Last of 2012 laws go into effect on New Year’s Day

After three sessions of the General Assembly that spanned almost 100 days in 2012, the last of the 797 bills approved by state legislators and made law by Gov. Martin O’Malley this year will go into effect as the fireworks start in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

The most famous of those laws is the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which gives gay couples the right to marry in Maryland.

In Baltimore, the first same-sex couples will be wed shortly after the stroke of midnight and will have a special guest in Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who intends to witness the marriage of seven couples at City Hall at 12:30 a.m.

Ordinarily, the Hall would be closed at that hour, and all city offices are closed on New Year’s Day. But Rawlings-Blake, who joined other state Democratic leaders in the campaign to legalize gay marriage, said this constituted a special occasion.

“New Years Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “It is a remarkable achievement for Maryland, and we are excited to open City Hall to host some of the first wedding ceremonies in our great state.”

Ten other laws go into effect Tuesday, too. A state law that alters the election schedule of Baltimore to bring it into line with presidential elections will become effective, but that effect won’t be felt until 2016, when Rawlings-Blake and the city council are able to stay in office for an extra year, until the calendar turns to 2017.

A similar law passed by the council was approved by voters in November, the intent being to foster greater voter turnout in the city.

Another bill, requested by the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, removes exemptions for low-volume mortgage lenders, some of whom did not previously have to be licensed by the state.

The law, originally SB 302, also allows state regulators to oversee affiliates and subsidiaries of a national bank operating within the state. The legislation was a reaction to the  federal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which allowed states to regulate those institutions.

Other laws protect children from identity theft, potentially reduce the supervision time of a parolee based on behavior, ban the use of arsenic in chicken feed and provide tax credits for operators of thermal biomass systems — thermal energy generators powered by manure and chicken litter.

The laws go into effect just in time; the legislature will reconvene for its regular, 90-day session on Jan. 9, when members will start the process of reviewing more than 2,500 potential laws.

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