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2012 legislative report
General Juvenile Justice Bills
SB 245 was a bill introduced on behalf of the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) to allow them to move children to new placements without sending them back to detention first. This bill initially would have eliminated judicial recommendations for youth placement and infringed upon the due process rights of youth within the juvenile system. We were successful in getting key language amended into the bill that maintains the judge's ability to make youth placement recommendations and requires DJS to provide notice to the child's counsel, parent or guardian, the State's Attorney, and the Court prior to changing a child's placement as well as allowing for a hearing. Unfortunately, in the waning days of session, the House added a detrimental amendment to the bill which only allows DJS to move youth to placements of the same or greater security level. The ACLU will work to address this.
The ACLU also opposed SB 247, a bill introduced on behalf of DJS, that would expand access to juvenile records by other states. The bill passed the Senate but received an unfavorable report in the House Judiciary Committee.
The ACLU supported HB 1122, a bill that, before severe amending, would have provided a preference that youth waived to adult court and ordered to be securely detained be housed in a juvenile detention facility instead of adult jail. The bill was severely amended on the House Floor, striking all of the substantive bill language but requiring a report from DJS on a number of issues relevant to the bill, including the manner in which the department can utilize existing resources to house youth charged as adults.
WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM
The ACLU of Maryland continued to defend Maryland women's rights to reproductive freedom. The ACLU and coalition partners, including Planned Parenthood of Maryland, the Women's Law Center, and NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, coordinated our work on behalf of women's reproductive rights. Maryland saw the reemergence of several reoccurring bills that threaten women's reproductive rights. The ACLU opposed an ultrasound bill that has been reintroduced over the past several years (SB 583) and a bill that would have required the reporting of abortion statistics to the Department of Health and Mental Health. (HB 967/SB 247). Neither was brought to a vote in committee.
Working together with Casa de Maryland and other coalition partners, we were successful in defeating the anti-immigrant bills that were introduced this session. Legislation defeated this year includes bills that threaten the rights of workers by mandating that all employers use the flawed federal E-Verify program, even though it includes no due process of any kind for persons wrongly denied employment (HB 82, HB 344, HB 345, and HB 355).
Other pieces of anti-immigrant legislation that our partners and we defeated this session were a bill denying all public benefits to those without proof of lawful presence (HB 818) and a bill denying the undocumented the ability to vote in municipal elections (HB 473).
FAIR ELECTIONS & VOTING RIGHTS
Campaign Finance Reform
Campaign finance reform was on the agenda of the legislature again this year following the creation of a Task Force on Campaign Finance Reform. The ACLU supports reasonable regulation of campaign financing to ensure a transparent process and to protect equal access to the political forum. One of the successful Task Force bills which we supported (HB 1103/SB 918) requires campaigns to disclose the employer and occupation of donors that contribute over $500. We also
continued support for the public financing of elections (HB 195/SB 270) as a way to ensure a level playing field without impinging on free speech. Unfortunately, these bills did not receive a vote in committee.
Voting Rights Defended
The ACLU once again successfully fought attempts to restrict voter participation by imposing unnecessary and onerous requirements on voters before they can vote at polls. These attempts took the form of restricting access to polling places for targeted voters and requiring specific forms of identification for voters.
The ACLU of Maryland also advocated in favor of the Voter Rights Amendment Act (HB 314), which passed the House but did not receive a vote in the Senate. This bill would have allowed access by the State's Attorney to the District Court for instances of election fraud or intimidation.
The ACLU of Maryland opposed a bill (HB 818) that would have denied all public benefits for life to individuals who were convicted of rioting. This bill was a poorly drafted direct attack on the constitutionally protected free speech rights of protestors, the sponsor admitting that it was a retaliatory response to the Occupy Movement.
PUBLIC EDUCATION REFORM
Public Education Funding
The Education Reform Project of the ACLU-MD works to enforce the state Constitution's guarantee of a "thorough and efficient" education for Maryland schoolchildren, particularly those most at risk of failure. This legislative session, ACLU succeeded in its goal to have the state restore the 1% inflation factor in the education formula and is now working to reverse the State's "doomsday" budget for education in the Special Session. ACLU organized strong support for legislation that would give Baltimore City Schools the ability to begin a mass-scale renovation of its decrepit school buildings; the proposal will be studied, with a report due to the legislature Dec. 1, 2012. Another key victory was passage of a law to increase the age of compulsory school attendance to age 18, which will require school systems to provide meaningful options for older students who for years have dropped out after losing interest in school.
Read the Education Reform Project's full report "Annapolis 2012: How Public Education Fared"
The bill typically titled "BOAST" or the Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers in Maryland - was renamed by the sponsors as the "Partnership for Student Education and Community Investment Tax Credit" (HB 1216/SB 844), but was the same old scheme to provide taxpayer money to fund students attending private schools. The ACLU of Maryland opposed the voucher bill disguised as a tax credit that could have funneled tens of millions of dollars to private and religious schools. These schools have refused to adopt comprehensive nondiscrimination policies to protect access to education for all Maryland school children and teachers, and could not guarantee quality education opportunities would be expanded for low-income students.
The ACLU's Fair Housing Project teamed up with a very large group of advocates for housing equality and fairness, which included the Public Justice Center, the Homeless Persons Representation Project, the Baltimore Jewish Council, and the Maryland Catholic Conference, on behalf of the HOME ACT (HB 168/SB 277). This bill would prohibit discriminatory practices in the sale or rental of a dwelling based on a person's source of income. Currently, people particularly face discrimination when trying to use Section 8 vouchers to obtain housing for themselves and their families. Despite a very large, well- coordinated campaign in support of this bill, the bill faced significant opposition from landlords and received an unfavorable report from both the House Environmental Matters and Senate Judicial Proceedings committees.
Drug Testing of Public Benefit Recipients
One of the more egregious affronts to personal liberty this past session was a bill that required drug testing of all individuals who receive public benefits. This type of bill has been introduced in many states recently. The ACLU of Maryland worked with several partners to defeat the Maryland version of the bill.
Read our testimony on drug testing
The ACLU worked with Brown, Goldstein, and Levy, to support efforts to expand the remedies available to victims of public accommodation discrimination by allowing for a private right of action (HB 287/SB 491). We believe a private right of action is critical to vigorous protection of victim's rights. Unfortunately, the House bill received an unfavorable report, while the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee did not vote on the bill.
The ACLU of Maryland also supported Brown, Goldstein's efforts to make clear that the provisions against discrimination in places of public accommodations apply to Internet websites of business entities (HB 183/SB 278). Unfortunately the bill received unfavorable reports by the House Health and Government Operations and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.