New laws aimed at prosecuting big-time Internet spammers, helping small businesses and elevating lacrosse to the status of "state team sport" will become effective today in Maryland.
The laws -- along with nearly 300 others, both sweeping and small -- were passed even as the General Assembly was transfixed by the long, and continuing, fight over slot machine gambling.
On the small side, there were laws governing the sale of alcohol at a Carroll County microbrewery and a Harford County winery. Another law repealed the licensing requirements for "palm readers, fortune-tellers, soothsayers and other similar persons" in Cecil County.
Laws with a larger scope include the Maryland Spam Deterrence Act, which prohibits Internet purveyors from using false addresses or other deceptive techniques to send commercial e-mails. Those convicted of an offense could face a jail sentence of one or more years, a fine of $5,000 or more and the loss of any money made from such solicitations, said Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Montgomery), one of the bill's sponsors.
"If you're going to do this type of business, you're going to serve some time now," Garagiola said yesterday.
The law is triggered whenever someone in Maryland receives a piece of illegal spam and could be used even if the sender is in another state, Garagiola said.
The law was patterned after one passed recently by Virginia and makes Maryland only the second state to impose criminal penalties on such conduct, said Nicholas Graham, a spokesman for America Online Inc.
Graham said the law is designed to go after "kingpin" spammers, who send out more than 10 deceptive e-mails in a day or 1,000 in a year.
Another new law mandates that certain state government agencies give at least 10 percent of their procurement contracts to small and minority businesses. That move was applauded by Wayne Frazier, president of the Maryland-Washington Minority Contractors' Association.
"Most minority business is small business," Frazier said.
Another newly enacted law doubles the maximum penalty, from $500 to $1,000, for failing to stop for a school bus with activated flashing lights. But the law with the most controversy in its past might be one that imposes no fines or jail time and has the innocuous name of State Government -- Designations. This is the law that places lacrosse, perhaps the best-known sport identified with the Free State, on something close to par with the state's actual official sport: jousting.
This medieval sport was popular in Maryland's very early history and has survived in tournaments across the state. Jousting participants don't go after each other anymore: They try to spear a small ring with a lance while on horseback.
Jousting has been the state sport since 1962, and its devotees have been trying to repel attacks from lacrosse fans for almost as long, said Bruce Hoffman, past president of the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association.
Finally, legislators reached a compromise this year: Lacrosse is now the official state team sport. Still, Hoffman said, jousting fans were not happy with the change.
"They already had a sport designated as a state sport," he said. "So why do you have two?"
In the same session, without controversy, the Patuxent River stone was made the state gem.