The 2018 Maryland General Assembly session started on January 10, and it started with a big win! We won sick leave for 700,000 Marylanders!
Read on to learn more about what else we are working on during this year's MD legislative session.
And don't forget - the work doesn't end here! Join us as we keep the momentum moving at the local level.
Molly Amster, Baltimore Director
Laura Wallace, Montgomery County Senior Organizer
Economic Justice for Working Marylanders
The Economic Justice team is the first of our two statewide legislative campaign teams, seeking to protect working people, their families, and all of our communities by stopping the mistreatment of poor and working people and eliminating decades of structurally reproduced poverty. This session, the Economic Justice team will be advocating on behalf of three main legislative goals:
EARNED SICK AND SAFE LEAVE: WON! Thank your Senator and Delegates for supporting sick leave!
Be careful not to afflict any living creature, whether animal or bird, and all the more so, one should not afflict a person, created in the image of the Divine. If you want to hire laborers and you find that they are poor, they should be [regarded as] the poor members of your household, for you were commanded to have a respectful manner with them and to pay their wages. – Sefer HaYirah, Rabbeinu Yonah
750,000 hard-working employees in Maryland have no access to earned paid sick days. Maryland law does not ensure job protection, so a worker can be fired for taking a sick day. In 2015, JUFJ helped lead efforts to pass earned sick and safe leave in Montgomery County. The Healthy Working Families Act (HB1) will provide those same protections to workers across Maryland.
After a 5-year campaign, HB1 passed the Maryland state legislature with veto-proof majorities in April 2017, only to be vetoed by Governor Hogan. The Working Matters coalition is working to override the Governor’s veto in January 2018. If (when!) they override the veto, the coalition will focus on sick leave education and enforcement in order to make sure workers can really access the leave the law grants them.
RENT COURT REFORM
One who rents a house to another is obligated to construct doors and to fix broken windows, to reinforce the ceiling and to fix broken beams, and to provide a bolt and a lock and similar things which are produced by skilled craftspeople and which are essential to living in a house. – Rambam, Sefer Mishpatim, Sechirut (Laws of Rental) 6:3
Studies conducted by JUFJ in partnership with Public Justice Center (PJC) and Right to Housing Alliance (RTHA), along with investigative reporting from the Baltimore Sun, show that Rent Court is heavily weighted in favor of landlords at the expense of tenants. This imbalance threatens renters from around Maryland, and especially targets working-class communities of color in Baltimore city.
In the 2016 General Assembly session, a comprehensive Rent Court reform bill was introduced and recommended to summer study. Tenants, landlords, and the judiciary contributed to a compromise bill that passed the House of Delegates and would have provided tenants with 4 days’ notice before their trial date, allowed lead certificate status to affect the outcome of a trial, and implemented other necessary protections for tenants facing eviction. Because the bill did not pass the Senate, JUFJ and our coalition partners are working on introducing a similar Rent Court Reform bill in 2018 along with bills related to water affordability and preventing people losing rented or owned homes due to water bills.
Read more in the Baltimore Sun: Dismissed
$15 MINIMUM WAGE
You shall not abuse a needy and destitute worker, whether your kin or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. You must pay them their wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for they are needy and urgently depend on it. – Deuteronomy 24:14-15
At least 907,755 Maryland workers earn less than $15 per hour (33.1% of workers), and not a single Maryland county is affordable to live in at that income level. More than half of African-American workers, nearly 60% of Latinx workers, and almost half of women workers earn under $15 per hour.
Richard Madaleno, State Senator from Montgomery County District 18 who is also running for Governor of Maryland, has reintroduced a bill that would raise the state’s wage floor to $15 by 2022 for businesses employing 26 or more workers, by 2023 for smaller businesses, and by 2024 for tipped workers.
JUFJ was a leader for a successful campaign in 2013 to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 in Montgomery County and in 2014 to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 in the state of Maryland. Recently, we supported $15 minimum wage bills in Baltimore City and Montgomery County that were both passed by local legislators, but stopped by a veto. In Montgomery County, a $15 minimum wage bill was finally passed in November 2017.
Equal Justice Under the Law
The Equal Justice Under the Law team is JUFJ’s second statewide campaign team, focusing on dismantling systems that reinforce discrimination and prevent marginalized and working-class communities from accessing their right to equitable treatment. This session, the Equal Justice Under the Law team will be advocating on behalf of two main legislative goals:
MARYLAND DREAM ACT
You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. – Exodus 22:20
With President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program under threat at the national level, it is imperative that Maryland take the steps necessary to protect our migrant populations, in particular folks who are undocumented.
We will be supporting our partners in pursuing a number of changes to the Maryland Dream Act--most pressing of which is the elimination of arbitrary restrictions on DACA recipients’ access to education. As of now, the Maryland Dream Act requires those eligible for in-state tuition to attend a community college in the county in which they graduated high school for two years before attending university. Because the federal law did not have this stipulation, many students are now in danger of losing their ability to attend college because they would either be forced to extend their study to accommodate two educationally unnecessary years of community college, or lose their eligibility for in-state tuition.
DEFENDING AND EXPANDING BAIL REFORM
Thus saith the Sovereign One: For three transgressions of Israel, Yea, for four, I will not reverse it: Because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes. – Amos 2:6
Money bail’s purpose is not to keep people incarcerated if they can't afford to pay; it exists to provide an incentive for defendants to return to court to face charges. Defendants who do not show up forfeit their money bail. Incarceration should not be based on wealth, but until last year, Maryland’s money bail system punished low-income Marylanders while allowing wealthy folks to buy their way out of jail.
In 2017, a new rule adopted by the Court of Appeals required judges to consider other release conditions before relying on money bail. Even if they decide that money bail is needed, they cannot impose an unaffordable bail amount. This rule is a single step in the culture shift needed for Maryland’s justice system to rely less on a corporate industry that profits off the desperation of poor, disproportionately Black families.
Last year, Senator Bobby Zirkin tried to pass a bill that would have rolled back this progress, but thankfully, it was stopped in the House of Delegates. Senator Zirkin intends to reintroduce the same punitive bill in 2018. JUFJ will work with our coalition partners to defeat Senator Zirkin's bill and to pass additional reforms needed to continue to move Maryland away from a wealth-based bail system.