Jan 26, 2018

JOTF Announces 2018 Policy Agenda-Jan 26th, 2018

The Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF) is pleased to bring you our first public policy update of the 2018 Maryland General Assembly session. Our weekly emails provide updates on legislation, budgets, and other state-level policy news that impacts working families in Maryland.

JOTF recognizes that a healthy state economy requires policies that meet the workforce needs of employers and promote fair and equitable access to economic opportunities for low-income Marylanders. The JOTF Policy Team will continue to maintain a regular presence in Annapolis to promote policies that seek to improve conditions and outcomes for Maryland’s working families.

We look forward to working with you to advance the following public policy priorities during the 2018 state legislative session in Annapolis:

JOTF kicked off the 2018 legislative session with the successful veto overrides of two (2) of our policy priorities from the 2017 session:

The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act allows workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of five days (40 hours) per year for full-time workers. The Maryland Fair Access to Education Act of 2017eliminates the arrest/conviction question from certain initial college admissions applications to allow individuals with criminal records to be judged on their academic qualifications and not a box.

The Maryland REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act of 2018
The ability to secure stable employment is crucial to the successful reentry of those individuals that have experienced incarceration. Unfortunately, a criminal record can serve as an insurmountable barrier to securing gainful employment and other critical resources, even if the record did not result in a conviction. JOTF will support comprehensive expungement legislation that limits public access to certain criminal records, the automatic expungement of non-convictions, clarification of expungement eligibility for arrest warrants, and expanding expungement for certain misdemeanors and felonies.

Bail Reform
Low-income Marylanders are often held in jail due to their inability to pay bail, not because of being an actual threat to the community. The unnecessary incarceration can interrupt employment and leverages additional fees on families who are already struggling to maintain. JOTF will continue to defend the full implementation of the current court rule, which includes the funding of pre-trial services in each of the 24 jurisdictions in Maryland as an alternative to incarceration. We will promote budget language to fund various community based pre-trial service options as proven interventions to recidivist activity.

Child Support Enforcement Reform
Low- or-no wage obligors are paying 35% or more of their income to comply with child support orders. The inability to pay often leads to arrearages, which can trigger a suspended driver’s license, professional license, or incarceration – all of which severely interrupts an individual’s ability to secure and maintain employment. Moreover, the non-custodial parent is forced to choose between complying with the child support order and necessities, such as transportation, food, and housing. JOTF will support legislation that ensures Marylanders have greater access to child support payment forgiveness programs, such as the Maryland Child Support Payment Incentive Program, that provide assistance in satisfying child support obligations while moving low- or no wage obligors out of debt.

College Access and Affordability 
It is a well known fact that access to quality higher education leads to better paying, stable jobs. Yet, ever-increasing tuition costs are a barrier for low-income workers and GED-recipients. Maryland is one of 41 states that verify a GED passing score as a Maryland High School Diploma, yet the Guaranteed Access Grant/Howard P Rawlings Access Grant (GAG/GA) currently bars individuals who have this kind of diploma from applying. JOTF will support legislation that seeks to restructure the GAG/GA to allow for individuals with a Maryland High School Diploma to be included as eligible recipients.

Access to Affordable Auto Insurance
We live in a regional economy, where mobility is key and jobs are not always located near home.  In fact, almost half of all workers in Maryland travel to another county for their job. While having a car is critical, the high costs associated with insurance puts ownership out of reach for many families given the non-driving related factors used to determine insurance premiums, effectively jeopardizing the ability to secure and maintain car insurance as required by law. JOTF will support efforts to establish a low-cost automobile insurance state pilot program and the elimination of non-driving factors to determine insurance premium rates.

Elimination of Debtor’s Prisons
The criminalization of poverty allows for mounting fees to trap the under served in the criminal justice system. Many times, this vicious cycle of fees, which result from an inability to pay a fine or debt, can lead to incarceration that disrupts employment and limits future employment opportunities. For low-wage workers, the inability to pay court-related and other administrative costs, is crippling. JOTF will support legislation that dismantles this discriminatory system to ensure that employment for the low-wage worker is not interrupted due to the criminalization of their economic state.

State Budget Monitoring
During the 2018 session, JOTF will actively monitor the state budget, focusing specifically on ensuring that the State adequately invests in adult education, workforce development, correctional education and and pre-trial services.

If you are interested in supporting our efforts or have questions about certain legislative initiatives, please don’t hesitate to contact:

Nikki Thompson, Senior Policy Advocate, nikki@jotf.org
Lee Domeika, Policy Advocate, lee@jotf.org


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