In Virginia, new laws cut sales tax on diapers and tampons, and, in one county, increased license plate fees.
Here's a roundup of new laws in Maryland and Virginia as of Jan. 1, 2020:
Minimum Wage Increase: Low-wage workers in Maryland will now make a little more. The state's minimum wage rose on Wednesday from $10.10 an hour to $11 an hour.
The Maryland General Assembly, which has a supermajority of Democrats, overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill to raise the state's minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 an hour by 2025. Democrats said the increase was needed because state residents making minimum wage struggle to meet their basic needs.
The state's minimum wage will increase by 75 cents a year and reach $15 in 2025. Businesses with fewer than 14 employees will have until July 2026 to hit $15.
Rape Kit Testing: Law enforcement agencies are now required to test all rape kits, which are swabs and samples collected in sex assault cases that can provide DNA evidence.
The kits must be sent to crime labs for testing unless there is clear evidence disproving an allegation, the victim declines to give consent for analysis or the suspect's profile has been collected in a national DNA database.
Lawmakers set aside $3.5 million to help local police departments pay for the tests.
Pet Store 'Puppy Mill' Ban: Pet stores are now banned from selling commercially bred cats and dogs, in a measure billed as a check against unlicensed "puppy mills" with substandard conditions. The governor signed the legislation into law in 2018.
The law encourages animal welfare organizations to collaborate with retail pet stores to showcase cats and dogs for adoption or purchase from "local breeders."
Pet stores filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the law. Their attorney told The Washington Post that a preliminary injuction hearing is scheduled on Jan. 9.
Other Recently Added Laws
Organ Donation: Life insurance, disability insurance and long-term care insurance companies are now banned from discriminating against organ donors.
Related laws went into effect in Oct. 2019, providing unpaid leave to organ donors. Organ donors can take up to 60 business days of leave within a 12-month period. Bone marrow donors can take up to 30 business days.
Local Brewing: Beer brewers now have more leeway to end contracts with wholesalers. Companies now only need to give distributors 45 days notice that they will terminate a contract, with 180 days.
The cofounder of Union Craft Brewing, Kevin Blodger, praised the law.
"It helps to shift some of the power away from the distributors towards us, the producers," he told WBAL-TV.
Police-Involved Deaths: Montgomery County now requires independent investigations of all deaths involving police officers. The county executive is required to find a law enforcement agency to perform the investigations.
Food Truck Operator Fees: Food truck operators in Prince George's County now owe the county less to get going. The county eliminated license application fees of $500 for trucks operating for less than 60 days and $3,500 for those operating for more.
Council Member Jolene Ivey, who cosponsored the bill, said it was good for the county.
"Historically, it was difficult for legitimate and licensed food trucks to operate easily and profitably in the County, and we are changing that. We want to encourage opportunities for economic growth and aspiring entrepreneurs in Prince George’s County, and supporting food trucks is a step forward in that direction," she said in a statement.
Menstrual Supplies and Diapers: The sales tax rate on diapers and "essential personal hygiene products" including tampons, pads and menstrual cups is now lower. These items are now taxed at 2.5 percent, not the standard 5.3 percent. One quirk of the law: it doesn't apply to reusable cloth diapers, a state tax bulletin says.
License Plates: In Loudoun County, you'll have to pay a $100 fee if you do not display current Virginia license plates. Residents that fail to register their vehicles with the state within 60 days will be fined $250.
A major law will go into effect in D.C. this summer. Starting July 1, many workers in the District will be eligible for paid family leave. The policy allows for eight weeks to spend with a new child, six weeks to care for a family member with a serious health condition and two weeks to care for your own serious health condition. Go here to learn more.