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Law creating Hopkins police force, other measures begin July 1

A police officer responds to a 2010 incident at Johns Hopkins Hospital. (Maximilian Franz/ The Daily Record)

A police officer responds to a 2010 incident at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
(Maximilian Franz/ The Daily Record)

A new armed police force for Johns Hopkins, initial funding for a potentially budget-busting proposal to improve public education, and a requirement that online short-term rental websites such as Airbnb collect sales tax are just some of the new Maryland laws taking effect July 1.

One such law passed this year by the General Assembly authorizes Johns Hopkins to operate a private police force of about 100 armed officers to patrol areas around its university and hospital campuses. It also requires the state to kick in hundreds of millions in aid for Baltimore City community programs.

The bill faced vocal opposition from a number of city legislators and community activists who later threatened to challenge the bill in referendum. That effort failed when the group could not meet the first requirement for voter signatures. It collected only 2,750 of the required initial goal of 23,045 valid signatures of registered voters needed to move to a second phase of signature collection.

The university is expected to spend this year working with the Baltimore City Police Department to lay the foundation for a memorandum of understanding. That document will eventually be released for public comment.

The bill is one of about 300 that go into effect just as the state’s new fiscal year also begins.

Also going into effect Monday is a law that provides an initial down payment on the much debated and anticipated public education reforms crafted by the Kirwan Commission.

The law provides for more than $250 million to go to local school systems for pre-kindergarten education, teacher raises and community schools for impoverished areas.

Gov. Larry Hogan has committed to releasing the first installment.

The second installment of the plan, often referred to as “year zero,” will be a minimum of $370 million. The legislature could increase that to as much as $500 million  if lawmakers can identify a funding source.

The full Kirwan plan and its costs are expected to be finalized next year and take a decade to implement. Hogan and some lawmakers have expressed concerns about the cost of the recommendations, expected to top $4 billion annually, not including adjustments for inflation.

Some Democratic lawmakers have already suggested that some form of new or increased tax may be necessary to cover the costs.

Online short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb will now be required to collect the state’s 6 percent sales tax on all transactions. Some online platforms already collect and remit the tax, according to the Office of the Comptroller, but a list of vendors who do so is not available because of tax confidentiality laws.

In fiscal 2018, the state collected $125 million from the rental of hotel and motel rooms as well as apartment and cottage rentals.

Legislative analysts project the change could result in a “potentially significant” increase in fiscal year 2020, but they did not provide a dollar estimate.

Also taking effect Monday is a new law advocates say could lead to cheaper prescription drugs in the future. The law creates a new prescription drug pricing board that could set upper payment limits on drugs starting in July 2021.

The proposed upper limits in the pilot program would need the approval of the Legislative Policy Committee or, failing that, the governor and attorney general.

Starting this year, the panel will be tasked with developing ideas to reduce drug prices at the manufacturer, wholesale, pharmacy benefit manager and insurance carrier levels. The board will be required to submit annual reports to the legislature.

For now, the upper limits, once imposed, will only apply to state and local government employee prescription plans with a possibility of expanding the law later.


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