2019 Legislative Priorities

Each year WISE develops a list of legislative priorities by asking each of our twelve issues-based huddles to choose a few bills central to their mission they would like WISE to advocate for. Our 2019 legislative priorities include bills focused on environmental justice, affordable healthcare, protecting victims of sexual assault, and other diverse issues central to our mission. Please read our 2019 Legislative Priorities Brochure for details on all the bills we are supporting.

Women’s Issues

  • HIV Prevention for Rape Victims. This would provide rape survivors with emergency medication to prevent HIV. The current law provides victims with free emergency medical treatment following a rape, but not medication to prevent HIV.
  • Expansion of Maryland’s Vacatur Law for Survivors of Human Trafficking. This bill would expand on Maryland’s current “vacating convictions” law to allow criminalized survivors of human trafficking to remove crimes other than prostitution from their criminal records and would significantly increase the ability of survivors to access employment and stable housing, and heal from trauma.
  • Salary History Information Disclosure. Ensures women do not carry lower earnings and pay discrimination from job to job by prohibiting employers from seeking and relying on job applicants’ salary history and by requiring employers to disclose salary range for a position upon request. 

Protecting Vulnerable Populations

  • A Revised Trust Act. This would make it illegal to hold any individual more than the maximum 72 hours without judicial charges and prevent both the sharing of information by local law enforcement with ICE, as well as the request of immigration status by law enforcement during traffic stops.
  • Privacy Protection. This would stop state departments or state workers from sharing personal information with ICE.
  • Prohibition on Youth Solitary Confinement. Maryland uses solitary confinement at about twice the national average. Every day, children are subject to this inhumane practice in our local jails and state prisons. Children should never be housed in extended isolation.
  • Take Governor Out of Parole. Rather than veto every parole, this legislation would cause Governors to select capable Parole Commissioners who would make evidence-based recommendations, prescribing parole for inmates who earned it and providing the safest parole supervision conditions.
  • Pre-Release Facility Services for Women. The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services operates no dedicated lower- security facility for women preparing to return to the community from prison. There are 9 such facilities for men. This legislation would require the Commissioner of Corrections to operate a prerelease unit for women. The unit for women would offer reentry services and programming that will help women prepare to reintegrate and provide the best chance at success.

Public Safety

  • WISE supports closing the background check loophole on long guns. Currently, Maryland law requires criminal background checks for all handgun sales. This law would close the background check loophole for all rifle & shotgun sales. 
  • Ban on Ghost Guns, Senate Bill 8. This ban includes DIY Kits, guns without a serial number, and 3D printed guns. Such weapons can only be used a few times and are not traceable because they lack serial numbers making them good weapons for criminals and poor tools for self-defense. 

Environmental Justice

  • Ban on Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). This bill would ban EPS foam food packaging throughout Maryland. As litter, EPS foam never biodegrades; it breaks into increasingly smaller pieces, posing a threat to our waterways and marine life as it absorbs more chemicals than any other plastic and is often mistaken for food by fish.
  • A Healthy and Green Maryland Amendment. This bill proposes a constitutional amendment to explicitly protect our right to a healthy environment now and in the future by enshrining it in the state Declaration of Rights. The bill proposes lasting protections for breathable air, drinkable water, and makes the state a fiduciary for equal access to a healthy environment for present and future generations.
  • The Clean Energy Jobs Act. This bill addresses the climate change crisis by doubling the State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard policy to 50% renewable electricity by 2030, determining the best plan to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2023, and implementing that plan by 2040. This campaign builds on past successes in Maryland, including the 2016 Clean Energy Jobs Act, achieving a 25% renewable electricity standard by 2020.

Animal Welfare

  • Maryland Cost of Animal Care Act. Animal cruelty cases in Maryland, such as hoarding or animal fighting, can involve the seizure of dozens or even hundreds of animals. Financially strapped shelters can be forced to turn away or euthanize adoptable animals because of resource limitations. The Maryland Cost of Animal Care Act prevents animal control agencies from incurring debilitating costs in animal cruelty cases, saving tax dollars and animal lives.

Education and Poverty 

  • Education Reform Recommendations: The Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education has made preliminary recommendations and legislation is being drafted. The bill is expected to include: expanding full-day pre-Kindergarten for 4-year olds, improving teacher training and salaries, and providing more health practitioners and school-community coordinators in areas of concentrated poverty.
  • WISE seeks to end childhood hunger by supporting efforts to expand the availability of free lunches and summer meal programs.

Healthcare and Healthy Families 

  •  Prescription Drug Affordability Board. Prescription medications don’t work if people cannot afford to take them. The proposed Prescription Drug Affordability Board would determine how to make prescription drugs more affordable for Marylanders, examine the drug supply chain and the role of Pharmaceutical Benefit Managers (PBMs), establish payment rates for expensive drugs that create significant affordability problems and build upon Maryland’s successful tradition of health care cost scrutiny.
  • Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program. Building on 2018’s successful state employee parental leave legislation and the 2016-17 Maryland Task Force to Study Family and Medical Leave Insurance, this bill establishes a private sector family and medical leave insurance fund to provide partial wage replacement for employees who take unpaid leave to care for a new child or family member with a serious health condition, their own serious medical condition, or a family member’s deployment.

Racial Justice

  • The negative impacts of an unhealthy environment disproportionately affect communities of color and impoverished areas. The Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act strives to ensure that all communities benefit from the clean energy economy. Low-income communities and communities of color have borne the majority of the costs for dirty energy production.
  • Racial inequities in opportunity and achievement exist, regardless of income. WISE supports the Kirwan Commission’s recommendation to provide funding for full-day Pre-K funding for 3- and 4-year-olds as a top priority.

LGBTQ Equality 

  • The 2018 Ending Youth Homelessness Act was passed to end youth homelessness and to address disparities based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In 2019, WISE will advocate for appropriations for proper funding. Homelessness exposes youth to an increased risk of violence, human trafficking, and exploitation, resulting in a multitude of problems.
  • Updating state family law to strengthen parental protections and family recognition for LGBTQ individuals. Maryland law provides married heterosexual couples the right to presume parentage. For same-sex couples the non-gestational parent or parents must undergo a lengthy adoption process in order to be awarded the same legal presumption.

Constitutional Rights & Democracy 

  • Maryland Small Donor Incentive Act, House Bill 785, 2018. Decisions like Citizens United have increased the influence of special interests in elections. This legislation establishes a process for General Assembly candidates to qualify for public financing and requires an appropriation of $1 million to be added for house races to the already-established public financing fund that exists for the governor’s election.
  • Gerrymandering Reforms. When elected officials create gerrymandered districts, our votes are diluted. WISE supports reforms to the redistricting process to ensure that voting districts at every level of the election process are drawn to reflect the interests of the voting population rather than politicians. This will allow more diversity, competition, and accountability among elected officials.
  • Presidential Tax Transparency Act. This legislation would require Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates to make tax returns available in order to appear on the ballot in Maryland (previously introduced as SB0256/HB0662).
  • Ranked Choice Voting. Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank their choice of candidates in order to ensure candidates with the broadest support win, giving greater voice to the preference of voters.