
Baltimore City elections: After the move was approved by voters, Baltimore City's elections will now take place on presidential election years. Instead of 2015, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other city offcials will now be up for re-election in 2016. This was the target of controversy in the General Assembly in 2011, as it results in an extra year for the city's elected officials. City leaders said there is higher turnout for presidential elections than state elections.
Car insurance: An automobile insurer can cancel your policy if your first premium is paid by a method, including a check, that is not honored. Under certain circumstances, the insurer may have to continue or restart your coverage. The insurer must send notice of its intent to rescind your policy within a certain period of time. Remember: All motor vehicles registered in Maryland must be insured.
Biomass: Energy produced by a thermal biomass system now qualifies for various renewable energy tax credits.
Arsenic banned in feed: Maryland last year became the first state to ban arsenic in poultry feed. According to the state's summary of legislation taking effect, the law will prohibit "a person from using, selling, or distributing specified commercial feed ... that contains roxarsone or any other additive that contains arsenic."