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Sine Die 2021: Our Most Successful Session Yet

We made it to Sine Die! What does that mean?

At midnight on Monday, 4/12, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned “Sine Die,” which is Latin for adjourning without a [future] day. At midnight, all statewide legislative work concluded.

What did we accomplish? Well, thanks to your advocacy, JUFJ and our coalition partners were successful in passing several bills out of the General Assembly. As we celebrate all that we did accomplish together, we also know that each step toward our liberation was/is necessary but not sufficient. Progress is important, even when it is not the end of the story. As we lift up our collective wins, we remind ourselves that they are never enough and that our work continues until we all achieve liberation.

Let’s take a look at what we accomplished, where we experienced setbacks, and where our work needs to be focused moving forward.

And, we’d be remiss if we didn’t end with a call to action. Please fill out the action alert below to write to your legislators on the outcomes of Sine Die – thanking them and expressing disappointments so we keep the pressure up for next year.

Veto Overrides Graphic

These bills were vetoed by the Governor, but these vetoes have already been overriden. These bills are now law.

Courts & Prisons Reform:

For the past decade, incarcerated Maryland women have not had a pre-release facility to assist their transition back into our communities, even though men have. With the leadership of Out for Justice and Maryland Justice Project, we advocated for the Gender-Responsive Prerelease Act, and we successfully passed it together in the 2020 session! However, Governor Hogan vetoed the legislation.

So, one of our first actions this session was focused on overriding the Governor’s veto – and with our leaders, partners and legislative allies, we were successful! Now, Maryland is required by law to open a pre-release facility for incarcerated women in Baltimore. This is a huge victory in justice system reform, and for formerly incarcerated people who worked tirelessly to achieve this win. It is also a major victory for currently incarcerated women who need comprehensive, community-based pre-release services.

Police Accountability:

Policing reform was a primary focus this session and the passage of the legislation addressing the issue was sweeping and historic. We and our more than 90 partner organizations in the Maryland Coalition for Justice & Police Accountability (MCJPA) are thrilled that Anton’s Law passed – the bill is strong and it will significantly increase police transparency. Language from some of our other priority bills, including limits on use of force and repeal of the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR), were amended into Speaker Jones’ Police Accountability Act of 2021. Maryland was the first state in the U.S. to enact LEOBR legislation and this bill made Maryland the first state to repeal a LEOBR from statute.

While HB 670 does repeal LEOBR, it also restores one of its most problematic elements – trial boards who have final say on police discipline. The bill also fails to achieve real community oversight, though it will significantly increase civilian participation in police discipline.

These bills were vetoed by the Governor, but the General Assembly overrode that veto before adjourning for the session.

Bills Sent to Governor graphic

These bills have passed out of the General Assembly, and are headed to the Governor’s desk. 

Courts & Prisons Reform:

  • Governor’s Role in Parole (HB3/SB202)
    • This bill will remove the Governor from the parole process for those serving life sentences. In order to achieve real justice and equity in our court and prison system, we cannot allow for politics to play a role in someone’s redemption and freedom. Advocates have worked to make this change for 25 years and we finally passed it! We are grateful for the leadership of Family Support Network and ACLU of Maryland on this issue.

Police Accountability:

With our Campaign for Justice Safety & Jobs (CJSJ) coalition partners we worked with Mayor Brandon Scott and the Baltimore City Delegation to the General Assembly to pass a bill lays out a path for returning control of the Baltimore City Police Department to the City, so it will no longer be a state agency. The bill mandates the formation of an advisory board regarding local control which will produce a report with recommendations for the implementation of the change. The next step will be a ballot initiative in 2022 or 2024 and then will most likely require additional action from the General Assembly to enact local control. This bill is a critical first step and we will remain vigilant and engaged to see it through.

Immigrant Justice:

Immigrant detention has led to unfathomable suffering and death in our nation, as families are torn apart and lives are pointlessly and cruelly upended. This suffering will only increase during a global pandemic that spreads rapidly in the close quarters and unsanitary conditions of most detention facilities. Yet, some counties in Maryland have contracts to detain immigrants for ICE, and ICE is actively working to build a private detention center here. JUFJ followed the lead of CASA and with them and many other partners, we worked to pass the Dignity not Detention Act to end these practices. 

This bill included some additional language to provide further immigrant protections from law enforcement.

And, while this is local to Howard County, the County Executive announced that they would be ending their contract with ICE – something JUFJ & our partners in the Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice have been working towards for years. The support the Dignity Not Detention bill had in Howard County was a significant part of this huge win!

Several years ago, the state promised undocumented Marylanders that they could obtain a driver’s license without that information being used against them. Yet, federal immigration authorities are accessing that data to target undocumented communities. This bill, which we also worked with CASA and other partners on, will end the federal governments’ open access to Marylanders’ personal data held by the state – ICE and other federal agents will need a warrant. Undocumented Marylanders must be able to drive without fear, especially in this pandemic where transit and other ways to travel are unsafe and severely reduced. We will now be able to honor our promise to our undocumented neighbors and prevent ICE from using state data to target them for detention and deportation.

Housing Justice:

This bill will provide low-income tenants with access to legal counsel/representation in Rent Court. Currently, 1% of tenants in Rent Court are represented, while 98% of landlords are. Establishing access to counsel would not only help renters by reducing evictions; it would save the state $18.1M, in addition to similar savings in local jurisdictions. Passing this bill made Maryland the first state in the nation to ensure that tenants will have access to counsel in housing court. Unfortunately, a bill that would have funded this program didn’t pass before midnight. We and our partners in Renters United Maryland will be advocating for a portion of rental assistance money ($800M) to fund this critical program which will have a four year implementation timeline. This legislation also established a 10 day pre-filing notice for eviction cases. Maryland is one of a handful of states that do not currently have any pre-filing notice. Advocates have been working to win this notice for a decade or more. It is a big deal.

Growing Our Activist Community

Each year that we work together to advocate for justice during the General Assembly session, we deepen our collective power, our legislative relationships, and our community engagement in Annapolis. Even in this socially-distanced session, JUFJ members and our partners massively stepped up our activism in Annapolis. The power of our community is growing! Here are some snapshots of how we grew from last year to this year (some of the significant growth in numbers of individuals and emails sent is due to our expanded ability to host action alerts for coalition partners – there were two of these):

  • JUFJ leaders engaged in state session: 693 → 1,564
  • Advocacy emails JUFJers sent to legislators: 2,908 → 16,349
  • Testimony JUFJers wrote and submitted for bill hearings: 141 → 200
  • JUFJers who participated in legislator meetings before session: 144 → 198
  • Number of state districts where JUFJers took action: 39 → 47 (EVERY district in MD!)

We can’t wait to see our community & impact grow even more in MDGA22!

Setbacks/Ongoing Challenges graphic

A few of our priority bills either stalled in committee or were not voted on the floor of one or both chambers (House & Senate) in time.

Courts & Prisons Reform:

This bill would provide automatic expungements for non-convictions, ensuring that people seeking jobs cannot be unfairly stigmatized for interactions with the justice system. While an amended version of the bill passed out of the House it did not get a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and therefore did not pass this session.

This bill would have ensured that police attempt to notify the parents of youth who they detain to interrogate and would have required the child to speak with a lawyer before the interrogation can proceed. While an amended version of the bill passed out of the House it did not get a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and therefore did not pass this session.


Police Accountability:

Both of these bills were focused on the removal of School Resource Officers (SROs) from Maryland public schools. The Counselors not Cops Act aimed at defunding the SRO program and funding mental health professionals instead, while the Police-Free Schools Act aimed at fully prohibiting SROs from public schools. Unfortunately, neither of these bills came up for a committee vote and therefore did not pass this session.


Immigrant Rights:

Trust Act legislation, which has passed at local levels in Maryland and in other states, prevents police and correctional officers from asking about immigration status or enforcing federal immigration law.  CASA has been leading JUFJ and our other partners in advocating for the Trust Act for several years now, and we were profoundly disappointed that this bill didn’t make it out of committee in either chamber. 

However, we were able to get some of the protections from law enforcement that this bill stipulated into the Dignity Not Detention bill. While we would have liked to see this bill pass in its strongest form alongside Dignity Not Detention, we celebrate that parts of this bill were successfully incorporated into another immigrant justice bill. Law enforcement will no longer be able to inquire about citizenship or immigration status during a stop, search or arrest, detain based on investigation/suspicion of immigration status or civil immigration violation, or coerce, intimidate or threaten an individual based on their perceived or actual immigration status or that of family members. There is still much to do, but this legislation will protect so many of our immigrant neighbors.

This bill would ensure that all immigrants who are detained in Maryland have the right to government-appointed counsel. Unfortunately, it did not receive a committee vote in either chamber and therefore did not pass this session.


Paid Family and Medical Leave:

Nobody should have to choose between their job and caring for their family. Nearly everyone needs time away from work at some point to care for a relative, deal with a serious personal illness, or welcome a baby, but many Marylanders can’t afford to take unpaid leave. The Time To Care Act would have provided paid leave for up to 12 weeks for people who need to care for themselves or loved ones.

Sadly, this bill did not come up for a committee vote this year, just like every year for the last decade. We must rewrite the rules to ensure everyone can access the care that we need without fearing we’ll go bankrupt to do it. Our plan of action is to work with our partners in the Time to Care Coalition to build a groundswell of support for this vital legislation through community education about the importance of paid leave, so that we can pass a strong paid family and medical leave bill in the next session.


Housing Justice:

This bill would have codified the eviction protections provided by Governor Hogan’s Executive Order for this and future health emergencies. It also would have required landlords to seek rental assistance before filing for eviction, even in tenant holding over cases, which would have helped to close the huge loophole in current protections. Additionally, the bill would have required eviction data reporting – something Maryland does not have – and prevented rent increases and late fees during health emergencies. 

While the legislation was passed out of the House and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, it did not get a final vote in the Senate before the end of the session. This is by far the most upsetting loss of the session. These emergency protections are desperately needed, yet the Senate failed to address the looming crisis of 100,000+ pending eviction cases. We will continue to advocate with our Renters United Maryland partners for protections at the local level, but the General Assembly missed a critical opportunity to keep people housed in this ongoing public health emergency.

This bill would have increased the potential for alternative resolutions by establishing a formal pre-trial structure for service providers to engage renters and landlords and for judges to order alternative dispute resolution, if deemed appropriate. When no alternative resolution can be reached, this bill would have increased the fairness of trials by providing renters time to seek counsel and to adequately prepare for trial.

A very watered down version of the bill passed the House, but was not brought up for a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The pre-filing notice provision in the bill was extended from 7 to 10 days and also weakened (only one form of notice instead of two) and amended into HB 18. So, something to celebrate here!

This bill would have increased the filing fee for landlords to file for evictions to discourage serial eviction filings and provide funding for the access to counsel program. We successfully fought a pass through of the fee to renters, but unfortunately the bill failed to receive a final vote in the House after the House accepted the Senate version (which was stronger). We will instead work with our Renters United Maryland partners to fund access to counsel using a small portion of federal rental assistance money.

Sign-Ons graphic

In addition to our priority issues, JUFJers have worked to support other issues that we had historically been involved in or reflect our values and are important to our allies.


WINS!

Immigrant Justice:

  • The version of the RELIEF Act (HB612/SB496) & Child Tax Credit and Expansion of the Earned Income Credit (SB218) passed the House and Senate excluded undocumented Marylanders, but CASA led a powerful and swift advocacy effort to push for them to be included. We were successful at first, but then a legal opinion led to undocumented residents being excluded. We made such waves, though, that SB218 was subsequently passed to extend the Earned Income Tax Credit to undocumented taxpayers. This is a significant economic benefit – more than the RELIEF Act. This was signed by the Governor.

Labor Justice:

  • Maryland Community College Employees Freedom to Collectively Bargain Act of 2021 (HB894/SB746) This bill passed and heads to the Governor’s desk.
  • Essential Workers Bill of Rights (HB581/SB486) passed and is headed to the Governor’s desk.

Courts & Prisons Reform:

  • Juvenile Restoration Act (HB409/SB494) passed out of the General Assembly. The bill will prohibit a court from imposing a life sentence without the possibility of parole or release for a minor. It was then vetoed by the Governor, but the legislature was able to override the veto and make this bill law.
  • Juvenile Law Reform (HB1187/SB853) passed out of the General Assembly, but was gutted. After a robust period of examination and the release of a report with recommendations from the Juvenile Justice Reform Council, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee punted. They allocated $2M to one violence prevention program and called for further discussion and reporting from the Council rather than actually reforming the way we handle children in our justice system. The bill was signed by Governor Hogan.

SETBACKS

Immigrant Justice:

This bill never got a vote in either committee.

Police Accountability:

  • Private Institutions of Higher Education – Police Departments – Repeal and Prohibition (HB336/SB276)

This is a bill that would have prevented Johns’ Hopkins University and other such institutions from having a private police force. Neither bill was voted on in committee.

Housing Justice:

  • Increase in Fees for Filing an Eviction (HB729/SB530)

This bill never got a vote in either committee. HB31 was a similar bill and passed the House and Senate, but the House ran out of time for final passage of the Senate version of the bill.

This bill never got a vote in either committee.

  • Lead Risk Reduction Compliance (HB049)

This bill never got a vote in either committee.

  • Sealing Court Records for Evictions Proceedings (HB112)

This bill was withdrawn by the sponsor.

  • Tenant Protection Act of 2021 (HB050)

This bill passed the House and never got a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

  • Sealing Court Records for FTP Proceedings (HB1008)

This bill passed the House and never got a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Fair Funding:

  • Corporate Income Tax – Throwback Rule (HB229)

This bill never got a vote in the Ways & Means Committee.

  • Maryland Estate Tax Restoration (HB165)

This bill never got a vote in the Ways & Means Committee.

  • Combined Reporting for Corporations (HB172)

This bill never got a vote in the Ways & Means Committee.

  • Income Tax Rates – Capital Gains (HB201)

This bill never got a vote in the Ways & Means Committee.

This bill never got a vote in the Ways & Means Committee.

  • Individual Income Tax – Brackets & Rates (HB275)

This bill never got a vote in the Ways & Means Committee.

  • Income Tax – Passthrough Entity (Closing the LLC Loophole) (HB357)

This bill never got a vote in the Ways & Means Committee.

  • Opportunity Zone Tax Deduction Reform Act of 2021 (HB262/SB113)

This bill passed the House and failed to get a vote in the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee.

Our Work Moving Forward graphic

Many state districts will be holding town halls through April and May to share what happened this session and to hear from constituents. In order to stay engaged with our legislators, hold them accountable and show them our commitment to justice, please sign up to attend your district’s town hall if you see it below.

We’ll be updating this list as we learn of more town halls being scheduled. If you know of one that isn’t listed, please let us know by emailing elianna@jufj.org with the information.

Please fill out our post-session action alert, thanking your legislators and letting them know what we hope they will prioritize going forward.

Your feedback is critical to us continuing to learn, grow, and become more effective in our advocacy and outreach. Regardless of your level of engagement with JUFJ this session, we truly value your thoughts and reflections and ask that you fill out our feedback survey. It should take no more than 5-10 minutes to complete and will help inform what our programs/trainings, advocacy, and communications look like in the coming year.

While the General Assembly session is over for this year, we still have lots of local work to do. We work primarily in Baltimore City (and a bit in the County, too) and Montgomery County, but have coalition partners & leaders across every district in Maryland. 

We are also part of the Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice which will be working on a critical ballot referendum for the November 2022 election to protect immigrant sanctuary legislation that was passed recently.

Join us in our local Baltimore work: https://jufj.org/where-we-work/baltimore-md/

Join us in our local Montgomery County work: https://jufj.org/where-we-work/montgomery-county-md/

To get plugged into our Howard County immigration work, email our Baltimore Director, Molly Amster: molly@jufj.og

If you live anywhere in Maryland and want to have a 1:1 with a JUFJ organizer, let us know: https://jufj.org/get-involved/one-on-one/

Thank you for all your advocacy!
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