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These new Maryland laws go into effect today, from ending the state song to addressing ‘period poverty’

While most of us flip our calendars to a new year every January 1, the state government starts its new year July 1. It brings a fresh budget and hundreds of new laws. Here are some of the measures that go into effect Thursday in Maryland.

Benefits and protections for college athletes

Maryland is one of several states that joined a movement to allow athletes at public colleges and universities to earn money by using their names, images and likenesses. That’s been prohibited by the NCAA, which governs most college sports.

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The NCAA is moving forward with its own interim rules allowing endorsement deals and sponsorships starting this week, partly under pressure from states like Maryland that passed their own laws.

Democratic Del. Brooke Lierman of Baltimore and Republican Sen. Justin Ready of Carroll County sponsored the Maryland bill slated to take effect Thursday. It would have allowed athletes to strike business deals in 2023 had the NCAA not acted.

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“I think it held their feet to the fire,” Ready said.

The law also requires athletic departments at public colleges and universities to adopt guidelines to prevent and treat conditions that include brain injuries, heat illness and rhabdomyolysis, which is a breakdown of muscle tissue that can damage the kidneys. Athletic departments also must establish guidelines for athletes with sickle cell trait and asthma.

The law is named the Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act in honor of a University of Maryland football player who died in 2018 after being stricken with heatstroke during practice. The state paid McNair’s family $3.5 million in a legal settlement.

No more state song

Maryland will no longer have an official state song, after lawmakers voted — and the governor agreed — to remove “Maryland, My Maryland” from the list of the state’s symbols.

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The song’s lyrics were written at the start of the Civil War, after a melee in Baltimore as Union troops moved through town. The words were a call to arms in support of the Confederacy, urging listeners to spurn “Northern scum” and “avenge the patriotic gore / that flecked the streets of Baltimore.”

While Maryland will lack a state song, it maintains other symbols, including the state sport of jousting, the checkerspot butterfly as state insect and the state dog, the Chesapeake Bay retriever.

It’s possible that lawmakers may entertain whether to designate a new state song in the future. But they determined this year that the simplest way to move on from “Maryland, My Maryland” was to simply eliminate the old state song altogether.

Alcohol-to-go — in some places

During the coronavirus pandemic, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan used his emergency powers to temporarily allow restaurants and bars to sell cocktails and other alcoholic drinks for carryout and delivery. That permission is ending Thursday as the governor phases out the pandemic state of emergency.

Lawmakers passed a law allowing the practice to continue for up to two more years, so long as a local liquor board signs off on it.

Some jurisdictions are opting out for now or waiting on making a decision until they can hold hearings, including Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Worcester County, home to Ocean City.

Getting mental health help through 211

Maryland’s 211 system will be required to set up a program to allow people to sign up for a periodic call to check in on their well-being and to refer callers to mental health services.

211 is a nonprofit operation designated as a one-stop referral phone number for health and human services programs. Callers can get help with needs such as shelter, food and utility assistance.

The system for the mental health check-ins isn’t set up yet, but Marylanders can sign up early by texting “HealthCheck” to 211-MD1.

The law setting up the mental health programs is named for Thomas “Tommy” Bloom Raskin, the son of U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin. The younger Raskin died by suicide on New Year’s Eve. The Raskin family published a heartfelt tribute to the young man that recounted his long-running challenges with mental health.

Compensation for the wrongly convicted

The Walter Lomax Act sets long-sought rules for compensating people who have been wrongly convicted and imprisoned in Maryland. It’s named for Walter Lomax, who was wrongly incarcerated for 38 years in a fatal shooting and who has become an advocate on the issue.

Eligible individuals will receive payments based on how long they were in prison, multiplied by the average median income in the state.

A state administrative judge can order other benefits, such as housing, health care, education, job training, as well as reimbursement for court fines, fees and restitution that the individual paid.

Maryland has made awards to several wrongly incarcerated men in recent years, but there was no standard for determining the payments. That created a confusing process that was sometimes subject to politics.

Alleviating ‘period poverty’

Maryland public school systems will need to start planning to put free menstrual hygiene product dispensers in school bathrooms.

Under the law, each middle school and high school must have dispensers in two women’s restrooms by Oct. 1, 2022, and then in all women’s restrooms at schools by Aug. 1, 2025. Elementary schools will need dispensers in at least one restroom by Oct. 1, 2022.

The state must reimburse local school systems for the cost, and the governor must put at least $500,000 in the state budget for it starting next year.

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Supporters say the free dispensers will help girls and young women who are menstruating but can’t afford or don’t have reliable access to tampons and pads, and who may be embarrassed, distracted or skip school because of it. The problem is known as “period poverty.”

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Maryland Environmental Service reforms

Maryland lawmakers approved extensive overhauls to how this independent state agency is run, after The Baltimore Sun reported that its ex-leader negotiated a lucrative severance package and ran up large bills for expense reimbursements.

The former executive director, Roy McGrath, resigned his position as Hogan’s chief of staff days after The Sun’s first article.

The law changes the membership of the board of directors that oversees the Maryland Environmental Service’s work, and requires the executive director to report to the board, rather than chair of the board. The law requires board members to develop a conflict of interest policy and undergo training on diversity, ethics and harassment.

The law also requires more audits of the environmental service, which does environmental and public works projects, primarily for local governments and the state.

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