Feb 24, 2017

2/24/17 – JOTF Weekly Update: HB1 Passes Economic Matters Committee

HB 1- Maryland Healthy Working Families Act Passes the House Economic Matters Committee

The House Economic Matters Committee passed House Bill 1 out of committee last night, and without any harmful amendments! With a vote of 14-9, we’ve cleared the first hurdle in our efforts to ensure earned sick leave for Maryland working families.  Help us thank our legislators for voting YES on HB 1 in committee by signing our thank you card! View coverage from The Sun and The Washington Post on yesterday’s vote.  Next week we expect the Senate Finance Committee will vote on SB 230 and HB 1 will be on the floor of the House of Delegates! Join us in Annapolis to urge our Delegates and Senators to pass a STRONG earned sick leave bill on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We will be showing support outside of the State House before session at 9:30 am. Email our Policy and Program Associate Kimberly Routson for more information and to RSVP.

Eye on Annapolis

*Below is a list of the bills that our policy team monitored this week in Annapolis. We will continue to keep you posted on the status of these bills and other important pieces of legislation*

House Bill 860/ Senate Bill 853
Transitional Supports for Ex-Offenders – Repeal of Restrictions (Maryland Equal Access to Food Act of 2017)
As more Marylanders are forced to turn to the state for assistance to meet their basic needs during difficult economic times, it is important to ensure that the state’ s safety net programs are protected. Moreover, it is equally important to ensure that these programs do not impose punitive restrictions that are counterproductive to securing self sufficiency for working families. This bill eliminates the partial ban on SNAP and TCA benefits and the drug testing and treatment requirement for those recipients that are convicted of a felony drug offense. No other criminal offense triggers suspension of these benefits, only felony drug offenses. This legislation seeks to remove these restrictions and requirements for individuals convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.

House Bill 467/ Senate Bill 699
Providing Our Workers Education and Readiness (POWER) – Apprenticeship Act
This legislation would require each contractor or subcontractor awarded a contract for at least $500,000
for a capital construction project that receives at least $1.0 million in the State’s capital budget to (1) be affiliated with a registered apprenticeship program and use apprentices in each covered craft that is used; (2) make payments to the State Apprenticeship Training Fund; or (3) make specified payments directly to a registered apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships allow employees the unique opportunity to “learn and earn” simultaneously and can set participants on more defined career tracks that provide formal assistance navigating a variety of employment opportunities. JOTF supports this bill as a means to incentivize the hiring of apprentices on specific projects and increase opportunities for skilled apprenticeships in Maryland.

House Bill 440/ Senate Bill 55
Employers of Ex-Offenders – Liability for Negligent Hiring or Inadequate Supervision – Immunity
SUPPORT with Amendments
JOTF has consistently advocated for policies that ensure that mechanisms for relief are available for both workers with  criminal records and employers seeking to hire workers with criminal records. This legislation seeks to address this by establishing that an employer may not be held liable for negligently hiring or failing to adequately supervise an employee based on the employee possessing a criminal record. JOTF supports House Bill 440, but urged the committee to adopt and incorporate language that would expand the pool of eligible employers. This would ensure that employers that are willing and interested in hiring workers with a criminal background are afforded the same protections as other employers.

On the Horizon
*Legislation to watch next week in Annapolis*

House Bill 840
Criminal Procedure – Partial Expungement
Tuesday, February 28th – House Judiciary Committee @ 1:00 PM
Employers often refuse to hire applicants with criminal records, even if the person was never convicted.  Under current Maryland law, criminal records with charges that did not result in a conviction are eligible for expungement. Unfortunately, Maryland’s “unit rule” permanently prohibits expungement of eligible charges if all charges within a unit are not eligible for expungement. Employers often refuse to hire applicants with criminal records, even if the person was never convicted.  House Bill 840 would allow for the “partial expungement” of any charges within a unit that would otherwise be eligible for expungement, regardless of other ineligible charges.

Senate Bill 533/ House Bill 1295
Low-Cost Automobile Insurance Program
Tuesday, February 28th – Senate Finance Committee @ 1:00 PM
This legislation seeks to establish a low-cost automobile insurance program for low-income individuals in Maryland. The program is modeled after the highly successful California Low Cost Auto (CLCA) program, which provides affordable basic liability coverage for low-income individuals who are safe drivers. The bill would to provide low-cost insurance through the existing Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, to safe drivers whose income is at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.

House BIll 1237
Expungement – Acquittal, Dismissal, Nolle Prosequi (Non-Convictions)SUPPORT– JOTF SIGNATURE PRIORITY
Tuesday, February 28th, House Judiciary Committee @ 1:00 PM
Currently, Maryland law allows for the expungement of non-conviction criminal charges that result in an acquittal, dismissal, nolle pros, stet, or probation before judgment (PBJ). However, Maryland law requires an individual seeking expungement to pay a $30 filing fee, even if the charges did not result in a conviction. Unfortunately, many individuals do not seek expungement if the charges did not result in a conviction, as they are unaware that a criminal record exists until a criminal background check for employment occurs. House Bill 1237 would eliminate the court filing fee for individuals seeking expungement of an acquittal, dismissal, or nolle prosequi.

Senate Bill 866/ House Bill 1381
Adult High School Pilot Program
Wednesday, March 1st, Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee @ 1:00 PM
JOTF is an appointed member of the Task Force to Study the Adult High School Concept established as a result of 2016 legislation. Senate Bill 866 would establish a pilot to allow Maryland adult learners to obtain a high school diploma in an alternative education and training setting. JOTF supports the creation of this type of model that will set adult learners on a path toward economic opportunity.

Senate Bill 880/ House Bill 1390
Criminal Procedure – Pretrial Release – Reform (Maryland Pretrial Reform Act of 2017)
Wednesday, March 1st – Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee @ 1:00 PM
See JOTF’s efforts surrounding bail reform this session below.

Maryland Pretrial Reform Act of 2017

Maryland’s current reliance on money bail results in a system where poor individuals who pose a low threat to public safety languish in jail, while wealthier individuals who may present a serious danger to public safety are able to walk free. The poor who remain jailed, simply because they cannot afford cash bail, experience the loss of wages, jobs, and housing, and are unable to fulfill their family obligations. As a result, Maryland’s current pretrial system fails to protect public safety, wastes state and local resources, and perpetuates existing economic and racial inequalities due to our nation’s history of unequal opportunity and racism.

JOTF is a founding member of the state Coalition for a Safe and Just Maryland – a diverse group of community leaders, concerned voters, and experts committed to helping Maryland finally achieve systems of justice that truly keep communities safe and are free from racial bias and other forms of injustice. We are urging support for SB 880 / HB 1390 – The Maryland Pretrial Reform Act of 2017; but, we need your help! If you are interested in becoming a member of the Coalition for a Safe and Just Maryland, please complete and return the sign on sheet available here. You can email/scan the completed form to sbamiro@jotf.org or fax to (410) 234-8929. For more information regarding bail reform efforts, please contact Caryn York.

Save the Date!

United for Justice Lobby Day in Annapolis
Tuesday, March 28th

Join us in Annapolis  on Tuesday, March 28 as we march to the Capitol, rally on Lawyers’ Mall, visit with legislators, and host informative workshops to urge support for state legislative proposals that ensure justice for all! Transportation can be provided for those traveling to Annapolis. Buses will depart from your location between 7-8 AM and return by 3 PM. RSVP is required.  For more information click here or toRSVP please contact our Policy Associate Seanniece Bamiro.

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