Crossover 2021: More progress than ever before!
We’ve made it past Crossover Day! But what is that?
Crossover Day is the deadline for bills to move from one chamber of the General Assembly to the other through normal order, which means lawmakers try very hard to get their bills through either the House or the Senate by that day. Bills that haven’t yet passed through either chamber will now need to go through a more complicated process involving the Rules Committees of each chamber.
What does this mean for JUFJ’s bills? Well, thanks to your advocacy, JUFJ and our coalition partners have already helped move seven House bills and five Senate bills through at least one chamber of the Maryland General Assembly, as well as overriding a gubernatorial veto from last year!
These bills still have a good path to full passage. However, there are some bills that did not move in time, and will have to go to the Rules Committee. And, some of our bills are headed for a conference committee to reconcile different versions.
Let’s take a look and what we’ve already won, what is still possible to win, and where our work lies moving forward over the next three weeks before this legislative session ends.
Big wins for justice in Maryland!
Women’s Prerelease Veto Override! (SB684)
JUFJ is guided by the Jewish value of Tzelem Elohim, that all people are created in the divine image, with inherent and equal dignity and value. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, whether they have been incarcerated or not. People who have been incarcerated face marginalization, perpetual punishment, and barriers to housing and employment, especially Black and brown people who are unjustly targeted because of their race.
For the past decade, incarcerated Maryland women have not had pre-release services to assist their transition back into the general population, even though men have. With the leadership of Out for Justice and Maryland Justice Project, we advocated for the Gender-Responsive Prerelease Act, and we successfully passed it together last session! However, Governor Hogan vetoed this legislation in 2020.
So, one of our first actions this session was focused on overriding the Governor’s veto – and with our leaders, partners and legislative allies, we were successful! Now, Maryland is required by law to operate a pre-release unit for incarcerated women in Baltimore. This is a huge victory in criminal justice reform, and for formerly incarcerated people who worked tirelessly to achieve this win. And, it is a huge victory for currently incarcerated women who need comprehensive, community-based pre-release services.
Growing our Activist Community
Each year that we come together for the legislative session, we deepen our collective power, our legislative relationships, and our community engagement in Annapolis. Even in this socially-distanced session, JUFJ members massively stepped up our activism in Annapolis. The power of our community is growing! Here are some snapshots of how we grew from last year to this year, and the session still isn’t over.
- JUFJ leaders engaged in state session: 693 → 1,158
- Advocacy emails JUFJers sent to legislators: 2,908 → 10,296
- Testimony JUFJers wrote and submitted for bill hearings: 141 → 200
- JUFJers who participated in legislator meetings before session: 144 → 198
- Number of state districts where JUFJers took action: 39 → 44
We can’t wait to see our community & impact grow even more by the end of this session!
Likely + Hopeful Wins
There are many bills that have seen significant progress, and while they have not officially passed yet, they are likely to by the end of session.
All people have a right to be safe and to thrive in our state, regardless of immigration status or documentation. We must end state government collaboration with ICE, prevent the use of private immigration detention centers, and protect the private data of undocumented Marylanders.
- Dignity not Detention (HB16/SB478)
Immigrant detention has led to unfathomable suffering and death in our nation, as families are torn apart and lives are pointlessly and cruelly upended. This suffering will only increase during a global pandemic that spreads rapidly in the close quarters and unsanitary conditions of most detention facilities. Yet, some counties in Maryland have contracts to detain immigrants for ICE, and ICE is actively working to build a private detention center here. JUFJ worked to pass the Dignity not Detention Act to end these practices.
This bill has passed out of the House, and is on to the Senate.
And, while this is local to Howard County, the County Executive announced that they would be ending their contract with ICE – something JUFJ & our partners in the Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice have been working towards for years. This is another huge win!
- Driver Privacy Act (HB23/SB234)
Several years ago, the state promised undocumented Marylanders that they could obtain a driver’s license without that information being used against them. Yet, federal immigration authorities are accessing that data to target undocumented communities. This bill will amended our MVA law to keep ICE out of our driver data. Undocumented Marylanders must be able to drive without fear, especially in this pandemic where transit and other ways to travel are unsafe and severely reduced.
This bill has passed out of the House, and is on to the Senate.
Law enforcement should serve and protect everyone, but Black and brown Marylanders are facing systemic violence and over-policing every day. This session, we worked on holding police accountable to the people and communities they hurt by making police disciplinary records accessible to the public. We and our partners in the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability had five demands:
- Anton’s Law (MPIA Reform) (HB120/SB178)
- Limits on Use of Force (HB139/SB626)
- Local Control of the Baltimore Police Department (HB1027/SB786)
- Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (HB151, SB627) – not crossfiled
- Removal of School Resource Officers (HB496, HB1089)
Except for SRO removal, all of these legislative demands have individually passed the Senate and have moved on to the House. This is a great win; however, we should note that the bills vary in strength.
There is clearly more work to be done to further community oversight, transparency and accountability, but we have made real progress this session.
Courts & Prisons Reform:
Our justice system must become truly just to everyone in our state. We support decriminalization; prevention of unjust incarceration, and decarceration, helping people return to their families and communities from a place of incarceration.
- Governor’s Role in Parole (HB3/SB202)
In order to achieve real justice and equity courts & prison system, we must remove the Governor from the parole process. We cannot allow for politics to play a role in someone’s access to justice.
This bill has passed out of both the House and Senate, and the language will now be reconciled for one final bill.
- Juvenile Interrogation Protection Act (HB315/SB136)
This bill will ensure that youth have representation before they can be questioned by police.
This bill has passed out of the House, and is headed to the Senate.
Safe and stable housing has far reaching economic, health, and social benefits to individuals, families, and communities, and is key to reducing racial inequities. Renters routinely have little agency when faced with threats to maintaining stable housing. Now many are confronting increased economic hardship, the shortcomings of eviction mitigation policy, and the extreme threat to health resulting from homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Rent Court Reform (HB52/SB454)
This bill will increase the potential for alternative resolutions by establishing a formal pre-trial structure for service providers to engage renters and landlords and for judges to order alternative dispute resolution if deemed appropriate. When no alternative resolution can be reached, this bill would increase the fairness of trials by providing renters time to seek counsel and to adequately prepare for trial.
- Right to Counsel (HB18/SB154)
This bill will provide low-income tenants with the right to legal counsel/representation in Rent Court. Currently, 1% of tenants in Rent Court are represented, while 98% of landlords are. Establishing a right to counsel would not only help renters by reducing evictions; it would save the state $18.1M, in addition to similar savings in local jurisdictions.
- COVID-19 Eviction and Housing Relief Act of 2021 (HB1312/SB910)
This bill would prohibit landlords from terminating or not renewing leases unless they have a legitimate reason to do so. During a pandemic, failure to pay rent is not a legitimate reason. This bill will also require that renters are offered payment plans before being taken to court for failure to pay rent.
All three of these bills have passed the House and are headed to the Senate.
Where We’re Still Fighting
A few of our priority bills have either stalled in committee or were voted on after the Crossover Day deadline.
- Trust Act (HB304/SB88)
Trust Act legislation, which has passed at local levels in Maryland and in other states, prevents police and correctional officers from doing the work of ICE and federal immigration enforcement. Our coalition has been working on the Trust Act for several years now, and we are profoundly disappointed that this bill was only voted on in one committee, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, after the Crossover Day deadline. Now, should it pass out of the full chamber, it will have to go to the Rules Committee. We still remain hopeful it will be passed this session, but there is no longer a straight-forward path to get there.
- Universal Representation (HB750/SB317)
This bill would ensure that all immigrants who are detained in Maryland have the right to government-appointed counsel. Unfortunately, it has not received a committee vote in either chamber and is not very likely to move this year.
Both of these bills were focused on the removal of School Resource Officers from Maryland public schools. The Counselors not Cops Act aimed at defunding the SRO program and funding mental health professionals instead, while the Police-Free Schools Act aimed at fully prohibiting SROs from public schools.
Unfortunately, neither of these bills have come up for a committee vote and are therefore less likely to pass this session.
Courts & Prisons Reform:
- Automatic Expungement (HB238)
This bill would provide automatic expungements for non-convictions, ensuring that people seeking jobs cannot be unfairly stigmatized for interactions with the justice system.
Unfortunately, it has not yet had a committee vote and is not likely to move further this session.
Paid Family and Medical Leave:
- Time to Care Act (HB375/SB211)
Nobody should have to choose between their job and caring for their family. Nearly everyone needs time away from work at some point to care for a relative, deal with a serious personal illness, or welcome a baby, but many Marylanders can’t afford to take unpaid leave. The Time To Care Act would have provided income for up to 12 weeks for people who need to care for themselves or loved ones.
Sadly, this bill did not come to a committee vote this year, just like last year. We must rewrite the rules to ensure everyone can access the care that we need without fearing we’ll go bankrupt to do it. Our plan of action is to build a groundswell of support for this vital legislation through community education about the importance of paid leave, so that we can pass a strong paid family and medical leave bill in the next session.
Additional Issues: Sign-ons
In addition to our priority issues, JUFJers have worked to support other issues that we had historically been involved in or reflect our values and are important to our allies.
- The version of the RELIEF Act (HB612/SB496) that passed the House and Senate excluded some immigrant Marylanders, however, HB143/SB218 was subsequently passed to extend other significant economic benefits to those people.
These bills passed both the House and the Senate. Victory!
Courts & Prisons Reform:
- Juvenile Restoration Act (HB409/SB494) has passed the Senate
- Juvenile Law Reform (HB1187/SB853) has passed the House
- Tenant Protection Act of 2021 (HB050) has passed the House
- Sealing Court Records for FTP Proceedings (HB1008) has passed the House
Fair Funding bills:
- Private Institutions of Higher Education – Police Departments – Repeal and Prohibition (HB336/SB276)
- Increase in Fees for Filing an Eviction (HB729/SB530)
- Foreclosure Relief Act (HB1009/SB724)
- Lead Risk Reduction Compliance (HB049)
- Sealing Court Records for Evictions Proceedings (HB112)
Fair Funding bills:
- Throwback Rule (HB229)
- Millionaire Estate Tax Restoration (HB165)
- Combined Reporting for Corporations (HB172)
- Capital Gains (HB201)
- Carried Interest (HB215/SB288)
- Income Tax Reform (HB275)
- Closing the LLC loophole (HB357)
These bills have not yet received a committee vote, but some may still pass this session. Stay tuned for updates.
Our work moving forward
Moving forward, we will be laser-focused on which bills are still in play, and where our coalition partners are focusing their attention. We’ll be sending out updates and issue-specific action alerts – you can see the action alerts that are still live here: https://jufj.org/aaa
If you want to be on our Rapid Response list and receive more urgent updates/actions, click the link to sign up: https://secure.everyaction.com/k_w1YvTqbU2s3UA6NjqHqA2