'Living Wage,' Other Laws Go Into Effect Today

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 1, 2007

Teenagers who skip school more than 10 days in a semester will be denied learner's permits, child rapists will face mandatory sentences with no parole, and government contractors will be required to pay workers more than minimum wage as 316 new laws take effect today in Maryland.

Almost all of the laws were approved by the General Assembly in the winter and signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). About 200 laws took effect July 1.

The new laws cover everything from civics -- students must now celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day -- to dogs, whose owners must now allow them to move around comfortably and have access to food and water if they are tied up outside. Also, speeders will now face state troopers who have new technology in hand: electronic devices that allow them to issue tickets more quickly than writing them by hand.

The truancy law was proposed by a lawmaker from Prince George's County, Del. Gerron S. Levi (D), as a solution to soaring unexcused absences in her community, where the attendance rate last year was the state's second-lowest. Only Baltimore's was lower.

Anyone younger than 16 who applies for a learner's permit must submit a certificate completed by school officials stating that the student has no more than 10 unexcused absences in the prior semester. Maryland does not require students, who are eligible for learner's permits at age 15 and nine months, to continue school after 16.

The law affects private school and home-schooled students, as well as those in public school.

Prince George's schools officials said they have not advertised the new law, because the system no longer offers driver's education programs. "The school system keeps track of attendance, but it's the parents' and students' responsibility" to make sure students are in school, schools spokesman John White said. Driver's education is taught by private schools in most parts of the state.

Several crime-related measures take effect today, among them a no-parole requirement for child rapists. Anyone 18 or older convicted of a sex offense or rape against someone younger than 13 will face a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison on a first-degree conviction.

The no-parole law is an expansion of Jessica's Law, which passed during the General Assembly's 2006 special session. Jessica's Law, in turn, is modeled on a Florida law passed after a 9-year-old girl was killed by a convicted sex offender.

The so-called living wage law requires workers on state contracts of $100,000 or more to be paid at least $11.30 an hour if at least half of the total value of the work is performed in the Washington-Baltimore corridor. The minimum in other areas of Maryland is $8.50 an hour. The law applies to contracts awarded after Oct. 1. The state's minimum wage is $6.15.

Other laws take effect today in name only. A statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants, for example, goes on the books but will not affect smokers until Feb. 1. A ban on phosphorus in dishwashing detergent used in homes will not be in place until Jan. 1, 2010, a delay that allows the industry to formulate new products. In the meantime, state regulators will be writing rules governing the new laws.

A Maryland law to bypass the electoral college, awarding its 10 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationally instead of statewide, will not take effect unless states that cumulatively hold 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win a presidential election, agree to do the same.

Another law gives new rights to disabled children who were born out of wedlock to seek child support, even if the child is an adult.

The change was prompted by the case of a Frederick mother, Vicki Trembow, whose son, Ivan, was born out of wedlock. Trembow did not seek child support from Ivan's father, now a California lawyer. Ivan Trembow, 22, has a rare, degenerative bone disease, and his mother said she needs money for his medical expenses. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in June that Trembow could not pursue support because Ivan was older than 18.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery), proposed allowing parents of disabled children to seek support indefinitely. But it was amended in committee to lift the age cap from 18 to 21.

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