ANNAPOLIS — Legislation expanding protections for victims of sexual assault and human trafficking and tax credits for first responders and businesses that hire veterans topped the list of measures signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Larry Hogan.
First on the list of the 211 bills signed into law was the Protecting Victims of Sex Trafficking Act of 2017. The measure adds sex trafficking to the definition of sexual abuse regardless of whether it was committed by a parent or other adult in charge of supervising a child. The bill was part of a criminal justice package Hogan announced earlier this year.
“Our focus has really been on victims of crime,” he said Tuesday.
The bill-signing ceremony was the fourth of the year, with two more scheduled for May. Hogan has until next month to decide on which bills he will veto; any bills not signed or vetoed become law.
The governor, along with House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., signed eight other bills that focus on the rights of sexual assault victims and remove the requirement for rape victims to prove they physically resisted their attackers.
Also among the bills signed were a number of tax credits for police and firefighters, a property tax break for retired military veterans and a tax credit for businesses that hire veterans.
Under the Hometown Heroes Act, retired police and firefighters who are at least 55 years old can claim a tax exemption from state taxes on the first $15,000 of their retirement income.
And while the bill has been part of Hogan’s legislative wish list since taking office, Del. Sheila Hixson, D-Montgomery, has put in similar legislation over the last decade.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who’s worked harder to try and get a bill passed,” said Busch.
Businesses that hire veterans can claim a 30 percent tax credit on the first $6,000 in wages paid to those employees.
Other bills signed into law include:
- Senate Bill 622 and House Bill 622, which add backpacks and bookbags to the list of items eligible for a sales tax exemption during that state’s annual tax-free, back-to-school shopping period.
- House Bill 1261, which repeals the criminal penalties for barbering without a license. The state Board of Barbers can still impose up to a $1,000 fine for cutting or styling hair without a license. Under current law, illegal barbering is punishable by a fine of $100 or 30 days in jail and a civil fine of $1,000 for all violations cited in a single day. The bill takes effect Oct. 1.