Feb 9, 2018

JOTF Weekly Policy Alert-Feb 9, 2018

(See JOTF’s 2018 Policy Agenda here)

Today marks the end of the fifth week of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2018 Legislative Session. JOTF’s policy team is hard at work in Annapolis managing our legislative agenda and ensuring that our signature priorities are progressing through the legislative process. As we continue to aggressively advocate on behalf of low-wage workers and job seekers across our state, we want you to be aware of some key highlights from this past week. If you would like to support our 2018 policy agenda, please contact our Policy Team for further information:
Nikki Thompson, Senior Policy Advocate, nikki@jotf.org
Lee Domeika, Policy Advocate, lee@jotf.org
Bill to Delay Earned Sick Leave
Headed to the House

Last Friday, the Maryland Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to delay the implementation of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (MHWFA). This legislation was designed to enable 700,000 Marylanders to earn paid sick leave and provide job protection to hundreds of thousands more who have to choose between managing their health and keeping their jobs. SB 304 seeks to delay implementation and accrual of earned sick leave until July 1.

Unfortunately, yesterday, this emergency legislation passed in the Senate with a vote of 24-17. Businesses continue to argue that they need more time and support in order for their employees to start accruing and utilizing paid sick leave. However, the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) has already begun to craft enforcement regulations to help businesses manage compliance concerns. SB 304 will now move to the House, where it is expected to face heavy opposition.

Please take a moment to contact your DELEGATE to urge a RED vote on Senate Bill 304 as amended by the Senate Finance Committee. Urge your DELEGATE to oppose reviving debate on the law, allowing workers to accrue earned sick leave on its scheduled effective date of Sunday, February 11th. To locate your Delegate, please click here.

For more information, contact Lee Domeika at lee@jotf.org.

Related Bills to Watch:HB 779 – Exempts employees who regularly work with on-site health care facilities from earning sick leave (Hearing scheduled for – 3/6/18)

The Maryland REDEEM
(Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act of 2018
Awaiting bill number, Committee Assignment, and Hearing Date
JOTF is working with partners to expand expungement eligibility, so that individuals with a criminal record have a fair chance at employment. While several bills have been introduced, each tackling a piece of the expungement puzzle, JOTF will focus its efforts on advancing the Maryland REDEEM Act, a comprehensive bill that would:
Automatically expunge non-convictions;
Provide clarification on the expungement eligibility of arrest warrants; and
Expand expungement for nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies
Bail Reform
Awaiting bill number, Committee Assignment, and Hearing Date
Funding for pre-trial services is necessary to ensure that the current court rule, which requires judges to consider an individual’s ability to pay in pretrial decisions, is implemented effectively, and to provide access to critical resources for individuals who have interacted with the criminal justice system. JOTF and partners will work diligently to ensure robust investments in pre-trial services are part of the final budget.

College Access and Affordability
SB 842/HB 781 
House Hearing on February 22 in House Ways & Means at 1 p.m.
Senate Hearing on February 28 in Senate Education, Health, and Environment at 1 p.m.
JOTF will support legislation that seeks to allow GED recipients to become eligible for the Howard P. Rawlings Guaranteed Access Grant (GAG). The GAG is a need-based grant that provides up to 100% of tuition and fees for community college or a four-year university.
Elimination of Debtor’s Prisons
Awaiting bill number, Committee Assignment, and Hearing Date
JOTF will support legislative proposals that seek to dismantle this system by eliminating the use of body attachments to collect civil and criminal debt, and wage garnishments.
Child Support Enforcement Reform 
Awaiting bill number, Committee Assignment, and Hearing Date
JOTF will support efforts to restructure the Child Support Payment Incentive Program to provide for greater program awareness and participation. We will also support efforts to reform punitive child support enforcement policies that fail to differentiate between the ‘dead-beat parent’ and the ‘dead-broke parent’.

Affordable Auto Insurance
SB 945/HB 646 
House Hearing held on February 8 in House Economic Matters Committee
Senate Hearing on February 27 in Senate Finance at 1 p.m.
JOTF will support legislative efforts that seek to remove non-driving factors, such as educational attainment, from determining affordable auto insurance rates. While having a car is critical, the high costs associated with insurance put ownership out of reach for many families.  Moreover, insurance premiums are largely determined using non-driving related factors, effectively jeopardizing the ability to secure and maintain car insurance as required by law. JOTF will support efforts to ensure that auto insurance is accessible and affordable for low-wage workers and job seekers.

*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*

SB 22/ HB 673 
Debt Collection – Exemptions From Attachment
JOTF SUPPORT with Amendments  – The management and repayment of debts, even small ones, can be a task for low-wage workers. Missed payments lead to compounded fees, civil lawsuits, and ultimately, the garnishment of wages. Low-income individuals, who are already struggling to make ends meet, often have their wages garnished to the point of poverty. This bill exempts more of a low-wage worker’s weekly paycheck from garnishment. We would like to see amended language to raise the exempted amount to enough for a family of four to live above the federal poverty line.

SB 261/HB 976 
Community Colleges – Vocational Certificates, Apprenticeship Training Programs, and Associate Degrees – Tuition Assistance
JOTF SUPPORT with Amendments – Tuition assistance eliminates a huge barrier for low-wage workers trying to access higher education. For the working student, additional funding for books, fees, and classes can be the difference between graduating and dropping out. JOTF supports SB 261, but urged the committee to reconsider or restructure the community service requirement to receive this award. A work study, or similar type of program, where working students are able to satisfy this requirement without taking time from work, would better fit the needs of Maryland’s working students.

SB 317/HB 951 
Higher Education Degree and Job Certification Without Debt Act of 2018
JOTF SUPPORT – The ability to pursue higher education without the looming threat of debt that low-wage workers cannot repay is exactly the kind of support that Marylanders need. This bill provides tuition assistance for either academic or vocational programs, matches individuals with a program, and adds incentives for near-completers to return to community college and complete their program. A low-wage student borrower is ten times more likely to drop out, due to a lack of support. This bill will provide the job training and tuition assistance support that low-wage workers need.

HB 17
Higher Education – Student Loan Notification Letter – Modifications
JOTF SUPPORT – Higher education directly impacts wages. However, low-wage workers have limited access to educational opportunities, and are often deterred from pursing a vocational or academic program because of the debt they may incur. This bill requires institutions to provide student loan information to students, which will better enable individuals to avoid loans that they will never be able to repay.

HB 386
Child Support – Potential Income – Definition
JOTF SUPPORT – The ability to pay, employment barriers, and lack of access to employment have not been factored into determining the amount of a child support order for those who are unemployed or “voluntarily impoverished.” This bill seeks to add these critical factors to the guidelines to ensure that the courts are considering the full picture when assessing a non-custodial parent’s ability to pay.

HB 487 
Law Enforcement Misconduct – Erroneous Conviction Compensation and Expungement
JOTF SUPPORT – Individuals who have been unjustly incarcerated still carry the stigma that comes along with a criminal record. Their criminal record, although exonerated, still follows them through the employment process, and lessens their ability to secure a stable job. This bill requires that those who are exonerated due to police misconduct to have their records expunged free of charge.

HB 656/HB 657
Motor Vehicle Insurance – Discrimination in Underwriting and Rating – Use of Occupation or Education Level/Use of Marital Status or Gender
JOTF SUPPORT – The use of discriminatory non-driving factors, such as lack of education, low-wage occupation, marital status, or gender, leads to skyrocketing insurance premiums of Maryland’s most vulnerable individuals. These bills seek to eliminate the use of these non-driving factors to ensure that all Marylanders receive fair motor vehicle insurance rates.

*Legislation to watch next week in Annapolis*
HB 480/SB 484 – Criminal Procedure – Pretrial Release – Fees
Tuesday, February 13, House Judiciary Committee at1 p.m.
Low-wage workers are often caught in a cycle of incarceration due to poverty and inability to pay fees. In JOTF’s recently released report “The Criminalization of Poverty,” we thoroughly discuss how the fees of incarceration burden low-wage workers and plunge them into a cycle of debt and further incarceration – inhibiting their ability to maintain employment. This bill will eliminate the fees associated with certain pre-trial release monitoring, which is a step towards ending this vicious cycle.

HB 541 – Labor and Employment – Criminal Record Screening Practices (Ban the Box)
Tuesday, February 13, House Judiciary Committee at 1 p.m.
Private employers often refuse to hire qualified applicants because of their criminal record. While state employers have now “Banned the Box,” it is important to extend this necessary measure to the private sector. House Bill 541 will “ban the box” that asks whether you have been arrested or convicted of a crime on applications for private employers. This will give many of our low-wage workers a fighting chance to secure employment.

SB 555/HB 494 – Safe Neighborhoods Act 
Thursday, February 15, Senate Judicial Proceedings at 1 p.m.
Housing instability directly impacts the ability to maintain employment. Nearly half of Marylanders are rent burdened, making them at risk for losing housing at any moment. JOTF opposes this bill, as it will add to the state’s housing instability crisis by lessening the notice period for evictions from 14 days to 7 days for activity that falls under the vague standard of “imminent threat.”  JOTF will not support any legislation that prevents Maryland’s working families from having proper notice to vacate and secure new housing.


Last week, JOTF released its new report, a 104-page document that details how Maryland policies perpetuate the criminalization of its most vulnerable residents. The Criminalization of Poverty: How to break the cycle through policy reform in Maryland, found that Maryland is criminalizing poverty in numerous ways:

Debtors’ Prisons
Law Enforcement Policies
The Cash Bail System
Limited Expungement

JOTF examines how these policies, and more, disparately impact the poor and people of color, creating a vicious cycle of poverty that has been criminalized through Maryland’s current laws. For more information on the report, please contact JOTF’s Executive Director, Caryn York .


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