Most have been overshadowed by fights over higher-profile initiatives, such as Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) plan to spur an offshore wind-power industry, and none has yet to garner as much attention as last year’s most notable consumer bill, which allowed residents to ship bottles of wine from vineyards to their homes.
Still, many of the battles being more quietly waged could have as much impact on segments of the state’s population.
Del. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery) is leading an effort to require labels on tires clearly indicating the month and year of their manufacture.
Under current labeling practices, a tire that is several years old could be sold “new” to a consumer, heightening the chance of a “catastrophic failure,” Kramer said.
“The tire manufacturers in the industry have done their best for years to keep under wraps the fact that tires — whether they have ever been put on a car or not — begin to deteriorate from the moment the manufacturing process is completed,” Kramer said.
A bill that has already passed both chambers of the General Assembly will give shoppers more information about the integrity of a different sort of product: honey.
Prodded by the state’s beekeepers, who say pure honey has difficulty competing with low-cost, adulterated honey, the legislature passed a bill establishing a “standard of identity” for honey.
Soon, makers of honey with cheap additives such as high-fructose corn syrup will have to clearly label the extra ingredients on the front of the jar. The bill allows beekeepers or honey packers to bring suit against violators.
“A bunch of beekeepers all over Maryland are going to be looking on the shelves to police the standard,” said Byron Rice, the Frederick County beekeeper who championed the legislation this year after unsuccessful efforts in 2010 and 2011.
Also back after failing last year is a proposal to keep people under 18 from using tanning beds that emit cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation. As it stands, minors can use such devices with parental permission.
“Because this is a carcinogen, we want to treat it the same way we treat alcohol and cigarettes, which are banned for minors,” said Del. Kirill Reznik (D-Montgomery), the bill’s lead sponsor in the House.
In another nod to consumer protection, a first-time bill under consideration this session would ban the sale of child-care products that contain a chemical flame-retardant widely used in car seats and high chairs.
The chemical, tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate or TCEP, has been shown to cause cancer in rodents.
Del. James W. Hubbard (D-Prince George’s), the bill’s sponsor, has been a standard-bearer for toxic substances legislation in Maryland. Last year, Hubbard pushed through legislation to ban infant formula containers with high levels of bisphenol A, or BPA, and cheap costume jewelry with high levels of cadmium.
“I’m not going to wait for the federal government to do something while my constituents are the ones who are becoming sick,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard also has revived a bill that would make Maryland the second state, after California, to ban restaurants from serving foods with artificial trans fat, which is associated with coronary heart disease and strokes.
Since Hubbard first started pushing the trans fat bill five years ago, similar statutes have passed in Baltimore and Montgomery County.
Hubbard is also a co-sponsor of a first-time bill that could lead to special safety warnings for amusement park visitors who have recently suffered a concussion. The bill has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.
Another first-time bill this session would change, for the first time in over 20 years, the state’s regulations regarding rent-to-own stores, such as Rent-A-Center.
Rent-to-own stores sometimes use deceptive advertising and confusing contracts to conceal the long-term costs of leases, said Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore), the bill’s lead sponsor, adding such stores are not covered under federal lending regulations.
“They’ve operated in this kind of loophole ... and so they’ve been unregulated or under-regulated,” Washington said.
The bill would cap a contract’s total cost, force stores to disclose the cost of a similar item at a traditional retail store and require contracts to be written in “plain English,” among other protections.
Another bill being considered would allow a parent to place a security freeze on a child’s credit, a measure meant to prevent identity theft. The bill passed the Senate on Thursday and awaits action in the House.
And under a bill that appears on the verge of passage in the Senate after passing the House last month, pet store owners could soon be required to post information about a dog’s breeder on its cage. In some cases, sellers would also have to reimburse health expenses for dogs that become ill after purchase.