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. JOTF’s public policy priorities are numerous but our focus falls within the following categories:
Adult education, post-secondary access and affordability
Wages, benefits, and supports
Access to affordable transportation options
Reducing the impact of incarceration on workers
JOTF 2020 State Policy Priorities
Decriminalize Poverty – Reduce Impact of Incarceration on Workers
This includes policies that facilitate regular interaction with the criminal justice system through racial profiling, child support debt, and motor vehicle laws; court-related fines and fees; and the collateral consequences of a criminal record. Thus, a criminal record can be both the cause and consequence of poverty, even if the record does not include a conviction.
During the 2020 state legislative session, JOTF will support the following proposals to reduce the impact of incarceration on workers:
- Eliminate the suspension of a driver’s license due to unpaid fees and provide for the statewide use of community-based alternative payments methods such as job skills training or adult education programs;
- Support the full implementation of the current Court of Appeals rule on pretrial detention, including additional funding to ensure that every jurisdiction has a robust pretrial services system;
- Establish a statewide process that provides pretrial defendants and misdemeanants with access to voting while incarcerated, as allowed by law;
- Support legislative recommendations from the state-commissioned Low-Income Obligor Working Group, such as the use of minimum orders for those who are unemployed and underemployed, and legislation to support effective implementation of the current laws that provide for the suspension of orders due to criminal detainment or rehabilitative treatment;
- Support the creation of a low-cost automobile insurance pilot program and the elimination of non-driving factors such as credit, education, income, and zip code in automobile insurance premium rates;
- Establish pre-release centers and options for incarcerated women and programming aligned with employment opportunities for successful reintegration back into society;
- Reduce barriers to occupational licensing for low-skill, low-income workers, particularly workers with a criminal background; and
- Expand access to criminal record expungement via:
- Repeal of the “unit rule”;
- Automatic expungement of non-convictions (Acquittal, Dismissal, Probation before Judgment, and Stet);
- Clarification of the expungement eligibility of arrest warrants/invalidated warrants; and
- Making nonviolent misdemeanor and felony convictions eligible for expungement at three (3) and five (5) years, respectfully, after the completion of the individual’s sentence and any mandatory supervision.
Worker Supports and Benefits
Earned Leave and Benefits
Everyone deserves the ability to care for themselves and their families without risking their economic stability. Yet, 40 percent of American workers are unable to earn paid sick and safe days. Nearly 80 percent of low-wage workers, who are least likely to afford to take unpaid time off, lack access to this basic benefit.
For six years, JOTF has partnered with over 150 organizations around the state to secure access to earned and/or job-protected sick and safe leave for Maryland workers. During the 2020 legislative session, JOTF will focus our efforts on the following: This includes:
- Defending Earned Sick and Leave: JOTF will defend and protect the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act from efforts to exempt certain workers, such as health facility employees and substitute teachers, to exempt businesses with “on-site health care clinics,” and from increasing the days which workers can begin earning sick and safe leave from 106 to 120 days.
- Supporting Paid Family Leave: JOTF will support efforts to explore the establishment of a family and medical leave insurance program that would provide workers with up to 12 weeks of annual paid leave supported by an employer-employee contribution model.
Access to Adult Education, Skills Training
Access to post-secondary education can strengthen Maryland’s families and communities and improve outcomes for the working poor. It is well established that workers with college experience are more likely to move out of poverty and attain higher-paying jobs, yet low-income and “non-traditional” students and adult workers face significant barriers to post-secondary educational options, and affordability is high on the list of challenges.
During the 2020 legislative session, JOTF will actively monitor the state budget to encourage program innovation and direct state aid resources to the students who need them most, including:
- Expanding investments in the Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) Program, particularly within state-designated Opportunity Zones, for training programs to reduce barriers and prepare workers for career mobility and pathways, especially incumbent workers, and supporting meaningful initiatives that expand apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and adult basic education.
- Increasing support for correctional education, including access and affordability of GED testing and college courses, expansion of diminution credits for the completion of vocational training/academic credentialing, and access to occupational training and licensing for individuals preparing to exit the correctional facilities.
Download JOTF's 2020 Public Policy Agenda
Learn more about our public policy priorities in Baltimore and Annapolis for the 2020 Legislative Session.