CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555; email@example.com
Sara Love, Public Policy Director, 703-963-2710; firstname.lastname@example.org
ANNAPOLIS - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland has announced the organization's legislative agenda for the 2014 General Assembly session. In a continued effort to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of all Marylanders, the ACLU legislative program is devoted to working with local, statewide, and federal leaders to comply with our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The ACLU priorities include legislation to tax and regulate marijuana, stop local police from enforcing civil immigration detainers, limit email and cell phone surveillance, end the shackling of pregnant women, fully fund the Public Education "Thornton" Funding Formula and more.
"The ACLU will be at the forefront of many high profile debates during the 2014 General Assembly session, from marijuana reform to government surveillance and from women's and children's rights to protections for immigrants," said Public Policy Director Sara Love. "Always, the ACLU's goal is to protect and expand the rights and liberties of all Marylanders."
Highlights from the ACLU's priorities for 2014 General Assembly session:
- Email Surveillance
Privacy laws have yet to be updated, which allows the government to intercept and access information about the content of our emails, and other information collected by search engines, social networking sites and other websites. The ACLU supports legislation to ensure that new advances in science and technology enhance, not compromise, civil liberties.
- Location Tracking
The ACLU supports legislation that would ensure that legitimate investigations can proceed, while protecting innocent Marylanders from unjustified invasions of their privacy.
Drones can pose a serious threat to privacy. The ACLU of Maryland is in support of legislation that would prohibit a Maryland law enforcement agency from using a drone to gather evidence without a warrant.
- Automatic License Plate Recorders
The ACLU supports legislation that would keep law enforcement from storing records of plates and locations that are not ‘hits' against any database.
The War on Drugs has failed. Maryland spends an inordinate amount of time, energy and money arresting people for marijuana possession, even though 44 percent of violent crimes in Maryland go unsolved. Further, despite equal rates of use, these arrests are racially imbalanced. Because the War on Drugs has failed, the ACLU supports the full decriminalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana possession.
The ACLU works to protect everyone's right to make informed decisions free from government interference about whether and when to become a parent. In addition, the ACLU will advocate for legislation to end the dangerous practices of shackling pregnant women in custody during transport, labor and delivery. The ACLU supported last year, and will support again, legislation that would prohibit the shackling of pregnant inmates and detainees during their second and third trimesters.
State and local law enforcement undermine public safety and waste resources by enforcing immigration detainer requests from U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The ACLU supports the Maryland Trust Act, a bill that would restore community trust in local law enforcement by disentangling them from federal immigration enforcement efforts. The Trust Act would make clear that local jails should not hold people - who more often than not have been stopped for nothing more than a traffic violation or minor infraction - on the sole basis of an immigration detainer request.
- Full Funding of the Public Education "Thornton" Funding Formula
The ACLU's Education Reform Project will continue its advocacy to ensure that the state budget contains full funding of the "Thornton" education funding formula in the Bridge to Excellence Act, including a minimum 1 percent inflation factor and the Geographic Cost of Education Index.
- Funding the Thornton Formula Adequacy Study in the Governor's Budget
The ACLU has called on the Governor to provide appropriate funding in the Maryland State Board of Education budget to hire a reputable expert to conduct the required "adequacy study" of the "Thornton" education formula. The Bridge to Excellence Act anticipated the need to regularly update the formula in light of changing academic standards and requires that over the next two years a reassessment will take place of the adequacy of funding levels for students to meet state standards.
- Expansion of Pre-Kindergarten Education for the Most At-risk Children
The ACLU will advocate for adequate state and local funding for the existing Pre-K programs (currently funded based on K-12 students rather than Pre-K enrollment) and for the state to fund school districts that offer full-day programs.
- Oppose State Funding of Private Schools.
The ACLU will continue to fight back against funding private schools with public dollars. The ACLU opposes legislation that would reimburse parents or institutions for private school tuition. Private schools do not have to abide by the same state anti-discrimination laws and rules that public schools do. Such legislation also entangles the state in promoting religious education, as many of the beneficiaries would be religious schools. And every public dollar diverted to private schools is a dollar lost to the taxpayers of Maryland.