By Rosalind S. Helderman and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 1, 2010; B04
Concealed weapons permit holders in Virginia will be allowed to carry guns into restaurants that serve alcohol provided they don't drink, and Maryland residents will gain mediation rights before possibly losing their homes to foreclosure as hundreds of new laws go into effect Thursday in both states.
Almost 900 laws approved during winter legislative sessions go on the books in Virginia, and more than 170 take effect in Maryland. A much larger batch of laws will take effect in Maryland on Oct. 1.
In a long-sought victory for supporters of gun rights, the Virginia legislature lifted a ban on guns in establishments that serve alcohol. Lawmakers had passed a similar measure twice before, but it was vetoed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D). This year, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who took office in January. About 300 gun rights supporters plan to celebrate Thursday night by visiting restaurants that serve alcohol while carrying their weapons.
In Maryland, the new foreclosure law was a priority for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). It is intended to keep more families in their homes by requiring lenders to attempt to negotiate new payment plans in many cases. O'Malley said the law will put families on "a more equal footing with mortgage companies that too often can't be bothered to pick up the phone before beginning a foreclosure proceeding."
Another high-profile measure in Maryland, championed by House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), is intended to curb gang activity by requiring greater communication between schools and law enforcement officials. And a Chesapeake Bay Conservation Corps Program will be launched as a law designed to encourage environmentally friendly community service projects takes effect.
A variety of rules of the road will change in Virginia.
The speed limit will rise from 65 to 70 mph on a stretch of Interstate 295 outside of Richmond, and it could soon rise on rural interstates as a law giving the Virginia Department of Transportation the ability to raise the limit goes into effect.
Seat-belt laws have also been strengthened in Virginia, with a new law that requires 16- and 17-year-olds to wear seat belts in the back seat of vehicles. Previously, only children 15 and younger were required to wear seat belts in the back. Also, juveniles who are caught with alcohol twice will now lose their driver's license for up to a year instead of six months.
Starting Thursday, it will also be illegal to require Virginians to purchase health insurance, a measure designed by the General Assembly to put the state in conflict with the new federal health-care law, which will require citizens to buy insurance or pay a fine beginning in 2014.
Several initiatives championed by McDonnell and intended to spur economic development also go into effect Thursday. They include a tax credit for companies that create new jobs and a tax credit to encourage moviemaking in Virginia. In a statement, McDonnell called the measures "a critical step to turning Virginia's economy around."
In Maryland, a measure championed by O'Malley has already taken effect: It offers companies a $5,000 tax credit for each unemployed worker that they hire.
Virginians will also see court fees rise, as well as a $2 increase in the fee on car registrations as a new state budget goes into effect that included deep spending cuts but no tax increases. A new budget year also begins in Maryland on Thursday. Heading into an election year, lawmakers did not raise taxes and fees.