Feb 2, 2018

JOTF Weekly Policy Update: Signature Priorities Taking Shape


Signature Priorities Taking Shape
Today marks the end of the fourth 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 shaping signature priorities. As we continue to aggressively advocate on behalf of low-wage workers and job seekers across our state, we want to share key highlights from this week.


This 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.

(See 2018 Policy Agenda here)

HB1 – Healthy Working Families Act (HWFA)

While the veto override was successful, we are still working hard to ensure that Maryland’s working families have access to earned sick leave. As a result of the override, bills that intend to delay or combat the implementation of earned sick leave have been introduced. JOTF will actively monitor these bills, acting when necessary, to ensure that the 700,000 Marylanders protected under HB1 will receive their earned sick leave.

Related Bills to Watch:

Exemption to earned sick leave – HB 779

The Maryland REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act of 2018

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
Related Bills to Watch:

Law Enforcement Misconduct/Expungement – HB 487
Expungement of Civil Offenses – HB 382
Ban the Box for Private Employers – HB 541

Bail Reform

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 and services to 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.

Related Bills to Watch:Pretrial Services Program Grant Fund – HB 447
Pretrial Release Elimination of Fees – HB480/SB 484

College Access and Affordability

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.

Related Bills to Watch:

GED Eligibility for Howard P. Rawlings Award – HB 781
Diminution Credits for Education – HB 295
Community College Promise Scholarships – HB 17
Near Completer Grants/Scholarships – SB 317
Somerset Community College Scholarship – SB 7
Correctional Financial Literary Program – SB 237

Elimination of Debtor’s Prisons

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.

Related Bills to Watch:

Eliminating Landlord/Tenant Body Attachments – HB 545
Limiting Wage Garnishments – SB 22/HB 673

Child Support Enforcement Reform

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’.

Related Bills to Watch:

Potential Income Definition Change – HB 386
Low-income Driver’s License Suspension Exemption – HB 804
Reinstatement of Drivers’ License/Employment Program – SB 79

Affordable Auto Insurance

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.

Related Bills to Watch:

Eliminate the Use of Credit History – SB 72 
Eliminate the Use of Education/Occupation – HB 656
Eliminate Use of Marital Status – HB 657

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

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