More than 1,300 new laws take effect today in Maryland and Virginia.
Passed by the state legislatures in Annoplis and Richmond during the 1981 sessions, some laws touch on the weighty issues of prison reform, taxation and health care. Others involve simple word changes, additions to past laws or benefits for a particular group or even a person.
Here is a list of laws -- ranging from tougher drunken-driving penalties to rape reform to new bingo regulations -- that will have a widespread impact. MARYLAND DRINKING & DRIVING CHANGE: Six new laws will make it easier to keep drinking drivers off the road. Police will now be able to give roadside breath tests with mandatory penalities for refusal. All drunken driving offenses will for the first time appear on a driver's permanent record. REASON: Maryland's drunken-driving laws were among the weakest in the country. In recent years, the number of highway deaths has increased. Many of those deaths were caused by drunken drivers. CONDO CONVERSIONS CHANGE: Tenants have the first chance to buy their converted apartments; elderly over 62 and handicapped tenants may stay in the converted building for three years; and all tenants get up to $750 in moving expenses from the developers. REASON: Maryland had antiquated laws on condo conversions, which gave tenants little protection. An increasing number of conversions sparked pressure on the legislature from tenant groups and Montgomery County, where most conversions have occurred. SILVER & GOLD CHANGE: Precious metals dealers must be licensed and provide police with descriptions of items they buy and the names of people who sell them gold, silver and other precious objects. Dealers will have to wait 15 days from purchase before selling items. REASON: Thefts of gold and silver jewelry and other personal items produced fears that many secondhand precious metals dealers were selling stolen property. VIRGINIA BEER & WINE CHANGE: Virginia's 18-year-olds will have to wait until they are 19 to buy beer and wine at liquor or convenience stores, although 18-year-olds will still be able to buy beer and wine by the drink in restaurants and taverns. The legal age for buying or drinking hard liquor remains 21. REASON: To keep beer and wine off high school campuses and prevent high school students from buying beer and then giving or selling it to younger people. RAPE LAW REFORMS CHANGE: Homosexual rape and object rape (in which inanimate objects are used in a rape), which used to be classified as forceable sodomy with a maximum 10-year prison sentence, will both carry the same penalty as rape -- a maximum of life in prison. REASON: To discourage rape through harsher penalities. MARYLAND BANKRUPTCY CHANGE: Maryland added to federal bankruptcy statutes to make it tougher to go bankrupt. The new law lowers the amount of money and property someone going bankrupt can keep. REASON: State legislators around that the 1977 federal bankruptcy law was too lenient and had resulted in a doubling of bankruptcies in Maryland. Legislators argued that some people were using the federal law to escape creditors. CREDIT CARDS CHANGE: Banks will not be able to charge a membership fee on credit card accounts, as banking industry representatives had proposed. REASON: A Baltimore judge ruled that under state law, Banks could charge the membership fees, but the legislature -- having increased the interest-rate ceiling on credit cards from 16 to 18 percent last year -- changed the law to prevent the fees. OTHER LAWS: Criminal trials in Maryland can no longer be filmed or recorded; the county's only movie censor board has been eliminated; weekly maximum unemployment benefits will jump from $120 to $140; sexually explicit material can no longer be displayed to minors; and alligators, bears and poisonous snakes cannot be kept as pets. VIRGINIA BINGO REGULATION CHANGE: City and county officials now can set their own rules about how often charitable groups can hold bingo games. In the past, the state set most of those rules. REASON: Lawmakers complaints that only local supervision could keep some charities from abusing their right to raise money be generating more money than they need. MEDICAID REFORMS CHANGE: Eligibility and covered services for 290,000 Virginians will be reduced, while personal allowances for about 15,000 Medicaid nursing home patients not receiving Supplemental Security Income will be increased from $25 to $30 a month. REASON: To save $12 million a year in the cost of Virginia's Medicaid program, which ran at a projected $68 million deficit during fiscal year 1981. MILITARY TUITIONS CHANGE: Local jurisdictions are now empowered to charge public school tuition for the estimated 16,000 children of military personnel who are not Virginia residents and who live on federal property, if federal payments to cover their education costs fall below half of the average per-pupil cost. REASON: To defend against congressional proposals to cut as much as half of last year's $800 million in overall impact aid to all states, which goes to local governments to make up for non-taxable federal government installations. OTHER LAWS: Forbid most strip searches by police of people arrested for minor offenses; tighten laws allowing the sterilization of mental patients; eliminate the state's prohibition against one spouse testifying against another, allowing husbands and wives to sue each other for damages; abolish the doctrine of soverign immunity, allowing people to sue the state for civil damages; and determine that the sprinkling of ashes on church property does not constitute the creation of a cemetery.