New laws that go into effect Sunday in Virginia loosen gun restrictions, tighten regulations for abortions and voting, and crack down on drunk drivers, while Marylanders will be able to take wine to their favorite restaurants for the first time but also will see a menu of higher taxes with the start of the fiscal year.
July marks the culmination of months of legislative battles in Richmond and Annapolis, as residents, particularly in Maryland, deal with the fallout of budget woes that go straight to residents' pocketbooks.
Tax rates will rise for Maryland residents earning more than $100,000, with rates climbing to
as high as 5.75 percent for those earning more than $250,000 annually. Tax exemptions are shrinking for Marylanders earning more than $100,000, and exemptions for residents earning more than $200,000 are being eliminated entirely.
|Maryland's higher taxes|
|Taxable income||Previous tax rate||New tax rate|
|$250,001 - $500,000||5%/5.25%||5.75%|
|$500,001 and up||5.5%||5.75%|
Despite going into effect Sunday, the higher taxes are retroactive to Jan. 1.
The move is especially tough on Washington-area residents. Forty percent of the money raised from the income tax hike is expected to come from Montgomery County -- already facing higher property taxes starting Sunday -- where 23.3 percent of earners are on the hook for higher taxes; 9.5 percent of Prince George's County residents will see higher rates too.
At the same time, the so-called flush tax for those living in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed will double from $2.50 a month to $5 a month -- or $60 annually. Tax increases on noncigarette tobacco products also are taking effect, requiring consumers to pay a 70 percent rate on "little cigars" and 30 percent on smokeless tobacco. Previously, the rate was 15 percent for both products.
Unlike Maryland, Virginia didn't raise taxes this year.
Instead, the highest-profile changes involve polarizing social issues that have occasionally overshadowed Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's economic agenda.
Republicans pushed through a measure that requires women to undergo an abdominal ultrasound before receiving an abortion. They were forced to water down the bill amid mounting national criticism over a GOP-backed plan that would have mandated a transvaginal ultrasound.
And now Virginians must take identification with them to the polls, as lawmakers passed a voter ID law that Democrats contend will diminish turnout among minorities and low-income residents. Under the law, voters without identification are required to fill out provisional ballots that count only if an acceptable form of ID is later presented.
In a major victory for proponents of looser gun laws, Virginia's nearly 20-year-old ban on purchasing more than one handgun per month will disappear. Last week, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police met with the state's U.S. Senate candidates to push for tighter federal background check laws, but the organization said it was unsure how the repeal would affect public safety.
After the Penn State child abuse scandal, Virginia officials passed a law to broaden the group of people required to report such incidents and lessened the amount of time they had to alert authorities to the crime.
Effective Sunday, those convicted of driving under the influence in the commonwealth must install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles to keep a restricted driver's license.
In other new laws involving alcohol, Maryland wine aficionados will have the chance to pop their cork of choice at their favorite eateries.
The General Assembly passed a so-called corkage law that allows Marylanders to bring wine from home to their favorite restaurant, club or hotel.
Maryland officials also made changes that will affect students in their state.
Cameras will be installed on school buses to improve safety, and students are now required to attend school until they are 17, increasing the dropout age by one year.