2008 Public Policy Agenda
Our advocacy work stems from a recognition that a healthy Maryland economy requires public policies that meet the workforce needs of employers while promoting better skills, jobs, and wages for low-income Marylanders, particularly people of color.
During the 2008 state legislative session, JOTF will support legislative and budget initiatives that support adult education, family-friendly sick leave, ex-offender employment, unemployment insurance benefits, and workforce training for low-income families among others.
INCREASE BASIC EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR WORKING ADULTS
One in five Marylanders reads at less than a fourth-grade level. Since a solid education is the cornerstone of a qualified workforce, investing in adult education for Maryland’s workers carries benefits to employers, low-income families, and the economy.
- Expand state investment in adult education to ensure sustainable and predictable funding as recommended by the Superintendent’s Panel on Adult Education.
- Increase accountability by evaluating adult education performance. The Maryland State Department of Education should collect additional data regarding adult learners’ success in employment and post-secondary education.
ESTABLISH FAMILY-FRIENDLY SICK LEAVE POLICIES
Managing work and care for young or elderly family members is a fact of life for most Marylanders. Nationally, of workers with paid sick days, less than one in three can use their leave when their child gets sick. Businesses that offer flexible leave benefits profit from lower turnover and training costs, and higher levels of productivity and customer satisfaction.
- Promote family-friendly sick leave policies. Allow employees the flexibility to use their already accrued sick leave to care not only for themselves, but also for an ill child, parent, or spouse.
PROMOTE THE SUCCESSFUL RE-ENTRY AND EMPLOYMENT OF EX-OFFENDERS
Each year approximately 15,000 former inmates return from prison to communities across Maryland. Possession of a criminal record poses an enormous barrier to mainstream employment. By investing in transitional services in prison and in the community, we can help ensure that these Marylanders find legitimate work, contribute to the economy, and turn their lives around.
- Reduce the stigma posed by a criminal record. Allow for the expungement of certain nuisance crime convictions from a person’s criminal history record.
- Support additional job training programs for inmates.
MODERNIZE MARYLAND’S UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE SYSTEM
Unemployment insurance (UI) is a critical safety net for workers forced to leave their jobs involuntarily. In Maryland, unfortunately, the UI system gives only minimal support to a fraction of workers facing this sudden hardship. Only one-third of unemployed workers receive benefits, with an average weekly payment of just $275. This is not enough to keep workers and their families out of poverty as they transition into new jobs, or to bolster the economy in times of recession.
- Extend benefit coverage to part-time workers who already pay into the unemployment insurance system.
- Increase unemployment insurance benefits so that workers are able to pay their bills while seeking employment.
STOP PREDATORY LENDING PRACTICES
Predatory lending involves a wide array of practices where borrowers agree to unfair loan terms. Although predatory lenders are most likely to target low-income people, victims of such lending are represented across all demographics.
- Enable the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund (MAIF) to offer payment plans so that policyholders are not forced to use premium finance companies. Under current law, MAIF is only allowed to take lump-sum payments on its yearly premiums. Premium finance companies charge interest at an APR of 25-30%.
- Enforce Maryland’s existing laws to limit Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) interest rates. RALs are loans made against an anticipated tax refund.
ENFORCE RESPONSIBLE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Though Maryland spends millions of dollars every year to spur job creation and retention, subsidy recipients are not required to disclose information on whether they meet job creation projections that were initially agreed upon. By not holding subsidy recipients accountable, it is impossible to assess whether the state is meeting its job creation targets.
Require state agencies to publish annual reports on the jobs created or retained by each company receiving an economic development subsidy, such as a loan, tax incentive or grant.
For more information, or to receive weekly policy updates during Maryland’s legislative session, contact Melissa Chalmers Broome at 410-234-8046 or firstname.lastname@example.org.