2018 State Legislative Report

 

This year, as with most, was a mixed bag for civil rights and civil liberties in Maryland, with both huge victories and disappointing losses.  Over the 90-day legislative session, the ACLU of Maryland gave testimony on over 200 bills and held countless meetings with legislators and partners in an effort to safeguard and advance fundamental freedoms in our state.  This report is a non-exhaustive summary of the civil rights and civil liberties successes and setbacks of the 2018 legislative session.

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

 

This legislative session, we spent a great deal of time and resources on criminal justice reform-both defending against regressive bills and supporting progressive measures.

 

Criminal Sentencing & Penalties

As is typical in an election year, we saw an onslaught of "tough on crime" bills this legislative session.  Several bills were introduced to restore the death penalty in Maryland-HB 887 Criminal Law - Death Penalty - Murder of Specific Individuals or Mass Murder; HB 1411/ SB 346 Criminal Law - Death Penalty - Reinstatement; and SB 816 Criminal Law - Death Penalty - Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders.  As one of the lead advocates in repealing the death penalty, ACLU opposed these regressive bills and fortunately, they all failed.

 

We were also successful in fending off other regressive criminal justice bills, including HB 678 Career Criminal Truth in Sentencing Act, which would have prevented courts from suspending sentences when appropriate and prevented certain persons from earning diminution credits.  We also successfully opposed HB 1309, the perennial stand your ground legislation.

 

A number of bills were introduced to address assault against transportation workers.  While the ACLU appreciates the dangers and vulnerabilities faced by transportation workers, there are already existing penalties to address these concerns.  Fortunately, an amended version of HB 312 was passed, which made a more moderate increase to the existing criminal penalty statute.  The other bills on this issue were HB 28, HB 1305, and HB 683.

 

Without a doubt, the most intense fight of the legislative sessions centered on Governor Hogan's package of backsliding crime bills - HB 100/ SB 199 violent offenders - penalties, HB 101/ SB 197 Crimes - Firearms - Penalties, and HB 102/ SB 198 Criminal Gangs.  These bills included mandatory minimum sentences, which have never been shown to improve public safety and worse have had a disproportionate impact on persons of color, in addition to swelling our prisons and wasting taxpayer dollars. 

 

The Governor also proposed higher prison sentences for certain gun-related offenses, despite evidence showing that longer sentences have negative public safety effects; the longer people spend in prison, the more likely they are to recidivate.   

 

Perhaps the most offensive of all these proposals came in HB 102/ SB 198, which included unconstitutionally vague definitions of gangs and required that more children be charged as adults.

 

None of Hogan's bills passed, but their regressive provisions were amended by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee into a separate, unrelated bill, SB 122 Criminal Law - Obstructing Justice - Penalties.  SB 122 ballooned from a simple 4-page bill into a 43-page package, a conglomeration of Governor Hogan's bills, with a few glimmers of hope in the form of funding for proven crime prevention programs and benefits for immigrant victims of crime.

 

SB 122 passed out of the Senate and House Judiciary committee by a slim margin and with fierce opposition from progressive delegates.  The bill's funding provisions brought it within the purview of the House Appropriations committee, which voted it unfavorably.

 

Unfortunately, the House Judiciary committee had found yet another avenue to pass Hogan's crime bills-the provisions were resurrected (yet again) as amendments to SB 101 and SB 1137.  These bills were voted favorably by the House Judiciary Committee and the House chamber.

 

In a nutshell, the three bills introduced by Governor Hogan did not themselves pass, but many of their failed tough on crime policies were amended into unrelated legislation, which did pass.

 

We are disappointed that the General Assembly passed these enhanced criminal penalties in the face of evidence demonstrating that they will not actually make Marylanders safer.  Moreover, the legislative stealth undertaken to circumvent public transparency and accountability is disheartening.

 

Amid the morass of regressive legislation, a few progressive bills were introduced, including SB 628, which would have decriminalized certain consensual adult non-violent behavior, including certain alcohol consumption and gambling offenses.  We also supported HB 1334, which would have reduced the penalty for certain drivers' license offenses.  Unfortunately, neither of these forward-thinking bills passed.

 

 

FIRST AMENDMENT

 

This session, the ACLU successfully opposed several bills that would have curtailed the fundamental rights of Marylanders to freely express themselves.  HB 1306/ SB 613 would have unconstitutionally allowed prayer during mandatory school-sponsored events. The Supreme Court has consistently found that official prayer in public schools is a violation of the Establishment Clause and is therefore, unconstitutional.  This bill died.

 

SB 726 would have vastly expanded the types, forms and medium of speech that constitute criminal acts under Maryland's criminal harassment statute. We believe that the underlying criminal law is unconstitutional and a challenge to the law is currently being considered by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. That is why we find any expansion to the law inappropriate and unconstitutional. We worked with an attorney who filed the constitutional challenge to the current law, as well as an attorney from the NAACP's Montgomery County Branch who had to tragically defend a middle school child who was falsely accused of violating the current criminal law in racially-motivated claims made by the child's school principal.  SB 726 is a perfect example of how criminalizing behavior and speech leads to devastating disproportionate impacts on children of color.  While this bill made it through the Senate, we were able to block efforts to pass it in the House.

 

Another bill, SB 725, which purported to provide a civil remedy for harassment by a student, would have further perpetuated the school-to-prison pipeline and trample on students' constitutional rights. The original bill would have authorized unconstitutional injunctions on protected speech and allowed school employees to report a student to law enforcement with complete impunity from consequences for false claims or discriminatory behavior. With a groundswell of opposition from our partners, such as Maryland PTA, Maryland Education Coalition, Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, Public Justice Center ,and others, the bill was significantly amended to remove any unconstitutional injunctions or immunity provisions. While the bill sadly leaves in a provision that could report children to the police, we were successful in our efforts to remove explicit constitutional infirmities.

 

Another bill, SB 769, rewrote the criminal law on "revenge porn" and "sextortion" in way that offended the First Amendment as introduced. We were particularly concerned with a provision that would have had dangerous consequences for the media. We were able to successfully advocate for amendments that protected free speech and freedom of the press.

 

 

FOURTH AMENDMENT

 

We were successful in protecting Fourth Amendment rights for Marylanders this session, particularly for individuals who suffer from mental health disorders or who are civilly committed.

 

Working with our partners at the Maryland Office of the Public Defender (OPD), we successfully advocated in support of HB 1392/SB 864, which ensures that OPD has timely access to their clients' medical files so that they can provide effective assistance of counsel for patients at involuntary commitment and competency hearings. We also successfully supported HB 111/SB 233, which helps ensure that the state meets its constitutional obligation to provide inmates with adequate and timely medical care.  We also were able to defeat competing proposals that would have allowed unreasonable leeway in the provision of medical services to defendants with mental illness.  HB 385 introduced an unacceptably broad definition of ‘facility' for treating persons found incompetent to stand trial (IST). The bill would have defined ‘facility' to include any institution that provides or purports to provide treatment or other services for individuals who have mental disorders, which could include correctional facilities. Thankfully, this bill died.

 

HB 499 would have allowed for the involuntary, civil commitment of an overdose survivor. Indefinite civil commitment is unconstitutional, extremely costly, and unnecessary to protect society against substance use disorder. Fortunately, this bill was withdrawn.

 

 

IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS

 

We supported several pieces of legislation that would have improved the lives of Maryland's immigrant communities. HB 1626 would have required that the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") obtain a valid warrant from a federal or Maryland State court before receiving personal information about individuals from the Motor Vehicle Association. SB 344 would have allowed Lawful Permanent Residents ("LPR") who have been honorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces to serve as police officers in Maryland. We supported the increased opportunity for employment given to LPR veterans, but believe this opportunity should be extended to all LPRs, regardless of military service. SB 526/HB 1493 would have protected internationally recruited workers in Maryland from labor exploitation and trafficking. HB 503  would have resourced crucial translation services for non-English speaking families of students.  But unfortunately, none of these bills passed.

 

We also supported HB 1536/SB 546 which would have allowed more individuals to qualify for in-state tuition under the Maryland Dream Act, which was passed by referendum in 2012. Specifically, the bill would have removed certain unnecessary barriers to obtain in-state tuition as well as provided greater protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA") during this time of uncertainty for the DACA program at the federal level. The House version passed its chamber of origin, but neither version made it onto the Senate floor. The Maryland Dream Act has been pivotal to undocumented students' access to an education beyond high school and we will continue to work with our partners to expand opportunities to empower young inspirational individuals to pursue their dreams and enter the Maryland workforce prepared for whatever they may face.

 

We also supported HB 461 and SB 581, which would have allowed a victim or relative of a victim to be granted a U Nonimmigrant Status ("U Visa") if the person was considered to be helpful to a criminal investigation.  Oddly, an amended version of HB 461 was added to the omnibus crime bill (SB 122), but did not ultimately pass.

 

We were also actively involved in the passage of HB 1613/SB 1239, which will allow noncitizen parents to appoint a standby guardian to protect their children in the event of an adverse immigration action. We supported this legislation with amendments as an important tool for parents facing potentially deportation or detention proceedings.  

 

We also successfully opposed multiple anti-immigrant measures. For instance, HB 1308 would have required state and local correctional facilities to transfer undocumented individuals to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on request. We will continue to oppose measures that attempt to make local jurisdictions act as surrogates for the federal government in their overzealous and inhumane immigration enforcement efforts.

 

 

NON-DISCRIMINATION

 

We continued to support legislation that sought to align the policies of private schools that receive taxpayer funded vouchers with the strong anti-discrimination laws governing Maryland's public schools, SB 1060/HB 1565. For yet another year, these bills were held up in their respective committees.

 

We also fought hard against continued taxpayer subsidies for private and religious schools as part of the "BOOST" program. Governor Hogan sought to bump up the funding in the budget for the program from $5 million to almost $9 million. Along with a coalition of disability rights, LGBT rights, and education advocacy groups, we were able to hold funding to $7 million. We were also able to add to requirements of the program in budget language much stronger transparency and accountability protections. These include a mandate that BOOST schools submit student handbook or other written policies related to student admission to the Maryland State Board of Education, in order to help determine if discrimination based on sexual orientation or disability is taking place. Also, BOOST schools must now administer national, norm-referenced standardized assessments, and the results of these assessments must be publicly reported by MSDE. Next year we hope to significantly reduce funding for the program, especially because BOOST does not provide adequate protections and accommodations for students with disabilities.

 

On another front, we worked hard on HB 1603/SB 1109, a simple but significant measure that, as amended, would have required the Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board to develop best practices for the collection of data on race and ethnicity by Maryland state agencies. Currently in Maryland, there is no uniform collection of race and ethnicity data across state and local agencies, making data-based claims unreliable. This measure is critically important considering the State's data often improperly categorizes individuals who would otherwise be categorized as Lantinx instead as "white."  Maryland's inconsistent, inaccurate and uncomprehensive data collection significantly impedes civil rights legislation and litigation that rely on data to inform policy decisions. Unfortunately, while this bill passed the House, it tragically got killed in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee for trivial non-substantive political reasons.

 

Additionally, we were unsuccessful in passing SB 953 Maryland Medical Assistance Program and Health Insurance - Coverage - 3 Hepatitis C Drugs, which would have prohibited the Maryland Department of Health from continuing to deny curative treatment to Medicaid beneficiaries suffering from Hepatitis C (HCV) until they have suffered a certain amount of liver damage. We believe the current policy is immoral, with disastrous public health consequences, medically and fiscally unjustifiable, and illegal. Because this bill did not pass, we will seek other legal means of addressing this dangerous practice.

 

 

LGBT RIGHTS

 

In a huge victory for Maryland's LGBT youth, HB 902/ SB 1028 passed, which bans the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called "conversion therapy." We supported our partners at Free State Justice, the lead advocates for this effort, as well as clinical practitioners and other advocates, to successfully pass this critical measure for LGBT rights.

 

We also joined Free State Justice in successfully opposing HB 136, which was a nefarious and surreptitious attempt by County Commissioners of St. Mary's County to outlaw LGBT-themed books and programming in the St. Mary's County public libraries. 

 

 

OPEN GOVERNMENT

 

1.    Transparency

A number of bills were introduced to increase transparency in our government. HB 704 would have required that the Maryland General Assembly make available to the public live and archived video streaming of meetings of the Senate, House of Delegates, and standing committees. HB 1788 would have provided an added layer of protection for certain state employees who experience discrimination in employment decisions and would have added more robust penalties for ethics violations. These bills unfortunately did not pass. 

 

There were also a number of bills that would have jeopardized open government principles and we successfully defeated those efforts. For instance, we once again defeated dangerous attempts to call for a constitutional convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. While bills are introduced every year that call for a constitutional convention on such issues as limiting federal powers or restricting money in politics, this year one of those bills, HJ 11/SJ 7, got further than ever before, passing the House. Thankfully, we were able to kill it in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. Every civil right and liberty that the ACLU works tirelessly to protect would be threatened by a constitutional convention.

 

We were also able to successfully defend against efforts to make dangerous reforms to Maryland's Public Information Act (PIA). SB 1054 would have required denials of any part of a 9-1-1 communications that may be "gory" or "gruesome" or convey scenes of murder or suicide. This would have impermissibly denied disclosure of police misconduct that results in the injury or murder of a Marylander and may be gory or gruesome.  The public has a right to know the gross misconduct perpetuated by the state. We also successfully defended against a bill, SB 788, that would have rolled back efforts to increase transparency in law enforcement by limiting footage from body worn cameras (see section below on "Police Accountability"). As an organization that advocates for transparency and open government, we are deeply troubled by the persistent and dogged attempts of local governments-year after year-to carve out exceptions to disclosure of public information, very often without any actual examples of prior improper disclosures. 

 

2.    Access to Justice

We once again supported a bill, HB 1270/ SB 1042, that would have authorized a court to award plaintiffs attorneys' fees in cases that result in the enforcement of the Maryland Constitution or the Maryland Declaration of Rights. This bill would have helped Marylanders whose constitutional and civil rights were violated, but may have a hard time finding an attorney to represent them.  Unfortunately, this bill did not get a vote in committee, but the ACLU will continue to fight alongside our partners for this bill next year.

 

 

POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY

 

There was little appetite for police accountability in the General Assembly this session.  Several progressive bills were introduced, but none passed.

 

We supported two bills introduced to address the militarization of policing-HB240/ SB 661 Law Enforcement - Federal Surplus Program - Equipment Acquisition sought to establish limits and transparency in the acquisition of military equipment by Maryland agencies.  HB 920/ SB 705 Public Safety - SWAT Team Activation and Deployment - Reports would have re-instated reporting on the use of SWAT teams across the state.

 

We also spent a great deal of time addressing the use of technology by law enforcement.  We supported HB 453/ SB 209 Baltimore County - Uniformed Off-Duty Law Enforcement Officer - Body Camera which sought to equip off duty officers with body cameras; and HB 578 Task Force to Study Law Enforcement Surveillance Technologies, which would have established oversight of the acquisition of technologies by law enforcement agencies.

 

We were successful in fending off two regressive policing bills this session-HB 1142/ SB 720 Interception of Oral Communication - Law Enforcement Officer would have codified in statute existing but unhelpful case law holding that without a statutory exclusion, evidence obtained by a body camera is admissible in court even when they officer fails to notify the person that they are being recorded.  We also successfully opposed HB 1638/ SB 788 Public Information Act - Revisions, which would have created categorical bans on body camera footage being disclosed to the public.  Despite our best efforts to negotiate in good faith, we were not able to reach an agreement with the proponent law enforcement agencies and local governments.

 

We also supported measures to improve police interactions during traffic stops.  HB 1133 Criminal Procedure - Law Enforcement Procedures - Consent Search of Motor Vehicle would have banned consent searches during traffic stops.  Similar measures in other jurisdictions have been shown to alleviate racial disparities in searches.  Also, HB 1375 Driver Education Curriculum - Rights of Drivers Involved in Traffic Stops would have added a ‘know your rights' component to the drivers education curriculum.

 

Finally, we supported HB 1649 Public Safety - Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Actions - Settlement Database, which would have required public reporting on settlements made by local jurisdictions in civil rights cases and HB 522/ SB 582 Public Safety - Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission - Sexual Assault Investigation Training, which would have improved training for law enforcement in the investigation of sexual assault.

 

 

PRISONERS' RIGHTS

 

1.    Solitary Confinement

We renewed our advocacy this session to limit the use of solitary confinement inside Maryland's facilities.  Unfortunately, HB 786/ SB 539 Correctional Services - Restrictive Housing - Limitations which would have set time limits on the use of solitary confinement and set basic protections for vulnerable persons, was watered down to a single meaningless discretionary line requiring the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to limit the use of solitary confinement "to the extent reasonably possible."  The revised bill's fiscal note is telling-according to the analysis, "The bill codifies existing practice."  We know that the state's existing practice placed 73% of all inmates in solitary confinement, many of whom suffered from serious mental illness.  We could not stand behind the bill and decided with our partners to abandon the effort and return next legislative session with the hope of passing meaningful reform. 

 

2.    Accountability Behind Bars

Unfortunately, two important bills that would have increased transparency into the treatment of incarcerated persons both failed.  HB 628 Correctional Services - Inmates - Labor was a modest measure to shed light on the working conditions and wages of inmates.  HB 1256 Public Safety - Deaths Involving a Correctional Officer - Reports would have required reporting on deaths that occur inside correctional facilities.

 

3.    Meaningful Opportunities for Release

We continued to advocate for legislation to remove the political taint from the parole process for persons sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.  Unfortunately, the bill (HB 846/ SB 249 Inmates - Life Imprisonment - Parole Reform) did not pass this year but we know this is a long-term fight and will continue to tackle this issue.

 

We were successful in fending off legislation that would have rolled back existing opportunities for persons to earn their release through good behavior.  HB 963 Correctional Services - Eligibility for Parole - Violent Crime; HB 579/ SB 210 Correctional Services - Murder - Diminution Credits; and SB 225 Correctional Services - Eligibility for Parole - Life Imprisonment all failed.

 

4.    Pretrial Reform

In 2017, 11 jurisdictions had pretrial services and 13 did not.  The data produced by the Judiciary in the 6 months since the Court's bail reform rule's implementation (July 1 - November 1, 2017) demonstrated that pretrial services are sorely needed across the state.  Specifically, the data showed that more persons are being released without financial conditions, but also more persons are being held without bond.  This is exactly the result that one would expect if pretrial services are insufficient.  The Court 2016 rule, which we supported, discouraged courts from setting financial conditions of release, and in jurisdictions with no pretrial services or inadequate pretrial services, courts have few (if any) good alternatives to setting bail, and they are forced to either release defendants without conditions of release or hold defendants without bond.  The solution to this dilemma is to develop, expand and improve pretrial services across the state.

 

We were successful in getting a $1 million grant allocated in the budget to fund, establish, expand, and improve pretrial services across the state.  The grant fund will be governed by HB 447 Pretrial Services Program Grant Fund - Establishment, which we supported and passed into law.  We were also successful in getting another round of data from the Judiciary, which will allow us to continue monitoring the progress of the court rule.

 

5.    Re-Entry

We continued to support efforts to allow for more effective re-entry of persons disentangling themselves from the criminal justice system.  The milestone re-entry bill HB 1383/ SB 1212 Redeem Act of 2018 did not make it out of committee, but two other critical pieces of legislation did pass-HB 382 clarifies that certain civil offenses may be expunged and HB 1597 requires reports on the denials of occupational licenses based on criminal records.

 

6.    Drug Policy Reform

We supported a number of bills that would have built on past accomplishments to move away from a criminal justice approach and toward a health-based approach to substance use.  We supported HB 325 Criminal Law - Use or Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance - De Minimis Quantity, which would have decriminalized CDS possession in small quantities.  SB 127 Criminal Law - Possession of Marijuana - Criminal Threshold would have raised the civil possession amount from 10 grams to one ounce of marijuana, bringing Maryland into line with the majority of states that have decriminalized simple possession.  We also supported SB 128 Criminal Law - Possession With Intent to Distribute Marijuana - Presumption, which sought to address an increasing trend in which persons in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana are nonetheless charged with possession with the intent to distribution.  Unfortunately, none of these bills made it across the finish line.

 

We also supported HB 1264/ SB 1039 marijuana legalization with an amendment to ensure that tax revenues are directed to support communities-Black and Brown-that have been disproportionately criminalized by the war on drugs.  This bill also failed this year.

 

 

PRIVACY

 

Several bills were introduced this session to safeguard Marylanders' privacy rights, especially in the context of new and developing technologies.

 

We were the lead advocate in passing HB 1101/SB 944, which prohibits the government or employers from requiring or coercing any individual to undergo the implantation of an identification device. New technologies, like microchips, are giving the employers unprecedented abilities to monitor and watch their workers. Further, six state governments, including California, microchip their inmates in order to track them. This bill will protect all Marylanders from being forced to undergo this invasive practice.

 

We also supported a number of other progressive bills that had been introduced in previous years. HB 510 would have required that a law enforcement officer obtain a warrant before obtaining historical electronic device location information, and HB 1274 would have required that utility companies give prior written notice of the deployment of "smart meters" to each customer in the affected service area. Additionally, we supported HB 56, which would prohibit a law enforcement officer from obtaining utility data recorded by a "smart meter" without a warrant. Unfortunately, none of these measures passed this year.

 

While a bill to protect net neutrality in Maryland, SB 287, did not pass, we were excited by the enthusiasm around this legislation. We worked in collaboration with the national ACLU, as well as other national partners, to show the groundswell of support around this issue. We will continue to advocate for robust net neutrality measures in the future.

 

We also successfully in blocked numerous bills that would have compromised Marylanders' privacy rights. In particular, we successfully killed two attempts to expand the ability of law enforcement to obtain warrantless, non-consensual blood draws from people involved in serious car accidents, SB 1150 and SB 722.

 

 

RACIAL JUSTICE

 

Multiple bills were introduced this session to advance racial justice in Maryland.  We supported SB 929/HB 1623, which would require certain departments of state government to develop and implement procedures for identifying the disparate impact of policies, guidelines, and regulations on communities of color. The importance of using a race equity lens to policymaking cannot be overstated, especially in the case of the criminal justice system. This bill passed the Senate, but did not get a vote in the House Health and Government Operations Committee. We will continue to advocate for a more complete demonstration of how policies have direct consequences on Marylanders of color. 

 

 

VOTING & ELECTIONS

 

The ACLU was actively involved in the passage of two huge victories for voting rights in Maryland: SB 1048 establishes an automatic voter registration system in the state, and HB 532/SB 594 is a constitutional amendment that will allow eligible individuals to register to vote at the same time and at the same place as they cast their ballot on election day. This constitutional amendment will be a question on the ballot in the November election, so Marylanders will finally have the ability to bring Election Day Registration to Maryland once and for all.

 

We also supported a number of other bills that would expand voting rights. HB 829/SB 730 passed, which prevents a municipality from requiring a voter to provide a reason as to why he or she wishes to vote by absentee ballot. Additionally, there were a handful of voting rights measures that we supported but didn't pass: HB 5 and HB 55 would have required landlords and housing realtors, respectively, to provide individuals with a voter registration application and voter registration information; SB 129 would have created convenient access for polling in colleges in Baltimore County; and SB 592 would have created joint committee on election oversight in an effort to improve elections and campaign finance regulations in the state.  We also supported HB 542 Election Law - Eligible Detainees - Information on Voting Rights, which would have made sure eligible incarcerated voters-persons held pretrial or detained on misdemeanor convictions-knew about their right to vote.  Unfortunately, this bill failed.

 

On the fair elections front, we supported HB 227, HB 785, SB 374 and SB 375, which would have established systems of public campaign financing. Unfortunately, none of these initiatives passed this year.

 

We also successfully defeated a number of bills that would have rolled back voting rights and fair election protections. SB 357 was a discriminatory measure that would have required the jury commissioner to provide citizenship information to the State Board of Elections. And HB 1326, HB 1563 and SB 591 would have created onerous and illegal voter ID requirements for persons seeking to exercise the right to vote.

 

 

WOMEN'S RIGHTS

 

A number of bills were introduced to address women's rights in Maryland.

 

We supported HB 1342, which creates, among other things, a process by which individuals can bring claims of sexual harassment by a member of the Maryland General Assembly. We worked with the bill's sponsor and other advocates to amend the bill to ensure it was constitutional while still providing much-needed remedies for individuals who experience sexual harassment by members of our legislature. After a truly collaborative effort by advocates and legislators alike, we are happy this bill passed.

 

We also supported HB 1160, which would have required the Commissioner of Correction to operate a prerelease unit for women within the Division of Correction. This bill did not get a vote in committee.

 

We opposed a number of bills that threatened women's rights in Maryland. For instance, HB 1744 requires health care practitioners to report women to the local social service department if a newborn was showing symptoms of withdrawal, even if the mother was using a controlled substance given to her by her health care provider. We worked with health care providers, mental health advocates and others to successfully craft amendments that significantly improve the bill.  The amended bill passed, and we will continue to monitor implementation of this complicated law. 

 

As in previous years, we saw the introduction of numerous bills that would infringe on reproductive rights and freedom in Maryland. We successfully blocked all of these bills from getting a vote. HB 1424 would have unconstitutionally banned abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy. HB 748/SB 533 was an attempt to expand fetal rights for the purposes of so-called "fetal homicide." HB 1335 would have created a logistical and dangerous hurdle for minors by requiring them to get parental consent before obtaining an abortion. SB 449 would have given the legislature the ability to determine viability when this determination should be a medical decision between and woman and her provider. And HB 1355/SB 1067 would have unconstitutionally banned the safest and most common method of later abortion known as "dilation and evacuation."

 

Conversely, we supported a number of measures to advance reproductive rights in Maryland. Two bills passed that advanced women's health services in correctional facilities: SB 598/HB 797 will ensure that women in prison are afforded the basic menstrual health supplies they need, and SB 629/HB 787 will require all corrections facilities to develop written policies regarding medical care for pregnant inmates. We also supported HB 1111/SB 969, which did not pass but would have increased access to emergency contraception on college campuses.

 

 

WORKPLACE FAIRNESS

 

This legislative session started by successfully overriding Governor Hogan's veto of the earned paid sick leave legislation that passed in the 2017 legislative session. We were also active in the coalition that successfully defeated any legislative attempts to rollback this landmark piece of legislation for workplace fairness.

 

Additionally, we supported the passage of SB 859/HB 775, which provides paid parental leave to employees in the Legislative or Executive branches of State government.

 

In 2013, the ACLU led the advocacy efforts to pass a law requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to women in their place of employment for conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. This year HB 1109 was introduced, which would have clarified and strengthened that law. While the bill didn't pass this year, we will continue to support efforts to advance fairness in the workplace for all women.

 

 

YOUTH JUSTICE

 

We supported three bills that sought to establish greater oversight of the juvenile justice system.  Ultimately, HB 1607 Education - Juvenile Services Education Programs - Management and Operation prevailed.  This bill will establish a juvenile services education county pilot program and a workgroup to study and make recommendations regarding the adequacy of educational services for children in the juvenile justice system.

 

We again renewed our support for HB 1550/ SB 861 Juvenile Law - Juvenile Court Jurisdiction, which would have reduced the number of children who are charged as adults in Maryland's criminal justice system.  This bill failed.  Meanwhile, a regressive measure that we opposed-HB 1023 Juvenile Law - Witnesses - Body Attachment did pass. HB 1023 authorizes the juvenile court to issue body attachments to coerce witnesses to appear in court in the prosecution of children.

 

EDUCATION REFORM

 

Given that the education formula rewrite via the "Kirwan" Commission was delayed until 2019, here are the issues we moved forward this legislative session for education:

 

"Kirwan" Commission

HB1415, which we supported, passed and establishes initiatives to implement several of the Commission's preliminary recommendations. Overall, the bill encourages and helps the best high school students to become teachers; provides more resources for schools serving concentrations of students living in poverty; promotes high quality, innovative Career and Technical Education; supports early childhood education; studies the cost of adequacy for special education; and establishes a special fund revenue to be used to implement the final recommendations of the Commission in 2019.

 

Funding for Education

The legislature passed SB1122, the "Casino Lockbox" Constitutional Amendment, which we supported. This bill takes an important step to permanently close the Education Trust Fund loophole and ensures that casino revenues supplement rather than supplant education funding. To ensure that the additional $500 million goes to education on top of other education dollars, voters in November will need to vote to support the Constitutional Amendment.

 

The legislature amended the budget (SB185) to restore funding the Governor had cut to after-school and summer programs and to a program to prepare low-income students for college. We have made progress in the last couple of years in highlighting the huge education funding "adequacy gaps" caused by the cutbacks to the original Thornton formula.

 

Funding for School Buildings

The heating emergency in Baltimore schools and the recommendations of the state's 21st Century School Facilities Commission ("Knott" Commission) to overhaul the state's school construction program got a lot of attention this winter. We supported the passage of SB611, which provides funding for emergency health and safety issues, and HB1783, which enhances the efficiency of the state's school construction program and increases funding to meet the growing infrastructure needs. However, there is a shortfall of billions needed for school construction statewide, including $1 billion in deferred maintenance for HVAC needs in Baltimore City alone.

 

School Climate

This year, the legislature passed HB1254, which we supported, to enhance data collection analysis and allow a better understanding of school system practices. The bill expands the reporting requirements and for the first time requires data collection on the use of alternative discipline measures.

 

School Safety

The legislature passed SB1265, the Safe to Learn Act, legislation expected to change the interaction between school systems and local law enforcement. Most troubling, the bill requires each school district to demonstrate that a school resource officer is assigned or that there is "adequate law enforcement coverage" for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year. We are deeply concerned about the implications of heightened student-police contact for all students, especially Black and Brown children and students with disabilities, who disproportionately experience student arrest and police referrals, even for the same or similar incidents as their white counterparts. Although we fought to get specialized training and school resource officer certification requirements, implementation will occur after additional police are introduced to the school setting.