New Md. laws on chicken feed, parole and identify theft take effect Jan. 1

Most laws passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) this year have already taken effect. But about a dozen had delayed implementation dates, for a variety of reasons.

The effective date of the same-sex marriage law, for example, was set as Jan. 1 to allow time for an anticipated referendum in November. That took place after opponents gathered enough signatures to force a public vote. Voters approved of the new law, 52 percent to 48 percent.

With the new year, Maryland will become the first state to ban the use of additives containing arsenic in chicken feed, a practice already prohibited by Canada and the European Union.

Last year, Pfizer suspended sales of its drug roxarsone, an arsenic-based drug used to fight parasites in animals, after a Food and Drug Administration test that showed trace amounts of the known carcinogen in the livers of chickens.

Perdue Farms stopped using the additive years ago, and some restaurants including McDonald’s do not allow its suppliers to use it.

But growers in Maryland, particularly on the Eastern Shore, continued to use stockpiles of the feed after Pfizer suspended it.

Del. Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery), the bill’s sponsor, has argued to his colleagues that unknown levels of arsenic have been seeping into the state’s soil and waters for decades through chicken waste, which is often used as fertilizer.

Opponents of the legislation argued unsuccessfully that such fears are overblown.

Under another law that takes effect this week, Maryland will join a growing number of states that are allowing its probationers and parolees to earn “compliance credits” and reduce the length of their supervision.

The legislation was sponsored by a pair of Republicans — Sen. Christopher B. Shank (R-Washington) and Del. Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick) — and won bipartisan support.

The goal of the legislation is to provide incentives for compliance and free up criminal-justice resources for those in need of more stringent supervision. Nevada is considered a forerunner in adopting such policies, which are similar in concept to programs in place in prisons around the country.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, are giving Maryland parents a new tool to fight identity theft under another law that takes effect Tuesday.

Under the law, parents will be able to freeze their child’s credit, with the hope of preventing the child’s personal information from being used fraudulently.

If contacted by parents, major credit reporting agencies must put a freeze on the information of children under age 16 within 30 days.

Del. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the bill in the House, said it should deal with the growing problem of child identity theft. Similar legislation was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John C. Astle (D-Anne Arundel).

Staff writer Darryl Fears contributed to this story.

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