Higher traffic fines in the District, the formal renaming of a street honoring a Confederate leader in Alexandria and new health insurance requirements in Maryland are among a raft of laws taking effect Tuesday in the Washington region.
Here’s a look at the new laws that the new year will bring.
●A slew of traffic code changes will take effect Tuesday as part of a plan by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) to reduce pedestrian fatalities. Among the highlights: The fine for blocking a bike lane is rising from $65 to $150. The penalty for passing a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk for pedestrians will double to $500, plus three points on a driver’s license. The city is also adopting a $50 fine for bicyclists who ride with headphones in both ears.
Driving more than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit will become a criminal offense.
A full list of the traffic law changes is available at ddot.dc.gov/publication/vision-zero-regulations.
●While the federal tax overhaul eliminated penalties for not having health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the District is among the jurisdictions that adopted a local mandate to have health insurance. Residents who do not have insurance must pay a penalty unless they qualify for an exemption. Open enrollment runs through the end of January.
●The District is making a second attempt to ban single-use plastic straws after earlier confusion about whether a 2014 law applied to straws. On Jan. 1, the Department of Energy and Environment will start inspecting businesses and issuing unofficial warnings. The agency plans to begin issuing official warnings and fines after July.
●In Maryland, several measures will go into effect requiring health insurers to cover specific treatments and medical equipment for enrollees. Starting Tuesday, the state will compel insurers and other health entities to cover fertility preservation processes that freeze eggs or protect reproductive tissue; lymphedema, an inflammatory condition that leads to fluid buildup in the arms and legs; and reimbursement of dietitian or nutritionist services for the treatment of diabetes or obesity-related illnesses.
Another measure will prohibit health plan providers from denying payment for a covered prescription drug.
● A new campaign finance law will prohibit campaigns from using the money from contributions they received illegally. Those dollars will be rerouted to the state’s public campaign financing fund.
● Private organizations will have to accept the substitute address an individual may provide as a victim of domestic violence participating in an address confidentiality program.
●A regulatory framework for peer-to-peer car sharing will go into effect. Online platforms like Turo, which allows car owners to rent their personal vehicles to strangers, will now pay the same taxes and fees that traditional rental car companies pay. The law will also apply new insurance regulations for the industry.
●Most new laws in Virginia take effect in July, but benefits under the commonwealth’s newly expanded Medicaid program begin Tuesday.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the Republican-controlled legislature agreed to expand the health insurance program to 400,000 additional low-income residents, a key campaign promise for Democrats in the 2017 election.
Northam says more than 200,000 people have signed up for insurance since enrollment began in November.
● The portion of Route 1 that goes through Alexandria will be known as Richmond Highway instead of Jefferson Davis Highway. The City Council renamed the street honoring the former Confederate president in the wake of the 2015 shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C.
Laura Vozzella and Antonio Olivo contributed to this report.