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New laws in DC, Maryland, Virginia include gas & alcohol taxes; bans on hair discrimination, balloons & Styrofoam

Numerous bills passed both before and after the start of the coronavirus pandemic are taking effect across the DMV area.

WASHINGTON — Starting Thursday, October 1, dozens of new laws are going into effect in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Here are some of the highlights:

D.C.

In D.C., Oct. 1 marks the first day of several tax rate changes introduced by D.C. lawmakers after the coronavirus pandemic – which caused a significant drop in the District's revenue.

The new provisions include taxes on gas, real property, alcohol, games of skill, corporate franchise, unincorporated business franchise, estate, and individual income. There is also a tax rate increase on cigarettes.

Here's a look at some of the tax revisions going into effect:

Alcohol Taxes

  • Spirituous or malt liquors, beers, and wine sold for off-premises consumption by certain Alcoholic Beverage Control Board licensed vendors are subject to the 10% sales and use tax rate.

Gas Taxes

  • There is a surcharge of $.053 per gallon on the sale of gasoline, gasohol, and other motor vehicle fuel. This surcharge is in addition to the $.235 tax on the sale of gasoline, gasohol, and other motor vehicle fuel.

Games of Skill Machines Taxes

  • A 10% tax is imposed on gross game revenues generated by games of skill machines.
    • Note: “Game of skill machine” means a mechanical or electronic gaming device that rewards the winning player or players with cash, a gift card, or a voucher that can be redeemed for cash. 

Personal Property Taxes

  • Definition of Personal Property: The definition of personal property will include computer software incorporated into a machine or other equipment for the tax year beginning July 1, 2021.
    • Exemptions: The exemption for the personal property of a Qualified High Technology Company is repealed beginning for the tax year beginning July 1, 2021.

Cigarette Tax

  • Cigarettes: The fixed tax remains $4.50 per package of 20 cigarettes. However, the surtax is increased from $.48 cents to $.50 cents per package of 20 cigarettes. As a result, the combined cigarette excise tax per package of 20 cigarettes is $5.00.
    • Cigarette stamps purchased on or after October 1 will be sold at the new tax rate.
  • Other Tobacco: The tax rate on other tobacco products remains 91% of wholesale sales of other tobacco products.  Additionally, the rate for smaller cigars is increased from $.249 to $.25 per little cigar.

Maryland

New laws are also taking effect in Maryland, as several bills signed into law include everything from changes that will protect individuals from discrimination, return driving privileges to thousands, to even changes when it comes to your food takeout experience. Here's a breakdown:

Styrofoam Ban:

Maryland will become the first state in the nation to ban polystyrene (Styrofoam) food containers.

The ban applies to most food service containers — plates, bowls, cups, and clamshells. However, the new ban doesn’t apply to containers for raw butchered meat or seafood, or to prepackaged foods that were already in foam containers when purchased by a Maryland business.

RELATED: Maryland's foam container ban law goes into effect today

The styrofoam ban was supposed to go into effect back in July but was delayed three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Montgomery County Balloon Ban:

This new law in Montgomery County was introduced during the last week of September – as it aims to protect the environment and wildlife by prohibiting events where groups release balloons into the air.

A bill passed unanimously by the council makes the intentional release of balloons a "Class A civil violation." Those who are in violation of the new law can face penalties of $500 for the first offense and $750 for subsequent offenses. 

Suspension of Driver's Licenses:

With this new law, the state can no longer suspend one's driver's license due to unpaid fines and fees charged by a court. 

The new law states that anyone who owes more than $150 and can't afford court-ordered payments may be eligible for a monthly payment plan.

Protection Against Discrimination of Hairstyles:

The state's new anti-discrimination law includes hair texture as an element of racial identity – an attempt to bar discrimination against Black hairstyles by employers and others.

The new law states, that "'race' includes traits associated with race, including hair texture, afro hairstyles, and protective hairstyles." It also defines protective hairstyles as those including "braids, twists and dreadlocks."

RELATED: CROWN Act becomes law: It's now illegal to discriminate based on hair in Montgomery County

Hate Crime Law Expansion:

Before Oct. 1, hate crime convictions depended on proof that an act was motivated entirely by racist or discriminatory beliefs. Now, the 2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins III Law holds that hate does not have to be the sole motivation for a hate crime. 

This law comes after a judge dismissed the hate crime charge against a white man in the killing of a Black college student, Richard Collins III, on the University of Maryland's campus in 2017.

Virginia

Electric scooter and Micro-mobility Rentals

While new laws in Virginia typically go into effect starting Jul. 1, the start of the fiscal year in the Commonwealth, one law that goes into effect starting Oct. 1 impacts electric scooter rentals.

Local jurisdictions in Virginia had until Oct. 1 to establish rules and regulations for rental services of electric scooters and bicycles. The law makes clear that rental companies are free of charge to operate in areas that did not act by that deadline. 

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