Tuesday, July 5, 2022

A Supreme Court Majority that will Stop at Nothing

Is there an end point where the conservative majority of the current Supreme Court completes their quest to erode our basic rights? What does that look like?

The Supreme Court’s recent rulings have shown how far the 6-3 conservative majority are willing to erode a wide variety of fundamental rights in this country. It’s not simply about the power of states versus that of the federal government. According to these justices, it’s fine to allow states to restrict abortion but not restrict carrying handguns. It’s okay for the states to violate the sovereignty of Native lands defined by federal laws but not okay for the federal regulations to apply to industrial polluters in states that don’t favor that control. It’s acceptable for states to racially discriminate when redistricting, but it’s not acceptable for the federal government to discriminate against religious schools who want federal funds or school teachers who lead non-private, group prayers at public school events.

Disallowing States to Require Demonstrable Need by Gun Owners to Carry Handguns for Personal Protection - New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Bruen

On June 23rd, the Supreme Court struck down a 100 year old New York state law requiring those desiring to carry handguns for personal protection to first show a need to do so.  The conservative majority opinion echoes the National Rifle Association’s assertion that any restriction on gun ownership is a violation of the 2nd Amendment. This decision puts similar state laws in Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and here in Maryland at risk. Based on historical studies on the effects of changes in gun laws over time, gun control advocates predict a higher number of handguns and handgun-related crimes to occur in urban areas. 

Allowing States to Severely Restrict or Outlaw Abortion – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

On June 24th, the Supreme Court allowed a highly restrictive Mississippi state law to stand, effectively overturning Roe v. Wade and 50 years of abortion rights. Thirteen states had previously passed “trigger bans” – laws that were automatically enacted once the ruling became official. The three liberal justices, in their joint dissent, wrote, “As of today, this Court holds, a state can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions.” The fundamental human right of bodily autonomy (the bioethical principle on which the right to abortion rests) was formalized shortly after World War II’s Nuremberg Trials, during which details regarding the medical experimentation, and consequently torture, done by Nazi doctors on nonconsenting, mostly Jewish, prisoners, came to light.

Elevating the Rights of Christians and Christian Institutions Above those of Other Citizens – Kennedy v. Bremerton School District and Carson v. Makin

The Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and religious exercise are tempered by the separation of church and state applied to government-funded entities like public schools and, differently, for private religious schools. On June 23rd, the Supreme Court struck down a Maine state law that disallowed Christian religious schools from participating in a state-funded voucher program. While religious schools provide alternatives to students, they also have the power to bar gay and transgender students and teachers, a practice prohibited in public schools by federal anti-discrimination laws. On June 27th, the Supreme Court ruled that a high-school football coach was improperly disciplined for leading a post-game prayer. The dissenting justices wrote, “Today’s decision elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection.”

Eroding the Sovereignty of Native Americans’ Lands – Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta

On June 29th, the Supreme Court rolled back the rights of Native Americans, allowing states to prosecute crimes committed by non-Native people on tribal lands. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation released a statement, saying “This will have a ripple effect throughout Indian Country across the United States,” adding that “public safety would be better served by expanding Tribal authority to prosecute any crime committed by any offender within our reservation boundaries rather than empowering entities that have demonstrated a lack of commitment to public safety on Indian lands.”

Limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Regulatory Power – West Virginia v. EPA

Also on June 29th, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had exceeded its authority in regulating the carbon emissions of existing power plants. These emissions are a chief contributor to climate change, and the ruling jeopardizes President Biden’s plan of the U.S. power grid running on clean energy by 2035, then making the US economy carbon-neutral by 2050. In a 6-3 vote, the conservative majority created a precedent where “The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decisionmaker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan in the dissent. 

Diluting Black Votes through Racist Gerrymandering and Redistricting – Emergency Order

On June 28th, the Supreme Court granted a request by Louisiana’s Republican secretary of state, temporarily halting a lower court’s ruling and allowing a highly racially-gerrymandered Louisiana congressional district to remain during the 2022 midterm elections. Earlier, a federal judge rejected the Republican-drawn map for violating the Voting Rights Act, as it concentrated Black voters into two, majority-Black districts. Even though about one-third of the state’s population is African-American, decades of gerrymandering have given Republicans a solid majority in five out of six congressional districts.


In response, we demand a Moral Revolution:

  • A lack of common sense gun laws in our country have resulted not just in increasing violence in our streets, grocery stores, churches, and schools, but the militarization of our police forces. The excessive amount of funds allocated to body armor, bullet-resistant shields, and higher caliber weaponry for use by law enforcement has not made us safer. We demand gun control, especially regulation of automatic, high magazine capacity, weapons. We also demand new local, state, and national budget priorities, so that social issues that exacerbate gun violence can be simultaneously addressed. 

  • In addition to violating the bioethical imperative of bodily autonomy as a fundamental human right, abortion restrictions and bans are an effective distraction technique used to keep poor and low-wealth communities at odds. In European countries where abortion is easily available, free of cost, and not stigmatized, the actual rate of abortions performed is roughly half that in the US, adjusted for population differences. Life-saving abortion access is a low-income person’s issue – one that crosses all political, racial, ethnic, religious lines.

  • Christian nationalist organizations focus on issues like prayer in school, abortion, and gun rights that distort the national moral narrative, while ignoring the moral commitments enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. We have the right to ground our laws and public policies in a moral narrative that prioritizes and follows our deepest Constitutional moral commitments to justice. Faith is an important part of daily life for million of Americans. But our country was founded in part because of a desire to separate church and state, not favoring any one belief system. Eroding that separation opens the door to some of the abusive prejudices that exist in many organized religions infiltrating our public life. 

  • We demand that industries be held accountable for their air the pollution, as the poor live on the frontlines of climate change and bear the brunt of costs and impacts of climate volatility. We demand 100 percent clean, renewable energy and a public jobs program to transition to a green economy that will put millions of people in sustainable living wage jobs. Environmental terrorism is perpetrated every day by multinational companies who curry favor with sympathetic state or local leaders, and poor and low-wealth people are most likely to sicken and die because of this abuse.

  • First Nations, Native Americans, and Alaskan Natives have a right to their political and cultural institutions, lands, and resources. We demand that Native people retain their tribal recognition as nations, not races, to make substantive claims to their sovereignty. Trespassing upon the federally-recognized statuses of Native Americans under the guise of enforcing the law is not a solution to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women or the violation of natural resources, like clean water, by various energy and development corporations.

  • We demand the immediate full restoration and expansion of the Voting Rights Act, including an end to racist gerrymandering and redistricting. We demand and end to all voter suppression, that mostly targets people of color and poor and low-wealth people. Louisiana is just one of many states that have used the demise of the Voting Rights Act to force legislation creating extremely gerrymandered districts that ensure non-white voters are denied proper representation at every level of government.  


Based on the Demands of the Poor People's Campaign


Thursday, May 26, 2022

2022 Updates: Maryland State Legislation Supported by the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign

MD PPC has working groups, fed from regional organizing, that handle certain logistical aspects of the campaign. The MD PPC Policy/Legislations Working Group focuses on legislative observance and research; legislative outreach and advocacy; and political education on legislation.

#1 – Victory for Renters!

Last year, the Right to Counsel in Renter’s Courti bill was passed but not funded. This year, money from Maryland’s abandoned property fund will be used to provide legal counsel to low-income renters facing eviction proceedings.ii Most landlords in Maryland have legal representation at renter’s court, while the vast majority of renters do not. This bill seeks to implement strategies recommended by the Maryland Attorney General’s Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force, which acknowledges that evictions not only impact issues like homelessness, unemployment, and lack of access to health care, but are more likely to be imposed on people of color.iii 

#2 – Victory for Patients!

Last year, the End to Medical Debtiv bill was passed but not implemented. This year, the bill was enrolled and therefore will begin the process of reimbursing low-income patients who were charged for health services between 2017-2022 that should have been low- or no-cost. It also establishes rules related to how hospitals and other care providers offer financial assistance and payment plans to low-income patients.v This bill was created in response to the Maryland Health Service Cost Review Commission’s 2020 finding that over 60% of medical debt owed to hospitals was held by patients whose income qualified them for free care.vi

#3 – Victory for Climate Justice!

The Climate Solutions Actvii sets a timeline for sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions by boosting use of renewable energy sources, increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, and encouraging zero-emissions transportation options.viii The increase in catastrophic weather events caused by climate change, resulting in flooding, fires, and wind damage, disproportionately affects low-wealth people and minority communities. Additionally, regardless of location or economic factors, people of color are more likely to be exposed to harmful air pollution and consequently suffer from respiratory, allergic, and other health issues.ix

#4 – Victory for Juvenile Justice Reform!

The Child Interrogation Protection Actx requires law enforcement to notify the parent/guardian of any minor they take into custody of the minor’s location, reason for being taken into custody, and how to contact that minor in-person, before any interrogation occurs. This change aims to combat the stark racial disparities between how black and brown youth encounter the juvenile justice system as compared to their white counterparts. White juveniles are more likely to self-report when questioned by law enforcement. While black juveniles self-report less often, they are subsequently more likely to be arrested and incarcerated, also serving longer and/or harsher sentences than white youth in similar situations.xi

#5 – Victory for Paid Family Leave!

The Time to Care Act of 2022xii will establish a state fund to provide paid benefits to workers who take leave because of personal health issues, caring for a family member, or military service/deployment impacting caretaking within the family. This law will be phased in over the next 2+ years and workers would be able to apply to receive benefits in 2025.xiii Low-wage workers are much less likely to have access to paid family leave. But states that offer these benefits have seen improvements in maternal and infant health, early childhood education and development, and economic stability for workers and their employers.xiv


S.B.662 - 444th Maryland General Assembly (2022): Access to Counsel in Evictions Special Fund Funding. (2022, April 9).
ii O’Neill, M. (2022, April 13). MD access to counsel in evictions program readies to launch with new funding. Maryland Daily Record.
iii Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force. (2022, January). Report of the Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force. Maryland Office of the Attorney General.
iv H.B.694 - 444th Maryland General Assembly (2022): Medical Bill Reimbursement. (2022, April 4).
Bonessi, D. M. (2021, March 29). Some Marylanders Could Be Protected From Medical Debt Under New Bill. WAMU 88.5 American University Radio.
vi Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. (2021, February). Analysis of the Impact of Hospital Financial Assistance Policy Options on Uncompensated Care and Costs to Payers. State of Maryland.
vii S.B.528 - 444th Maryland General Assembly (2022): Climate Solutions Act. (2022, March 19).
viii Shwe, E. (2022, March 10). Senate Moves to Pass Climate Solutions Now Act After a Marathon Floor Session. Maryland Matters.
ix Eilperin, J. & Fears, D. (2021, April 28). Deadly air pollutant ‘disproportionately and systematically’ harms Americans of color, study finds. The Washington Post.
S.B.53 - 444th Maryland General Assembly (2022): Child Interrogation Protection Act. (2022, April 9).
xi Gaskill, H. (2022, January 29). General Assembly Considering Changes to Maryland’s Juvenile Justice System. Maryland Matters.
xii S.B.275- 444th Maryland General Assembly (2022): Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program. (2022, April 8).
xiii Murphy, J. J. (2022, May 2). Maryland’s ‘Time to Care Act’—Frequently Asked Questions About Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits for Maryland Workers. Ogletree Deakins.
xiv Romig, K., and Bryant, K. (2021, April 27). A National Paid Leave Program Would Help Workers, Families. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Opinion: As It’s Now Written, Thrive Montgomery 2050 Would Create More Poverty

 This op-ed by Eneshal Miller, Co-Lead of MD PPC Montgomery Regional Organizing Group, originally appeared in Maryland Matters.


I am writing to support the significance of engaging poor residents for low-income housing accessibility.

Fully 77,000 households — more than 20% of households — in Montgomery County, earn less than $50,000 per year; many are living in crowded and unsafe conditions in order to afford rent. All Montgomery residents, including low-wealth citizens and non-citizens as newcomers who are poor, deserve to live in beautiful, safe, healthy dwellings and neighborhoods, but we face many barriers, including language barriers.

Montgomery County’s decisions about housing and land use policy affect poor people profoundly.

Though our communities are deeply affected by the county’s decisions, including master plans, poor people and communities of color have not been partners in the crafting of Thrive Montgomery 2050, the proposed renewal and revision of the countywide General Plan.

We need the county to start projecting how we will survive because Thrive is Coming. Many people have testified that it’s likely to result in rent hikes. “It’s already here,” we’re told by councilmembers“it’s a go, we’ve already had surveys done,” but the meetings took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, when poor people were under tremendous pressures and lacked the resources to participate in public decisions including Thrive Montgomery 2050.

Council and planning board members tell residents, “Thrive in itself isn’t really that impactful, it’s only a policy vision, it doesn’t change zoning.” This claim is misleading.

Thrive, as the renewed General Plan, sets land use policy, so it sets the stage for zoning changes to implement the policy. If Thrive is to live up to its name for all residents, then poor people must participate as full partners in shaping it. We need a different public engagement process.

This past winter, when the Montgomery County Council requested the Office of Legislative Oversight to perform a racial equity and social justice analysis of the Thrive proposed draft, the legislative oversight’s Elaine Bonner-Tomkins recommended in her response that the council elicit the meaningful input of residents of color from communities of color and low-income residents to co-create and update Thrive so that it reflects a consensus of land use policies and practices aimed at advancing racial equity and social justice.

When the Office of Legislative Oversight reviews a proposed bill or other legislation, one of their standard tasks is to “discern the potential impact of proposed legislation based on a review of who is mostly likely to benefit from the bill, who is most likely to be harmed, and what are the demographics (race, ethnicity, income) of the bill’s ‘winners and losers.’”

Connecting our community to decision makers and planners helps the county to successfully address racial equity and social justice concerns. We need more access to parks and nearby nature, accessible housing and affordable housing in places close to transit. Ensuring that all residents’ needs are met requires an inclusive process where low-wealth people are at the table.

We offer to help the council to locate impacted persons who live here as low-wealth residents to be invited to serve as stakeholders in the council’s Thrive racial equity and social justice review process. Our communities require adequate time to thoroughly review the existing draft and co-create the land use policies that we need.

So, we ask the council to provide an additional 18 months in the Thrive process.

This inclusive, respectful process can serve as a pilot demonstration, which educates and engages residents about the health disparities, hardships and high costs related to living in a thriving community.

What is at stake for residents when engagement is low? What does displacement look like and who may become displaced? How can we protect low-wealth communities from displacement?

Answering these questions requires analysis of Thrive’s recommended changes.

As poor people, we have the most at stake. The low-income, low-wealth and unhoused will pay greatly for Thrive as it is now written. We suffer from historical and current discriminatory practices. We feel that we are having to negotiate for our existence.

The council has arrived at a conclusion that Thrive must pass. But it has only acted as representative for residents who are comfortable, who will not lose anything, for corporations that are not sustainable and whose actions cause displacement.

As now written, Thrive would in fact create more poverty.

To subject Thrive to a thorough racial equity and social justice process, the council must now seek out and work with the low-wealth community which has never been approached. To respectfully exchange information with low-wealth residents, one way the county could provide this is by creating local information hubs for residents working toward accessible, affordable housing and all of the other proposals of Thrive.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Let's END POVERTY in Maryland!


Poverty destroys lives, shatters dreams, and devastates and traumatizes communities. But in Maryland, the richest state in the Union, poverty is on the rise. Everybody has the right to live and thrive. Add your name to the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign petition calling on the Maryland General Assembly to enact a Resolution to End Poverty in our state.


If you are an individual, please sign at bit.ly/EndPovertyMD1.

If you are an elected official or candidate for office, please sign at bit.ly/EndPovertyMDEOC.

If an organization wishes to sign on, please go to bit.ly/EndPovertyMDOrg.

To read the resolution, please click here to visit its page on this site.

#EverybodysGotARightToLive #FightPovertyNotThePoor #ForwardTogether



Friday, December 4, 2020

Hurry #GOTV for the Georgia Senate Races, First Deadline December 7!

Help Get Out The Vote for the Senate Run-Off Election in Georgia on Tuesday, January 5. 


Join Vote Forward (https://votefwd.org) through December 7 to write letters to help encourage voters from historically underrepresented communities in Georgia to vote during early voting or on Election Day. Vote Forward has proven since 2017 that this letter writing campaign has increased voter turnout in special and general elections.

Support the grassroots organizations in Georgia that have successfully increased voter turnout:


For additional information, see the op-ed "How Georgia went blue" in The Washington Post.*

(*This is not an endorsement)

Monday, September 21, 2020

Vote Against Montgomery County Ballot Measures B & D by Shayne Dizard

URGENT MESSAGE TO Montgomery County Voters  —  DEFEAT Ballot Question B.

Four Ballot Questions will be on the Montgomery County Ballot in November. The Maryland Poor People's Campaign recommends voting Against Measures B and D. Just Remember BandD are BAD!

Ballot Question B is especially dangerous for the fiscal health and well being of the County and its residents. Its purpose is to starve our County of resources and reduce services to county residents. The services we rely on for our daily quality of life and the future of our children are in danger: resources such as schools, public health and safety, recreation, parks, libraries, public transit, to name a few.

Protect our quality of life in Montgomery County. Vote against Ballot Question B.

To accomplish its goal of gutting county programs and resources, Ballot Measure B would arbitrarily cap the total property tax revenue the county can collect at the amount collected the previous year (with some exceptions) plus the current rate of inflation, no matter the increase in growth of the economy and taxable property – or the increased need for public services to meet the needs created by that growth. The result will be budget shortfalls and a decline in services to county residents.

And, Ballot Measure B actually goes a step further by all but eliminating the County Council's authority to respond to increased growth and increased needs of county residents by making adjustments that reflect real property growth or needs for public services.

Currently, the council can override limitations and adjust income and revenue with a unanimous vote of the Council. Under Ballot Measure B, that procedure is eliminated, leaving no way for the council to respond to real county fiscal needs.

Freezing County revenue would have a disastrous effect on the health of our county. It would be difficult to maintain quality public services. And, it could put in jeopardy our AAA bond rating.

Ballot B is an effort to cripple our county government when we need it most: Vote Against B.

 

Question D is an effort to decrease countywide representation on the County Council. Currently we have 5 Council members representing their district and 4 At-Large members. We have one vote for our district member and 4 votes for the at-large members. 

Question D would eliminate all at-large council seats. That means we would have only one vote for a council member and there would be no member who represents and is responsive to issues affecting residents county-wide. Vote Against D.

 

We Must Get the Word Out Montgomery County Voters ASAP. Click the following link to join us in calling the over 3,000 Maryland Poor People's Campaign supporters in MoCo to urge them to vote no on Questions BnD = Bad. 

Phone Banking-Door Hanger Sign-Up Link

Vote Against B and D - Remember BnD are BAD.   

Friday, September 18, 2020

5781: A New Year

Today is the last day of the Jewish calendar year 5780; tonight Rosh Hashana begins and the Jewish community around the world begins its new year, 5781.

And so many of us are so ready for a new year. Which is, in a way, funny - after all, no one knows if the new year will be better. It’s entirely plausible that it will be worse. 

Yet, somehow, we are looking hopefully to the new year as a time of redemption, of possible Tikkun - repair, as a chance to do better.

And the structure of the Jewish year encourages this. Rosh Hashana is celebratory, but it’s also solemn. Technically it, like Yom Kippur, is a day of judgement, the day on which nations are brought before the Ruler of All, together with each nation’s government, to be judged. We must answer, each of us, as part of that collective, for what we have participated in, for what we have allowed our nation to do, and we are held responsible, together.

But that collective responsibility is a source of not just fear, but also hope. As Rabbi Nachman said, hundreds of years ago, "believe this: if you can break, so you can also fix." 

If this past year has been a whirlwind of horrors, believe this: together, we can end them. It is in our hands to pull together as a nation and to do cheshbon hanefesh, to take a true and deep accounting of our soul, each of us as individuals who together make up a nation, and each nation that together makes up a world. 

Hayom Harat Olam: Today, the Jewish community says, the world is born. This is the season of repentance, in which IF we can stand to look critically at ourselves and at our collective identity, we can enter the new year clean and ready to fix the brokenness of our world. IF we can commit to changing our ways, commit to doing better, to caring more for others - even others that don’t look like us, that don’t speak like us; others that are carrying burdens that we have placed on their backs - we can remove those burdens and help them walk upright with us, then the year to come will be a year of grace, and we can make a start on making this world a fit place for the divine. 

It seems difficult. And ... perhaps it is. But we can map this out and get there. We have the next few weeks, during which we must unsparingly examine our hearts, and not merely promise, but start acting to do better. Start small, and repeat it every day. You can do this: I have faith in you. The Poor People's Campaign is how we come together to build a better, more just, more fair, more righteous nation. We all come together to care of one another - all of us: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Black, White, Indigenous, every color, every gender, every faith.

May this year to come be a better year for us and for our nation. May we be blessed to repair it together.
 
- Rabbi Alana Suskin, Maryland PPC Tri-Chair
 

 

 

A Supreme Court Majority that will Stop at Nothing

Is there an end point where the conservative majority of the current Supreme Court completes their quest to erode our basic rights? What doe...