Reinhard said as legislative interventions go, this was not a bad one.

"We hold our breaths sometimes when the General Assembly gets involved in policy, but we think this one was a real good thing," he said.

In signing hundreds of bills, the governor formally completed the work of the 90-day regular General Assembly session and the special session that followed. One new law makes Maryland the first state in the country to ban the use of arsenic in chicken feed — an effort that was fought by the Delmarva poultry industry.

Del. Tom Hucker, the Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House, said he was proud to see Maryland taking a leadership role.

"Today Maryland's showing the rest of the country how to protect the environment and food safety," Hucker said. He added that he's confident other states will follow Maryland's lead.

Hucker said the law will send a message to consumers that they can be sure Maryland-raised chickens are arsenic-free. He said Europe and Canada — as well as fast-food giant McDonald's — have banned arsenic for years.

The governor also wrapped up the business of last week's special session by signing two budget-related bills. One will raise income taxes on individuals making more than $100,000 after taxes and couples earning more than $150,000. The other will shift, over four years, part of the cost of teacher pensions from the state to the counties.

Another bill O'Malley signed will bring a measure of tax relief to Maryland's farm families. It will exempt the first $5 million of a farm's value from the estate tax as long as the land stays in agriculture. Advocates contend it will keep farm families from being forced to leave agriculture or sell off large tracts of land to pay massive tax bills.

Most new laws take effect June 1, July 1 or October 1.

Michael.dresser@baltsun.com



Major bills signed Tuesday



Tax increase: The law will increase income taxes on individuals making more than $100,000 and couples earning over $150,000 after deductions – an estimated 14 percent of Marylanders. The measure will also increase taxes on some tobacco products to discourage use by young people.

Pension shift: The law will start a four-year transfer to Baltimore and the counties of some teacher pension costs traditionally paid by the state. The cost to local governments will be partly offset by increases in local tax revenues.

Family farms: The law will exempt up to $5 million of the value of a family farm from Maryland's estate tax and cap the amount of tax above that, as long as family members who inherit the land keep it in agriculture.

Donor sperm and eggs: The law will prohibit the use of donor sperm or eggs to conceive a child after the donor dies unless the donor gave written consent. It also will limit the inheritance rights of children conceived posthumously.

City elections: The law will move Baltimore's elections to the presidential cycle starting in 2016.