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Winners and Losers in the Maryland General Assembly

Once over lightly

Minimum-wage earners, marijuana users and safe drivers came up winners in the Maryland General Assembly, which wrapped up its session this week. And environmentalists are scoring a win — among many defeats — in fending off 20 bills to take back earlier action to control stormwater runoff.
    But seafood lovers lost their legislative fights.
    Over the next four years, Maryland’s hourly minimum wage will rise to $10.10. Two steps come next year: $8 an hour in January and $8.25 in July.
    Under 10 grams of marijuana — about one-third of an ounce, the way pot often is sold — will no longer send a toker to jail. The penalty, if they’re caught, would rise from $100 for a first offense for users over 21, with no court appearance or criminal record. ­Marijuana for medical use came a step closer, too.
    Also on the plus side, the rest of us are, maybe, a little safer from drivers who talk and text on cell phones. A driver found guilty of causing fatal or serious crashes while on the phone could go to jail for a year and pay a fine of $5,000 for phone use alone — in addition to all other charges.
    On the down side, action on the Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act halted early, meaning we won’t know what’s what — even with our revered blue crab — or from where — when we buy seafood at restaurants or fish markets.
    Nor will we add the soft-shelled crab sandwich as Maryland’s 23th official symbol. That one failed for a second year, and we’ve had none new since 2008. There’s not even a fiscal note on this one. Could it be that lawmakers fear frivolity will tarnish their reputations?