My name is Anna Levy, I live in Rockville in District 16, and I am the co-chair of Jews United for Justice’s (JUFJ) Labor and Housing Justice Team. JUFJ organizes 6,000 Jewish Marylanders and allies to advocate for social, racial, and economic justice issues at the state and local level.
As a Jewish organization, it was scary and painful to see antisemitic graffiti found just yesterday in multiple locations in Bethesda. Threats to our safety are part of the same machinery that endangers immigrants, Black people, and so many other marginalized communities. Through partnership, JUFJ aims to undo systemic oppression and, through the legislative priorities we are sharing in this testimony, we are working to make our region safer and more equitable for everyone.
We are thrilled that you passed the Time to Care Act last session to establish the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Fund so that all workers in Maryland can take paid time off to care for themselves and their loved ones. We and our partners in the Time to Care Coalition hope you will support legislation to ensure the program is implemented equitably — with a contribution rate that is fair for employees, especially tipped and low-income workers. The bill will also make clear that all other paid time off will not have to be exhausted before using the FAMLI Fund, which benefits not only employees, but also their employers. Everyone deserves time to care, and no one should be put in a position where they have to choose between that and keeping a roof over their heads.
Speaking of which, eviction rates are higher than they were pre-pandemic. Rents are skyrocketing, and rental assistance funds are running out. The General Assembly must address these issues through rent stabilization and allocating funds for emergency rental assistance. Last year, you passed a bill (SB 563), which Governor Hogan vetoed, to prevent illegally operating landlords from using the expedited eviction process and uphold rental licensing programs meant to ensure safe housing for renters. We and our partners in Renters United Maryland (RUM) hope to see this and other renters’ rights legislation become law this coming session.
Police violence and abuse continues to ravage Black and brown communities, and we thank you for the role the delegation played in passing historic reforms in 2021. To ensure the intent of those reforms are reflected in practice, it is essential that the General Assembly do everything in its power to uphold Anton’s Law and demand transparency in police disciplinary records. Further, we and our partners in the Maryland Coalition for Justice & Police Accountability (MCJPA) hope to increase community oversight of police. We want to pass legislation that will allow local jurisdictions to grant Police Accountability Boards (PABs) the authority to hire independent investigators and investigate misconduct complaints.
While Maryland has made progress on youth justice issues in recent years, the practice of automatically charging kids as adults in some cases must end — it is both unjust and racially inequitable in its application. Eighty percent of the kids tried and held in the adult court and prison system are Black. We and our Maryland Youth Justice Coalition (MYJC) partners urge the General Assembly to right this wrong — kids are kids and their cases should be dealt with in a system designed to rehabilitate them and meet their needs. Charging kids as adults leads to significantly higher recidivism and more violent crime. Charging kids as kids is not only better for youth, but for society as a whole.
We and our partners at CASA believe that everyone should have access to the highest attainable standard of health services — no one should get sick or die because of their income or immigration status. Currently more than 40% of undocumented residents are uninsured. That’s why we urge this delegation and the entire General Assembly to expand Medicaid and ACA eligibility to include those who are undocumented.
Finally, we hope to see the Maryland General Assembly follow the lead of many states and local jurisdictions, including the Montgomery County Council, and adopt hybrid hearings to maximize the engagement of the public in the legislative process. To return to “business as usual” is to exclude people with health concerns — and people with mobility concerns, inflexible jobs, children, transportation challenges, and more — from participating in our state’s democracy. All Marylanders deserve the opportunity to share their stories and advocate for themselves in Annapolis — whether in person or virtually. Equity and justice demand a hybrid process.
We are committed to showing up for our communities and our neighbors, to reject fear and division, and to continue building a Maryland that works for us all.