LWVMD Calls For Redistricting Transparency
August 12, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
With today’s Census Bureau’s data release the League of Women Voters of Maryland (LWVMD) calls for a redistricting process that includes maximum opportunity for public scrutiny. We are calling upon the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission (LRAC) to:
(1) demonstrate transparency by adhering to the Maryland General Assembly’s own Open Meetings Act;
(2) release the preliminary maps in a format suitable for quantitative analysis (GeoJSon) as soon as they are completed;
(3) hold multiple hybrid hearings, starting 2 weeks after the Commission releases its preliminary maps; and
(4) allow sufficient time for comments received at those hearings to be considered by the Commission—well before the start of the General Assembly’s 90-day session.
The LWVMD further calls on the LRAC to demonstrate its commitment to fairness by adopting standards, before its
process begins, that DO NOT:
● consider how individuals are registered to vote, how they have voted in the past, or the political parties to which
they belong; and
● consider the domicile or residence of any incumbent officeholder or potential candidates.
“In a democracy, voters must have the opportunity to pick their own legislators, not the other way around.” said DeborahMitchell, LWVMD co-president. “Trust between the voters and the people they elect must be nurtured.”For the first time a new form of public input is available: maps created by communities of interest (COI). The LWVMD requests that the LRAC reach out and gather COI maps from underrepresented communities and consider them in their mapping deliberations. Splitting communities is a form of voter suppression.
The LWVMD challenges the LRAC to use a dedicated website that both gathers information the Commission has released and provides information the public wishes to offer, a standard communications tool and form of transparency. At this point, the public does not even have contact information for the chair of the LRAC. Details of the LWVMD redistricting position, including background, is available on the LWVMD website.
For more information please contact Nikki Tyree at [email protected]
Post Session Actions (and Non-Actions)
In April, our volunteer advocates submitted reports informing us which bills they were following had passed and which didn’t pass.
As reported at the time, 3 of the 4 policing accountability bills that passed and were sent to the Governor during the session were vetoed but those vetoes were over-ridden during session.
Another bill, HB 1372 Blueprint for Maryland's Future – Revisions passed during session and was on the Governor's desk for 6 days during which he took no action which meant it became law without his signature. The same process occurred with SB 786 Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Baltimore City - Control of the Police Department of Baltimore City and SB 683 Election Law - Voting - Permanent Absentee Ballot List, Ballot Drop Boxes, and Reports.
The fate of the remaining bills that were reported on that had passed and been sent to the Governor was not known at the time.
This is what has happened.
Protecting the Vote
HB 1048 Election Law – Permanent Absentee Ballot List, Ballot Drop Boxes, and Reports will go into law without the Governor’s signature.
HB 222 Election Law – Correctional Facilities – Voter Registration and Voting (Value My Vote Act) will go into law without the Governor’s signature.
HB 156 Student and Military Voter Empowerment Act will go into law without the Governor’s signature.
HB 183 Public Information Act – Revisions (Equitable Access to Records Act) will go into law without the Governor’s signature.
HB 133 State Finance and Procurement - Appropriation Reductions (Board of Public Works Budget Reduction Clarification Act) was vetoed by the Governor.
SB 66 Digital Connectivity Act of 2021 was signed into law by Governor.
HB 18 Landlord and Tenant-Residential Tenants-Right to Counsel will go into law without the Governor’s signature.
HB 114-Transportation - Maryland Transit Administration Funding and MARC Rail Extension Study (Transit Safety and Investment Act) was vetoed by the Governor.
SB 199 Maryland Transit Administration - Funding (Transit Safety and Investment Act) was vetoed by the Governor.
HB 414-Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project – Funding will go into law without the Governor's signature.
SB 137 - Maryland Transit Administration – Conversion to Zero–Emission Buses (Zero–Emission Bus Transition Act) will go into law without the Governor’s signature.
The bills listed above that were vetoed by the Governor passed by enough votes to override those vetoes when the General Assembly next convenes. Advocates will be working to make this happen. The same is true of many of the other bills that were vetoed.
Clean Energy Legislative Update
Clean Energy - Shari Glenn
SB 414 /HB483 Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021 was the major environmental focus this year of the League and dozens of coalition members. The legislation required the State to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 60% from 2006 levels by 2030; to achieve net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2045; required the Maryland Department of Labor to adopt regulations establishing energy conservation requirements for buildings by July 1, 2022; and established a goal of planting and helping to maintain 5,000,000 sustainable trees of species native to the State by the end of 2030. The bill passed both chambers but died on the last day of the session. The bill will be back on the agenda next year with more time to reach an acceptable compromise.
Public Transportation Legislative Wrap Up
HB 114 -Transportation - Maryland Transit Administration Funding and MARC Rail Extension Study (Transit Safety and Investment Act) Baltimore and other state areas that depend on Maryland Department of Transportation for transit have not had system maintenance funded for many years as a study in 2019 showed. This legislation mandates funding additional to anticipated spending from the Transportation Trust Fund for six years to address transit “state of good repair” needs identified by the MTA. The number of years to be funded has been controversial with reduced funding desired by the Senate. Status: sent to Governor.
SB 137 - Maryland Transit Administration – Conversion to Zero–Emission Buses (Zero–Emission Bus Transition Act) By prohibiting the purchase of any bus that emits emissions after 2023, this bill provides a timeline of bus longevity for the MTA bus fleet to transition to zero emissions. Status: sent to Governor.
HB 414-Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project – Funding
Maryland has completed five major studies on the feasibility, need, and economic impact of high-capacity, fixed-route transit service to Southern Maryland, and despite the conclusion of every study repeatedly confirming that the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit project would vastly improve the quality of life for Southern Maryland residents, promote economic development consistent with smart growth, and advance the State's emissions reduction goal, the Maryland Department of Transportation has not moved forward with the project. HB414 requires the State to complete the NEPA study and, contingent on federal funding, provides for at least $5 million in matching state funds from the Transportation Trust Fund to do so. Status: sent to Governor.
HB 67 I-495 and I-270 Public-Private Partnership - Partnership Agreement - Requirements (Maryland Department of Transportation Promises Act of 2021)
This bill put in writing the promises that Governor Hogan and the Maryland Department of Transportation made about the expansion of I-495 and I-270. The amended bill passed the House but failed in the Senate. It is doubtful if it will be resubmitted next year.
In 2022, we can expect more social justice and zero-emission /electrification transportation bills.
Affordable Housing/Evictions Legislative Wrap Up
Affordable Housing / Evictions: Ruth Crystal Team Leader
Of the many bills dealing with eviction and foreclosure that have been introduced this session, a housing justice coalition focused on 5 bills. Only one of those bills passed both houses:
HB18 Landlord and Tenant-Residential Tenants-Right to Counsel, will provide access to counsel for tenants earning up to 50% of area median income that are facing retaliatory evictions. Status: sent to Governor.
Many other bills were proposed in response to the COVID pandemic that has left many tenants struggling to pay rent – but differences between the House and Senate did not get resolved in time. We expect these issues will be addressed again in the 2022 session. These include:
HB52 Real Property- Eviction Actions- Alteration in Actions for Repossession would have required 7-day failure to pay notice by landlord filing for eviction and require the notice to include information about rental assistance, legal help, and contact information for the landlord.
HB1312 Landlord and Tenant-Eviction Actions-Catastrophic Health Emergencies would have made an affirmative defense available for ‘failure to pay’ evictions during a declared catastrophic health emergency and for 3-6 months after if tenant could show substantial income loss related to emergency. It would also have prohibited an increase in rent during the health emergency.
The federal American Rescue Plan will provide a second round of Emergency Rental Assistance funding to Maryland. Combined with the December COVID-19 Relief package, this will provide Maryland with $719 million in Emergency Rental Assistance funding. Eligible households must have a reduction in income or financial hardship due to COVID-19, demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability and have a household income below 80% of area median income. Eligible households may receive up to 12 months of assistance. Application for assistance may be submitted by eligible household or landlord. The assistance program is expected to launch no later than May 1, 2021.
Police Accountability Legislative Wrap Up
Police Accountability Nancy Soreng Team Leader
LWVMD, along with other members of the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability, focused our advocacy on 5 reforms to policing:
- Repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR)
- Allow all investigations into police misconduct to be disclosed under the Maryland Public Information Act
- Pass a law prohibiting the use of force unless it is necessary (not merely reasonable), with both criminal penalties and the power for civil enforcement
- Give the people of Baltimore City the ability to govern the Baltimore City Police Department
- Take armed police officers out of schools
5 bills ultimately passed which incorporated 4 of these reforms.
HB 670: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021- Police Discipline and Law Enforcement Programs and Procedures was originally called the Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021 and contained numerous recommendations from the Police Accountability Workgroup that was appointed by Speaker Jones in the summer of 2020. The most significant reform in HB 670 was the repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR) and creation of a statewide discipline process for police officers. Under this provision each county will have a Police Accountability Board (PAB) that will among other duties, receive complaints of police misconduct filed by members of the public and appoint civilian members to charging committees and trial boards. Status: Vetoed by Governor, veto overridden during session.
SB 178: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 – Search Warrants and Inspection of Records Relating to Police Misconduct (Anton’s Law) was originally called Public Information Act - Personnel Records - Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton's Law). Passage of this bill means that a record relating to an administrative or criminal investigation of misconduct by a police officer is no longer considered a personnel record which is non-disclosable by law. This legislation finally allows for the release of information relating to investigations of both sustained and un-sustained complaints of misconduct. Custodians may redact portions of a record that reflect the medical information of the officer, information relating to the family of the officer, and personal contact information of the officer or witness. However, this bill will allow for inspection of records that include relevant medical information about injuries sustained during the event under investigation. Status: Vetoed by Governor, veto overridden during session.
SB 71: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Body-Worn Cameras, Employee Programs, and Use of Force incorporated elements of SB 626 Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Law Enforcement Officers - Use of Force, Reporting, and Whistleblower Protections that passed the Senate, but was not moved out of the House. SB 71 raises the legal standard to say force is only authorized when it is necessary and proportional, based on the totality of the circumstances. Officers must de-escalate when time, circumstances, and safety allow; intervene to prevent excessive use of force; provide or obtain appropriate medical assistance after a use of force incident; and document all use of force incidents. The bill also includes provisions for training and requires all local and state law enforcement officers to wear body cameras by 2025 with an earlier implementation date for larger jurisdictions. Status; veto override
SB 786: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Baltimore City - Control of the Police Department of Baltimore City will put the question of giving the City of Baltimore control of its police for the first time since the 1860’s before the voters of Baltimore City in 2022 or 2024 for implementation in 2023 or 2025. In the meantime, it establishes an Advisory Board that is tasked with studying potential issues related to the transfer of authority. Status: sent to Governor.
None of the bills to remove, reallocate funding, or redefine policing in schools passed. Advocacy on this issue will continue over the summer and into the next session. Local and national initiatives are underway to continue to collect data on the impact of School Resource Officers (SROs) on students and school safety. Efforts to educate the public and legislators about this issue will continue.
League testimony on SB 178 - Public Information Act - Personnel Records - Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton's Law), HB 496 Primary and Secondary Education – Mental Health Services – Expansion (Counselors Not Cops Act), SB 627 - Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights - Repeal and Procedures for Discipline, HB 1089 Primary and Secondary Education – Expansion of Mental Health Services and Prohibition of School Resource Officers (Police–Free Schools Act), SB 626 Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Law Enforcement Officers - Use of Force, Reporting, and Whistleblower Protections can be found on the Testimony page of the LWVMD website.
Education / Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Legislative Wrap Up
Education / Blueprint for Maryland’s Future: Lois Hybl Team Leader
In 2020, the General Assembly passed The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (incorporating the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission) that among other provisions, adopted a new funding formula that increased the foundation formula and the funding weights for English Learners, special education students, and compensatory education. It also created a new calculation for concentrated poverty that can be used to support Community Schools. However, Governor Hogan vetoed the legislation in May 2020.
The education priorities for the 2021 General Assembly session were to override the governor’s veto of HB 1300 The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and to pass HB 1372 Blueprint for Maryland's Future – Revisions. HB1372 modifies implementation timelines, updates funding allocations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, establishes guidelines for use of federal CARES funds, and strengthens the language of the Blueprint. Status: sent to Governor.
The challenge for the coming years is to ensure that the “Blueprint” is implemented as intended.
The League also supported SB 66 Digital Connectivity Act of 2021 , which establishes the Office of Digital Inclusion and creates a digital inclusion fund to support capacity building and funding for broadband access to all 24 Maryland jurisdictions. Status; approved by the Governor
The League opposed bills (HB 764, HB 939 and HB 1113) designed to transfer public money to private schools. Efforts to reduce funding for BOOST (Broadening Options & Opportunities for Students Today) failed. BOOST provides scholarships for eligible students to attend non-public schools. The final budget included $10 million for BOOST Scholarships.
Progressive and Adequate Fiscal Policy Legislative Wrap Up
Progressive and Adequate Fiscal Policy: Roy Appletree Team Leader
There was some discussion about the dual economy this pandemic revealed. While certainly an oversimplification, it revealed some truth to the maxim that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” There was also a recognition that a sound revenue system must allow the State to invest in essential public goods such as education, transportation, and health care.
When the pandemic was recognized in March 2020, the revenue projections were for a dire shortfall. By December 2020 it was clear that Maryland was cushioned from any major shortfall. Come 2021 and the large sums of Federal relief funding, the State found itself in a solid position. As a result, all the tax legislation was allowed to die – combined reporting being the last to go.
However, the pundits expect fair taxation to be a major legislative issue in the 2022 session.
The Governor proclaimed he would veto legislation that mandates an increase in spending or taxes, especially considering the pandemic. One critical bill he vetoed was designed to continue implementing the Kirwan Commission reforms, the “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.” The General Assembly overrode that veto. The legislature also passed several new taxes to pay for the Blueprint plan. These taxes included a tax on digital downloads such as Netflix and video games; a corporate tax change intended to bring in tens of millions each year; a new tax on vaping products and a doubled tax on cigarettes. They also passed a first-in-the-nation proposal to tax the targeted digital advertising on giant online platforms such as Facebook and Google.
All these tax bills were vetoed. LWVMD supported the eventual override of the digital download tax HB 932 .
We testified on these and several similar several bills:
HB0275 – Individual Income Taxes – Brackets and Rates which would raise rates on higher incomes.
HB0215 – Carried Interest which is often thought of as the loophole for private equity and hedge funds.
HB0172 – Combined Reporting which prevents corporations from shifting profits to other states to be taxed at a lower rate. This is in effect in many states and creates a more equal playing field for smaller, in-state businesses.
An Issue Paper entitled Progressive & Adequate Fiscal Policy was produced.
Government Transparency Legislative Wrap Up
Government Transparency: Nancy Soreng Team Leader
The League of Women Voters of Maryland testified in favor of three bills that would improve transparency in government or campaign spending, only HB183 passed both houses.
HB 183 Public Information Act – Revisions (Equitable Access to Records Act) would add accountability to the custodians of public information by requiring them to publish an annual report that includes the number of Public Information Act (PIA) requests received, the outcome of these requests and the time frame for granting or denying requests as well as the reasons for requests that took more than 30 days to process. It also requires documentation of fees charged and fees waived. This bill improves the make-up of the PIA Board by requiring at least one member be knowledgeable about electronic records and at least two members to be attorneys. It also requires detailed reporting of the disputes handled by the Ombudsman and their outcome. Status: sent to Governor.
HB 1352 Campaign Finance Reports - Business Contributors - Registration Status would require the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to electronically transmit a list of all businesses that are registered with the Department and all businesses that forfeited their registrations to the State Board of Elections who would transmit that information to all active campaign entities. When campaign finance reports are filed with the Board of Elections, it is not easy to know which companies who made political donations are actual businesses and which may be sham companies who are used by contributors who want to exceed donation caps by giving in the name of a sham business. This bill passed the House (97 to 39) but was never voted on by the Senate.
The third transparency bill the League supported is SB 72/HB 344 Open Meetings Act – Requirements for State Agencies and Local Boards of Elections (Maryland Transparency Act of 2021) which called for all Executive Branch Agencies and Local Boards of Elections to have meeting materials publicly available on their website at least 48 hours before any open meeting. It further requires that these public bodies provide live video or audio streaming of their proceedings and maintain an unedited, accessible archive of these recordings. This bill did not receive a vote in either the House or Senate Committee where it was heard.
Testimony on HB1352, HB 183 and HB 344 is on the LWVMD website.
Redistricting Reform Legislative Wrap Up
Redistricting Reform: Beth Hufnagel Team Leader
Every ten years, the US Constitution requires that a census be taken and be used to reapportion voters into Congressional and state legislative districts. It was the expectation that there would be a Special Session of the Maryland General Assembly in the fall of 2021 to consider the legislative and Congressional maps drawn by the Maryland Citizen Redistricting Commission (MCRC), who are an independent commission created by Governor Hogan. However, since the detailed Census data needed to draw the maps will not be issued by the Census Bureau until August 30, and then the re-allocation of the count of incarcerated persons to their residence prior to incarceration rather than the facility where they were held during the census, may take until the end of October, the approval of new maps is deferred until the 2022 General Session of the MGA.
Several bills were introduced this session to strengthen standards by which districts are drawn. All died in committee.
- HB339 Legislative District Standards
- HB410; HB965; and HB1260 Congressional District Standards(Anti-Gerrymandering of Maryland’s Congressional Districts)
Fair Maps Maryland Campaign
LWVMD will continue to advocate for strengthened legislative and Congressional district standards around redistricting and transparency of the drawing of maps by the Maryland General Assembly leadership and the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission. We will work to facilitate the creation of community of interest (COI) maps. We hope to produce our own maps, based on the LWV positions with consideration of these COI maps. We are now reaching out to additional partners to make the Fair Maps Maryland Campaign a reality.
The advocacy team produced an Issue Paper entitled Redistricting Reform in Maryland.