New laws take effect in Maryland this week, including a measure aimed at making it easier to build large wind-power projects.
The new fiscal year also begins July 1, making a record $400 million available for school construction and $7 million to hire 155 new correctional officers.
While many other bills don't take effect until October, more than 100 are going on the books now.
The wind power law allows developers to build wind farms without a certificate of public convenience from the Maryland Public Service Commission. While critics argued it will cut out public input on wind projects, the law's supporters said the law only removes extra environmental reviews that were stifling wind power development in Maryland. Frank Maisano, a spokesman for a coalition of Mid-Atlantic wind-power developers, said the law was needed to help the state meet goals for Maryland-produced renewable power.
But critics say that under the new law, strides toward renewable power could come at the expense of wildlife.
Bob DeGroot, president of the Maryland Alliance for Greenway Improvement and Conservation, said he believes the new law will erode input on the environmental impact to birds and bats who migrate over mountains in western Maryland where turbines could be built. He also said people should have as much say as possible on large projects built near their homes.
Another new law restores voting rights to thousands of Maryland residents with felony convictions who have completed their sentences. A coalition of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, will kick off a week of outreach programs Monday to those affected by the law registered to vote.
A second new law related to voting prohibits the Maryland Board of Elections from certifying a voting system without verifiable paper records.