Apr 13, 2018

JOTF Legislative Wrap-Up

The 2018 Maryland General Assembly came and went with full force during this election year, as expected. As the legislative session closed Monday night, we felt a strong sense of accomplishment and a yearning to continue our push for jobs and justice across Maryland.

After an intense six-year battle fighting to provide Maryland workers with earned sick and safe leave, the 2018 legislative session kicked off with the veto override of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB 1-2017).

The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (MHWFA), now law as of Februray 11, 2018, ensures earned sick and safe leave for nearly 700,000 low-wage workers and their families across the state of Maryland. Additionally, we saw the successful veto override of the Maryland Fair Access to Education Act of 2017 (Ban the Box on College Applications). This law prohibits colleges and universities from inquiring into criminal background history by eliminating the check box on initial college admissions applications that require prospective students to answer the question of whether they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. As a result, workers with a criminal record can have a fair and equal opportunity to access higher education.

We are also excited to announce that three of our 2018 policy priorities focused on access to education, child support debt forgiveness programs, and the funding of pre-trial services successfully passed this session.

  • Child Support –  The Payment Incentive Program (PIP), a statewide program, forgives the state-owed arrears of non-custodial parents, but is currently underutilized. The Payment Incentive Program Expansion Act of 2018 – HB 1554 grants participants who are experiencing unemployment a “grace period” to avoid automatic termination, creates alternative payment schedules for seasonal workers, and allows for the “grandfathering in” of payments made immediately before acceptance into the program.
  • Access to Education – In an effort to increase the access and affordability of higher education for non-traditional students, JOTF supported SB 842/HB 781, which allows individuals who have secured their High School Diploma (HSD) via the GED test with College-Ready score levels to become eligible for the Howard P. Rawlings Guaranteed Access Grant, a need-based grant that provides up to 100% of tuition fees for post secondary education.
  • Pre-trial Services– JOTF supported HB447/SB1146, which provided $1M in funding for pre-trial services in order to ensure that each jurisdiction has the ability to establish and maintain robust pre-trial service options.

Unfortunately, the Maryland REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act of 2018 (SB 1212/HB 1383) did not receive a committee vote from the Senate Judicial Proceedings and House Judiciary Committees due to the pending negotiations on the Hogan-Zirkin Crime Bill (SB 122). This legislation sought to streamline the current expungement process by allowing for the automatic expungement of non-convictions and clarifying the definition and expungement eligibility for dated, invalidated arrest warrants after a certain period of time. Additionally, it sought to provide expungement eligibility for non-violent misdemeanor and felony convictions after a three (3) and five (5) year waiting period, respectively.

JOTF strongly opposed the Comprehensive Crime Bill of 2018 (SB 122), as it lacked real comprehensive measures to address the root causes driving criminal activity in Baltimore City – the lack of access to stable economic opportunities. Our efforts to urge an unfavorable report on SB 122 were successful, but the provisions of SB 122 were copy and pasted onto another bill –  Senate Bill 101 – and successfully cleared both chambers in a mad dash during the last 48 hours of the 2018 legislative session. While disappointed, JOTF will continue to push for programs and policies that truly provide Marylanders with access to the economic mobility and stability that they need and deserve.

We are grateful for your help in supporting JOTF’s policy efforts in Annapolis and look forward to working with you during the interim to ensure the effective implementation of new laws. Please check out the list below for a complete update on our 2018 priorities. And, as always, do not hesitate to reach out to us for information on the legislative session and our Annapolis efforts,including our recently released report, “The Criminalization of Poverty: How to Break the Cycle Through Policy Reform in Maryland.”

JOTF Policy Priority Updates

Child Support

Child Support -The Payment Incentive Program Act of 2018 (HB1554)

This session, JOTF supported this bill which restructures the Child Support Enforcement Administration’s Payment Incentive Program (PIP) to provide more external outreach in counties that under utilize the program, grant participants a “grace period” due to unemployment or seasonal work schedules, and allows for the “grandfathering in” of payments made immediately before acceptance into the program. HB 1554 passed in both the House and Senate chambers. We thank Delegate Jazz Lewis (Prince George’s County) for his sponsorship of this important bill. We also give a warm thank you to the advocates who supported this bill!

Click here for fact sheet

For more information on this bill, please contact JOTF’s Senior Policy Advocate, Nikki Thompson, at Nikki@jotf.org.

Access to Education

Higher Education – Educational Excellence Award Eligibility – High School Diploma by Examination (SB 842/HB 781)

This session, JOTF supported SB 842/HB 781 which restructures the eligibility requirements of the Howard P. Rawlings Guaranteed Access Grant (GAG) to allow non-traditional students, specifically those who secured their high school diploma via the GED test, to access GAG’s tuition assistance. HB 781 and SB 842 have passed both chambers and will now head to the Governor’s desk! Many thanks to Senator Joan Carter Conway (Baltimore City), Delegate Nick J. Mosby (Baltimore City), and Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins (Montgomery County) for their sponsorship and co-sponsorship of this important bill. And, of course, another warm thank you to our advocates who supported this effort!

Click here for a fact sheet

Click here for a recent article on SB 842/HB 781 from the National Skills Coalition
For more information on this legislation, please contact JOTF’s Policy Advocate, Lee Domeika, at Lee@jotf.org.

Expungement

The Maryland REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act) Act of 2018 (SB 1212/HB 1383)

This session, JOTF supported this legislation, which seeks to allow for the automatic expungement of non-convictions and clarifies the definition and expungement eligibility for dated, invalidated arrest warrants after a certain period of time. Additionally, it seeks to provide expungement eligibility for all nonviolent misdemeanor convictions after three (3) years, and certain nonviolent felonies after five (5) years. Unfortunately, SB 1212/HB 1383 did not receive a committee vote from the Senate Judicial Proceedings and House Judiciary Committees due to pending negotiations on the Hogan-Zirkin Crime Bill (SB 122).

For more information on this bill, please contact JOTF’s Senior Policy Advocate, Nikki Thompson, at Nikki@jotf.org

Auto Insurance

Motor Vehicle Insurance – Discrimination in Underwriting and Rating – Use of Occupation or Education Level (HB 656/SB945)

This session, JOTF support this legislation, which sought to remove the non-driving factors of education and occupation from determining auto insurance premiums.
Unfortunately, this bill did not receive a vote in the House Economic Matters or Finance committees.

Legislative Wins

*See below for list of bills JOTF supported and opposed throughout the 2018 Maryland General Assembly*

Human Services – Temporary Disability Assistance Program (SB 1231/HB 1615)

JOTF supported this legislation as it codifies the existing Temporary Disability Assistance Program (TDAP) and raises the individual benefit to match the benefit level of the Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) household of one. By indexing the TDAP benefits to align with TCA, low-wage workers are more equipped to afford expenses that are vital to a stable life.
SB 1231/HB 1615 passed in the Senate and House

Labor and Employment – General Contractor Liability for Unpaid Wages (Contractors Payment Protection Act) (SB853/HB1539)

JOTF supported this bill, which increases subcontractor’s liability in wage theft by allowing low-wage workers to collect unpaid wages from subcontractors through litigation.
SB 853/HB 1539 passed in the House and Senate

Food Stamp Program – Time Limit Waiver – Prohibition (SB 513/HB1273)

JOTF opposed this legislation as it would prohibit certain counties from using a waiver that extends the length of time that able-bodied adults without dependents can access food stamp monies regardless of their income status.

Both SB 513 and HB 1273 received unfavorable committee reports

Delay/Amend Bills of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB779/HB1262/HB1314/HB 1364/HB1417/HB1421)

JOTF opposed all six bills that sought to delay or amend the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB 1 of 2017). These bills would have restricted, delayed, or even removed access to earned sick and safe leave for workers across the state.
The six bills have received an unfavorable report from the House Economic Matters Committee

Earned Income Tax Credit – Individuals Without Qualifying Children – Alteration of Minimum Age Requirement (SB 647/HB 856)

JOTF supported this legislation, as it expands the eligibility for the EITC tax credit to include individuals ages 18-24 and would increase the income threshold to $23,540 (200% of the federal poverty level). This legislation would make over 350,000 Marylanders newly eligible for the EITC, doubling its current impact.

HB 856 passed in the Senate unanimously

Child Care Subsidy Program – Unemployment – Eligibility (HB 941)

JOTF supported this bill as it establishes eligibility criteria for individuals who do not currently have access to child care through the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) program to receive subsidies for up to 90 days in a year if the individual is unemployed or seeking employment.
HB 941 passed in the Senate and House chambers unanimously

Education – Child Care Subsidies – Mandatory Funding Levels (HB 430/SB 379)

JOTF supported this legislation as it expands the funding for the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) program.
SB 379 and HB 430 passed in the Senate and House

Higher Education – Student Loan Notification Letter – Modifications (SB 69/HB 17)

JOTF supported this legislation, as it would require higher education institutions to administer an annual report to students that details the total amount of their outstanding loans, income-based repayment plans, information about deferment, and loan forgiveness.

SB 69/HB 17 passed in the Senate and House unanimously

State Personel – Rights and Protections for Nursing Mothers (HB 306)

JOTF supported this bill as it requires employers to provide reasonable break time for breastfeeding employees to nurse their child as needed during their hours of work.
HB 306 passed in the Senate and House unanimously

Foster Care Recipients and Unaccompanied Homeless Youth – Employment Program (Fostering Employment Act of 2018) (SB 308/HB 431)

JOTF supported this legislation as it seeks to establish a program, through the Department of Human Services, to provide much needed job training and educational opportunities for Maryland’s foster and homeless youth.

SB 308 and HB 431 passed in the Senate and House unanimously

Related Policy Updates