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May 30, 2017

Governor Holds Final Bill Signing Session

On May 4th, Governor Larry Hogan conducted his last bill signing session for the 2017 Maryland General Assembly session.  Although bill numbers are listed, once signed they become law, but the corresponding chapter numbers are not reflected below.  Again, inclusion of a bill below, of the hundreds introduced in the legislative session, is purely subjective, based on perceived general interest among PK Law newsletter readers. 

HB 236 (SB 794) Legal Advice to Corporations – Clarification.  The law broadens an existing exception to the requirement that an individual be admitted to the Maryland Bar before the individual may practice law in the State. Specifically, it authorizes an individual who is admitted to the bar of any other state to provide legal advice to the individual’s employer or the employer’s organizational affiliates. For purposes of the law, “affiliate” means a person that, directly or indirectly through one or more intermediaries, controls, or is controlled by, or is under common control with an employer.  This law is effective October 1, 2017.

SB 304 (HB 424) Taxpayer Protection Act.  Tax return preparers must register with the State Board of Individual Tax Preparers subject to certain exceptions (e.g. accountants and attorneys).  The law prohibits employing individuals to prepare individual returns unless registered with the Board.  The law imposes a penalty of 100% of the tax otherwise due for preparation of a fraudulent return.  Other enforcement provisions are provided for taxpayer protection.  The law is effective July 1, 2017.

HB 789 Condominiums and Homeowners Associations – Amendment of Governing Documents.  Alters the minimum percentage of affirmative votes required to amend the bylaws of a condominium to require the affirmative vote of unit owners in good standing having at least 60% of the votes in the council of unit owners.  The law repeals specified provisions concerning the minimum percentage of affirmative votes required to amend a specified governing document of a homeowners association created before a specified date.  This law is effective October 1, 2017.

SB 799 (HB 844) Driver Improvement Program and Failure to Pay Child Support – Driver’s License Suspensions – Penalties and Assessment of Points. The law deals with two types of violations for driving with a suspended license – if the license was suspended for either being 60 days or more out of compliance with making child support payments or failure to attend a required Driver Improvement Program – are moved from § 16-303(c) into § 16-303(h) of the Transportation Article, which subjects them to less stringent penalties. Accordingly, for those violations, three points are assessed against the person’s license. In addition, the person is subject to a fine of up to $500, may not prepay the fine, and must appear in court.  The law is effective October 1, 2017

HB 1104 (SB 276) Inheritance Tax – Exemption – Evidence of Domestic Partnership.  Establishing that a specified affidavit or specified other proof may be provided as evidence of a domestic partnership to qualify for an exemption from the inheritance tax on the receipt of interest in real property held in joint tenancy that passes from a decedent to a domestic partner.  This law takes effect July1, 2017.

HB 974 (SB 525) Maryland Personal Information Protection Act – Revisions.  Broadens the scope of protection afforded to personal information to employees and former employees of a business, not merely its customers.  Violations of the law are subject to the penalties provided under the trade secrets law.  The law is effective January 1, 2018.

HB 595 (SB 376) Mortgages and Deeds of Trust – Prerequisites to Recording.  A deed may not be recorded in Maryland without a certification that it was prepared by an attorney admitted in Maryland or under the supervision of such attorney or by a party to the deed who prepared it.  A mortgage, deed of trust, or an assignment or release of a mortgage or deed of trust prepared by any attorney or one of the parties named in the instrument may be recorded without such a certification.  The law is effective October 1, 2017.

HB 1394 Property Tax – Reassessment After Appeal.  Prohibits the supervisor of assessments of a jurisdiction or the State Department of Assessments and Taxation from automatically eliminating a reduction in the assessment of a property that was granted by a property tax assessment appeal board or the Maryland Tax Court during a subsequent reassessment; and authorizes the supervisor or the Department to eliminate a reduction in the assessment granted by a property tax assessment appeal board or the Maryland Tax Court if the specified reason for the reduction no longer applies.  It is effective October 1, 2017.

HB 1402 Property Tax Appeals – Payment of Refunds – Deadline and Notice.  The law requires the tax collector to whom property tax was paid (the city or county) to pay a full refund to a taxpayer within 30 days after the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (“SDAT”) notifies the tax collector that an appeal authority has issued a decision that reduces the assessed value of property. An appeal authority includes a supervisor, SDAT, Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board, the Maryland Tax Court, and any other court authorized to hear property tax appeals.  Montgomery County indicates it will not be able to comply with the 30 day requirement of this law.  It is effective October 1, 2017.

SB 500 Small Claim Action Appeals From District Court – Nonattorney Representation.  The law exempts specified representatives or designees of a corporation, partnership, limited liability company, or business entity from the requirement of admission to the Bar of Maryland and other requirements set by the Maryland Court of Appeals for representing the entity in an appeal from the District Court of Maryland in a small claims case. Under existing law, these individuals are exempt from bar admission and other requirements in a small claims case in the District Court of Maryland.  This law is effective October 1, 2017.

HB 725 State Board of Dental Examiners – Death of a Licensed Dentist – Ownership of a Dental Practice.  The law exempts an heir or personal representative of a deceased licensed dentist from the general requirement that an individual must be licensed by the State Board of Dental Examiners to practice dentistry before the individual may practice dentistry on a human being in this State. The law establishes that the requirement that an individual be licensed does not apply to an heir or personal representative of a deceased licensed dentist if (1) the deceased licensed dentist was the owner of the dental practice; (2) the deceased licensed dentist did not provide for the disposition of the dental practice; and (3) the heir or the personal representative serves as the owner of the dental practice for no longer than one year after the death of the licensed dentist unless the Board extends the time period, regardless of whether the heir or the personal representative is licensed to practice dentistry. During the temporary ownership of a dental practice by an heir or personal representative, all patient care must be provided (1) by an individual licensed by the Board and (2) in accordance with the individual’s scope of practice. The temporary ownership of a dental practice by an heir or a personal representative may not affect the exercise of the independent judgment of a licensed dentist who provides care to patients.  The law is effective July1, 2017.

HB 165 (SB 137) State Government – Maryland Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act.   This law requires a State agency designated as an “official publisher” that publishes legal material only in an electronic record to designate the electronic record as official. In order to designate the electronic record as official, the official publisher must authenticate the electronic record in a specified manner, take specified actions to preserve and secure the record, and ensure that the material is reasonably available for use by the public on a permanent basis. The law creates a legal presumption that authenticated legal material in an electronic record is an accurate copy of the legal material. The law applies to all legal material in an electronic record designated as official that is first published electronically on or after October 1, 2017.  The effective date is October 1, 2017.

There were a number of bills signed into law which affect the care and treatment of animals and some of the more noteworthy are:

HB 626 Agriculture – Animal Shelters – Standards of Care and Protocol Implementation and Enforcement.  This law requires the Maryland Department of Agriculture (“MDA”), by January 1, 2018, to adopt minimum standards of care for dogs and cats in animal shelters. The standards must be consistent with the most recent (1) Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters and (2) guidelines for standards of care in animal shelters prepared by the Professional Animal Workers of Maryland. An animal shelter must follow (1) those adopted standards and (2) the written protocol for reclaiming animals from the shelter which it was required to establish under a prior law’s enactment. A violation of the law’s requirements is subject to an existing civil penalty. MDA must adopt regulations to enforce the law and the prior enactment by January 1, 2018. The law takes effect June 1, 2017.

SB 269 (HB 216) Emergency Veterinary Care – Immunity From Liability.  The law provides a list of individuals who are not civilly liable for any act or omission in giving any veterinary aid, care, or assistance to an animal where the owner or custodian of the animal is not available to grant permission.  The immunity from civil liability applies if (1) the act or omission is not one of gross negligence; (2) the veterinary aid, care, or assistance is provided without fee or other compensation from the owner or custodian of the animal; and (3) the veterinary aid, care, or assistance is provided at the scene of an emergency, in transit to a veterinary facility, or through communications with licensed veterinary personnel providing emergency veterinary assistance. Prohibitions on the practice of veterinary medicine under § 2-313(a) of the Agriculture Article do not apply to an act or omission in giving emergency veterinary aid, care, or assistance that qualifies for immunity under the law, which is effective October 1, 2017.

SB 143 Injury to or Death of Pet – Damages.  The law establishes that a person who tortiously causes an injury to or the death of a pet while acting individually or through an animal under the person’s ownership (direction or control is included under existing law and ownership is added under SB 143) is liable to the owner of the pet for compensatory damages. The law increases the maximum compensatory damages awardable in cases relating to tortious injury to or the death of a pet from $7,500 to $10,000. The law applies prospectively to causes of action arising on or after the law’s October 1, 2017 effective date.

This article concludes the monitoring of legislative developments in the 2017 Maryland General Assembly session.  Should you have questions concerning any recently enacted (or existing) Maryland law, please contact a PK Law attorney for further information.

Pessin Katz Law, P.A. (PK Law) is the eleventh largest law firm in the Baltimore area and has been serving clients for close to thirty years. PK Law maintains full-service offices in Towson, Columbia, and Bel Air and is comprised of more than 60 lawyers, paralegals and law clerks. Practice areas include corporate law, real estate, zoning, education law, estate planning, elder law, labor and employment, litigation, insurance law and medical malpractice defense. For additional information, visit www.PKLaw.com