- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Marylanders whose computers are flooded with unwanted e-mails offering pornography and get-rich-quick schemes may get some relief starting today, when one of the strongest anti-spam laws in the nation goes into effect.

The law gives the state attorney general power to go after spammers who use false or misleading information, allowing jail terms and large financial penalties for people convicted of violating the law.

It is one of almost 300 bills passed by the 2004 General Assembly that become effective today.

Other new laws will impose stiffer fines for passing a school bus that is picking up or dropping off students, designate lacrosse as the official state team sport, and streamline the state law that encourages builders to clean up and develop polluted, abandoned industrial sites called brownfields.

When Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signed the anti-spam law bill in May, America Online called it “a huge leap forward” in the national battle against spam.

“This new state law … will help us rein in the kingpin, outlaw spammers who continue to use tactics of fraud, deceit and evasion to avoid state and federal laws, as well as trick AOL’s anti-spam filters,” the company said.

The new law makes it a crime to hack into a computer to send spam; knowingly mislead recipients or Internet service providers about the origin of a message; falsify information regarding the source and routing of e-mails; and use a false identity to register for 15 or more e-mail addresses and send spam from those addresses.

The law provides for criminal penalties of a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to $25,000 for violations. The attorney general also can seek civil penalties of up to $25,000 a day or $2 to $8 for every spam message sent in violation of the law.

Two other new laws are part of the Ehrlich administration’s efforts to rejuvenate the state program that seeks to give minority-owned businesses a greater share of state contracts.

A law titled the Small Business Reserve Program is race-neutral, but minority contractors think it will benefit companies owned by women and racial minorities.

The law will require state agencies to try to ensure that at least 10 percent of the money spent on procurement goes to small businesses that are independently owned and are dominant in their fields. Most minority businesses are small, and owners think they will receive some of the additional state spending designated for small firms.

Another new law establishes a special secretary for minority-business participation in state contracts to help Maryland meet its goal of providing 25 percent of state business to minority contractors.

The brownfields law encourages developers to restore polluted sites by offering them protection from legal responsibility for pollution caused by previous owners if they follow a cleanup plan approved by the state.

Passage of the bill to make lacrosse the state team sport came after a long battle for recognition between lacrosse enthusiasts and lovers of the medieval sport of jousting. The new law is a compromise that allows jousting to continue as the state sport and creates a designation of state team sport for lacrosse.

The fine for passing a school bus that is loading or unloading passengers will double to $1,000 if the buses’ lights are flashing and the front safety bar is extended.

A second new pedestrian-safety law will free police officers from compulsorily having to appear in court every time they issue a citation to a driver for failing to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

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