On July 1, hundreds of new laws go into effect in Maryland and Virginia. While most of the attention during the last legislative session was on laws concerning carrying weapons and speed limits, there are a number that will directly impact the women and girls in both states. Read on for some of the highlights…
*A new foreclosure law will keep more families in their homes by requiring lenders to try to negotiate new payment plans. Governor Martin O’Malley (D) told the Washington Post that the law will put families on “more equal footing with mortgage companies that too often can’t be bothered to pick up a phone before beginning a foreclosure proceeding.”
*The “Kids First Express Lane Eligibility Act” will allow the Maryland Comptroller to use tax returns to identify families with children who may be eligible for Medicaid or the Maryland Children’s Health Program. The comptroller will share that information with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which will then send application materials to the families. The new legislation builds on the “Kids First Act of 2008.”
*The state has established a Tuition Stabilization Trust Account in the Higher Education Investment Fund that will help stabilize tuition for resident students at public universities and colleges. The legislation also limits tuition increases to a “percent not to exceed the increase in the 3-year rolling average of the state’s median family income.” The bill was written, in part, because “Maryland has fallen from the 6th highest public tuition state in the nation to a current ranking of 17th.
*The state cut funding to programs for disruptive children in Maryland public schools.
*Domestic violence victims will be able to extend protective orders obtained in cases of family abuse or stalking. Protective orders can be extended for two years and there is no limit on the number of extensions that can be requested.
*New legislation allows Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants to continue to receive financial support payments to which they are entitled, either on their own behalf or on behalf of a family member, prior to beginning to receive TANF.
*Residents convicted of nonpayment of child support will need certification from the Department of Social Services to renew a driver’s license or end the suspension of a license that was suspended because of nonpayment. The law also establishes the option of home or electronic incarceration of a person convicted of nonpayment of support.
*Courts will now be able to appoint vocational experts to conduct evaluations in child and spousal support cases where the earning capacity, unemployment or underemployment of an individual is being disputed.
*Virginia residents will not be required to obtain or maintain individual health coverage with certain exceptions.
*A special license plate law authorizes the issuance of a number of plates, including one that reads “Trust Women / Respect Choice.” Last year, “Choose Life” plates became available to drivers in Virginia.