#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
i 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).
v 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.
x 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.