Community Update 7: Our Advocacy in Annapolis

From the Desk of Ralph Grunewald, Executive Director

Each year on Maryland Jewish Advocacy Day, Jewish leaders from across the state spend a day in Annapolis meeting with their state representatives. They are there to advocate or oppose bills introduced in the Senate and House of Delegates that are of concern to the Jewish community.
This year, for the first time, our Federation’s new Jewish Community Relations Council of Howard County was going to join its two sister JCRC agencies, the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, at the annual event on February 20. Howard County’s JCRC includes representatives from every local congregation, as well as at-large members with experience in several policy areas, and the JCRC was looking forward to attending. Unfortunately, it snowed heavily that day, and the event was cancelled. 
This was a disappointment to the significant delegation of Howard County Jewish leaders. While I had expected to use this Community Update to report on the day’s highlights, allow me to share with you the bills we had been planning to discuss. 
This legislative session in Annapolis (from January 9 to April 8), an estimated 4,000 bills will be introduced. Some bills that have received media attention include one to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, one to ban Styrofoam, and at least 18 bills regarding medical marijuana. Others protect oysters, promote electric school buses, or advocate adding the letter “X” on driver’s licenses in addition to the current “M” and “F.”
So how does the Jewish community identify the key bills it wishes to support (or oppose) in Annapolis? The local JCRC agencies in Maryland work both within their own communities and with each other to determine what issues are most important. Sometimes the BJC or the JCRC of Greater Washington advocate independently for bills that are specific to Montgomery County or Baltimore.
In Howard County, the JCRC has not yet advocated for issues that are specific to our county only. However, the JCRC has determined several broader issues that they support. Click here to visit the Jewish Community Relations Council of Howard County’s web page, which lists its members and priority issues.
The cancellation of Maryland Jewish Advocacy Day does not mean that we cease to support certain pieces of legislation. Here are the bills – along with links for further details – that your JCRC and the other Maryland Jewish advocacy organizations support during this 2019 legislative session:
• Strengthening hate crimes laws with the Hate Crimes Civil Remedy Bill and the Hate Crimes Threats and Penalties Bill
• Requiring Holocaust education in middle and high schools in Maryland with the Education - Curriculum - Holocaust and Genocide Unit Bill
• Supporting Governor Hogan’s FY 2020 Budget Allocations of $5 million for increased security measures at schools and child care centers at-risk of hate crimes ($2 million) and places of worship ($3 million)
• Promoting aging-in-place programs through funding of Non-Profits for our Aging Neighborhoods (NANA) 
• Support several provisions of the Capital Budget that includes $1 million for the Hillel Student Center at College Park, and other communal priorities
• Protecting Domestic violence victims with the Protective Orders – Relief Eligibility – Rape and Sexual Offenses Bill
Our representatives in Annapolis need to hear from you. The JCRC of Howard County encourages community members to send messages to their senators and delegates to let them know we support these bills. The JCRC of Greater Washington has made it easy to send a message to your legislators, along with a prepared message. Simply click here to access that site. While you will notice a few Montgomery-county specific issues in that prepared message, you may edit it if necessary.
The important work we do through our JCRC of Howard County is made possible by an exceptional group of dedicated volunteers, as well as support provided by the Jewish Federation of Howard County. This is yet another manifestation of how your support of the Federation enables us to build a strong Jewish community locally. Thank you for your continued support.