In addition to measures designed to reduce teenage driving fatalities, more than 300 other laws enacted this year by the Maryland General Assembly take effect today.
Some were vigorously debated, such as a bill expanding the state's hate-crimes laws to include sexual orientation. Most, though, were more narrowly tailored and passed with little fanfare.
They include new requirements for hepatitis C testing for boxers and kickboxers; new certification requirements for massage therapists; and dozens of others measures that each affect only one jurisdiction.
Among the more notable statewide laws taking effect:
Law Enforcement Officer Protection Act: This makes it a felony to assault a police officer. House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) held a news conference this week to draw attention to the measure, which applies only to situations in which an officer is physically injured while performing law-enforcement duties.
Those convicted under the new law will face up to 10 years in prison and a possible $5,000 fine. According to the FBI, 3,554 police officers were assaulted in Maryland in 2003.
Forty-three other states have separate laws that deal with assaulting police officers, according to the proponents, who unsuccessfully pushed similar legislation in the past.
Hate Crimes Penalties Act: This expands the state's hate-crimes law to include crimes based on a victim's sexual orientation. Current law provides additional penalties for crimes motivated by a person's race or ethnicity, religious beliefs or national origin.
BWI Airport Renaming: This renames Maryland's largest airport as the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, in honor of the late Supreme Court justice.
Victim and Witness Intimidation: This creates a hearsay exception under certain circumstances in judicial proceedings.
Drunk and Drugged Driving Test Refusal: This provides enhanced penalties for people convicted of alcohol- and drug-related driving offenses if they refuse to take a specified test.
Refusal to take a breath or blood test is subject to a $500 fine, two months in prison or both.
Murder and Manslaughter of a Viable Fetus: This allows prosecution for murder or manslaughter of a fetus that could survive outside a mother's womb; provides exceptions for lawful acts by medical professionals.
Public Safety Mutual Aid Agreements: This allows police officers coming from one jurisdiction to another within the state to enforce the laws of the state under mutual aid agreements.
Sex Offender Registration Photographs: This requires annual photographs of specified sex-offender registrants.
-- John Wagner