- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2001

ANNAPOLIS About 250 new laws will take effect today in Maryland, including a ban on dumping muck dredged from shipping channels into open waters of the Chesapeake Bay and stricter penalties for cruel treatment of animals.
Other laws will designate the calico cat as the official state cat, require young people to wear helmets while riding motorized scooters or using in-line skates and make it illegal to use a license plate cover that prevents cameras at intersections from obtaining a clear photo of the tag of a motorist running a red light.
The bill on bay dumping capped a long battle over how the state should dispose of tons of mud dredged from channels each year to keep them open to shipping.
The state had wanted to use a site in open water above the Chesapeake Bay bridge, but the potential of major environmental contamination caused the Glendening administration to back off and accept a ban on all open-water dumping.
The law will allow dredged material to be put on land or dumped into containment dikes to create new land.
Sue Brown, executive director of the League of Conservation Voters, said scientists who studied the issue "have voiced great concerns about the effect it would have on aquatic life and water quality."
"The state has been on a course to clean up the bay. This was taking us in the opposite direction," she said.
The new law increasing penalties for cruelty to animals initially drew concern from researchers who feared they could be prosecuted for medical experiments using animals. It also was opposed by some conservative lawmakers who said it would subject Marylanders to prosecution if they set traps to catch rats in their houses.
The bill was amended to satisfy the concerns of researchers. Sen. Philip Jimeno, Anne Arundel Democrat, the chief sponsor, noted that it did not apply to pest-control efforts.
The new law makes deliberate acts of torture and mutilation of animals a felony instead of a misdemeanor as they are under the old law. It substantially increased the maximum jail term from 90 days to three years.
The new laws dealing with the calico cat and in-line skating were passed by the legislature largely as the result of lobbying by groups of students.
Students from a Baltimore County school for the emotionally disabled had worked for three years to secure passage of a bill requiring children younger than 16 to wear helmets when using in-line skates.
The bill was a memorial to a classmate who died in a skating accident. It was amended during the session to apply also to small motorized scooters.
The calico cat bill was developed by a group of fifth-grade girls from an elementary school in Western Maryland who thought that since the state had an official dog the Chesapeake Bay retriever cats should get equal billing.
The license plate bill was passed because legislative committees were told that license plate covers were becoming hot items as law enforcement agencies turned to cameras at traffic intersections to try to clamp down on drivers who did not stop for red lights.

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