Friends & Neighbors,
Below you can read about a few bills I'll be working on in the coming Maryland legislative session. Feel free to contact me with your thoughts on any other state issues you're interested in: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm feeling optimistic about the chances to advance social and economic justice in Maryland this year. I hope you'll join me in the battles to come....
Happy New Year!
Delegate David Moon
LEGISLATION I'M WORKING ON THIS YEAR - There are a number of issues I'll be working on in Maryland's 2016 legislative session, especially those that will come to the House Judiciary Committee. My final list of legislation is still in the works, but below you can read about some of the concepts I'm working on:
Banning Corporate Donations in Maryland - In the era of Citizens United, money in politics has become a defining problem for the public good. But amazingly, Maryland's laws are in many ways weaker than those for Congress. Indeed, members of Congress are prohibited from taking donations directly from corporations. Strangely, this practice is allowed in Maryland, even when the corporation making the donation has a direct interest in legislation coming to the General Assembly. I'm introducing a bill to ban Maryland candidates from receiving direct corporate contributions.
Reining in Police Brutality in Maryland - After case after case of police brutality has been making waves across America, it seems clear that it is time to reevaluate the use of force for law enforcement officials. I'm working with Delegate Charles Sydnor (Baltimore County) to require police in Maryland to use a "necessity rule" when resorting to violence. This would essentially mean that police are not permitted to use deadly force if non-deadly or less deadly options are available. The United States Department of Justice adopted such rules for federal agents, and it makes good sense for local law enforcement to follow suit. To be sure, the General Assemby will be looking at other police brutality reforms this session, but many of them are focused on what happens after a brutality incident happens, rather than looking at how to prevent such incidents from happening in the first place.
Trusting Voters to Choose Their Representatives - In Maryland, vacancies for U.S. Senate, Attorney General, and Comptroller are filled the Governor (rather than by the voters). But only in the case of U.S. Senators, the Governor's selected appointee is limited to a maximum of two years in office, and then we hold a special election. I would like to extend these special elections to Attorney General and Comptroller, so that we end the practice of politicians choosing statewide officials who should be elected by the voters. If this bill fails, I have a back-up bill that at least requires the Governor to choose these replacements from the same party as the outgoing elected official. Either of these options would be more democratic than our current practices.
Ending Mass Incarceration in Maryland - For decades politicians have been quick to put Maryland residents in cages for trivial, nonviolent offenses. This costs taxpayers thousands of dollars per offender and destroys communities. Additionally, a majority of our prison population is incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, and there are huge racial disparities in who we choose to target with our laws. I plan to spend the next few years eliminating jail penalties for minor "crimes" and replacing them with fines. There are dozens and dozens of these crimes on the books in Maryland, and every year I'll try to eliminate a few. Here are some of the bills I'll be working on to advance that vision this year:
- Decriminalizing "Street" Gambling - A few years ago Maryland legalized slot machines and table games in casinos. As a result, large corporations are making millions of dollars in our state. But at the same time, we continue to criminalize "street" gambling (eg: dice games) and give poorer residents criminal records over these trivial offenses. Additionally, these laws give police probable cause to stop and hassle residents, often leading to a snowball of negative consequences for their lives. I'm introducing legislation to replace jail penalties for these offenses with fines.
- Decriminalizing Hair-Cutting - Did you know that in Maryland being a barber or cosmetologist without a license is a jailable offense? Not only that, the state denies barbering and cosmetology licenses to residents with former criminal convictions, making it difficult for them to become productive members of society. I'm working with Delegates Erek Barron (Prince George's County) and Charles Sydnor (Baltimore County) to end these ridiculous policies. If successful, we hope to reform occupational licensing policies for additional professions.
- Rolling Back the Failed "War on Drugs" - In Maryland simple possession of drugs carries an insanely high maximum sentence of four years in prison (!!!). These penalties need to be replaced with a public health response to drug abuse. I'm introducing a bill to reduce the penalty to one year (which I still think is unreasonable), but this may be the best we can do given the ongoing hysteria from the failed War on Drugs.
- Ending Re-Jailing for Marijuana Possession - The Maryland legislature recently eliminated jail time as a penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana. But former offenders who have been released can still be re-jailed simply for marijuana possession. This may make them ineligible for job training programs and other services to help them re-enter society. I am introducing a pair of bills to close these loopholes in our marijuana decriminalization law, as this is a huge waste of resources with no evidence of effectiveness.
- Compassionate Release for Geriatric Inmates - Maryland has a law allowing for the release of elderly prisoners who no longer pose a threat to society. Unfortunately, under current law the Governor can veto any such requests, and even under Democratic administrations these requests have been systematically denied. Attempting to provide health services for geriatric inmates creates an enormous financial burden on taxpayers, for no current reason other than revenge. I'm introducing legislation to remove the Governor's veto power from these "medical parole" requests, so that we can decide whether to cage or release residents based on science and evidence, not politics.
- Reining in Solitary Confinement for Maryland Prisoners - In addition to the issue of mass incarceration, I'm going to be looking at the conditions of confinement this year. Following on the heels of a national movement to rein in the over-use of so-called "solitary confinement," I'll be working with Delegate Erek Barron (Prince George's County) to reduce the use of isolated cages in Maryland.
Securing Digital Privacy for Maryland Residents - In the era of mass surveillance, I'm introducing legislation requiring law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant to look at databases showing a history of where you've been. While we all want to ensure public safety, there is little reason that police cannot obtain a warrant to achieve these goals.
Promoting Organ & Marrow Donation in Maryland - Dozens upon dozens of residents await life-saving organ and blood marrow donations each year. This already difficult process should not be made even more difficult by financial concerns. I'm working with Delegate Clarence Lam (Howard County) to provide paid leave for employees who need to take time off to donate organs or bone marrow for residents in need of transplants.
Allowing Voters to Decide on Marijuana Legalization - Maryland politicians seem paralyzed about the idea of legalizing marijuana in our state, despite poll numbers indicating a growing majority of residents support the proposal. As a result, I'm introducing legislation that would call for the issue to be put to a referendum to allow the voters to decide.
Protecting Consumers from Outlandish Lawsuits - Consumers who post reviews to online websites like Yelp.com can face huge lawsuits from companies who insert fine print into agreements that ban users from saying anything negative about them. California recently banned these "non-disparagement" clauses, and I'm working with Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher (Montgomery County) to do the same in Maryland.
Free Birth Certificate Copies for Homeless Marylanders - Last year Maryland eliminated driver license and identification fees for homeless residents. This year I'm introducing legislation to extend this fee waiver to birth certificate copies, as these too are often needed for identification and employment purposes.
Banning Gun Sales to Potential Terrorists - Republican members of Congress recently voted down a proposal to prevent those on the terrorism watch list from purchasing guns. As a result, I'm working with Senators Jamie Raskin & Jim Rosapepe and Delegate Luke Clippinger on closing this loophole in Maryland.
Expanding Voting Rights for Montgomery County School Board Elections - For many decades, jurisdictions around the country had fluid and evolving views about who could vote in various elections. But in the last few years, policymakers have become stuck with the current voting qualifications and have not revisited the issue. I'm introducing legislation to allow Montgomery County to set its own voter qualification rules for school board races. After all, our county now has a majority-minority population, and nearly 1 in 3 students in public schools have at least one non-citizen parent who has no say in the electoral outcomes regarding their children's education.
These are just some of the legislative concepts I have in the works, but stay tuned as I update and refine my list as the legislative session gets underway!
SAVE THE DATE: DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY
TUESDAY, APRIL 26