Advocates Launch Campaign Calling for Special Session
Groups Detail Mobilization Efforts to Move Legislators to Respond to Pandemic; Crisis in Accessing Basic Human Needs; HBCU Settlement
August 12, 2020, Annapolis, MD – Over 80 advocacy groups, faith organizations, municipalities, and unions representing hundreds of thousands of Marylanders announced their campaign to pressure House Speaker Adrienne Jones, Senate President Bill Ferguson, and the rest of the Maryland General Assembly for a special session. Organizations, including Progressive Maryland, Our Revolution, Communities United, AFSCME Council 3, Maryland Center for Economic Policy, Public Justice Center, Jews United for Justice, CASA, will lead a concerted community mobilization campaign with rallies, marches, digital ads, and SMS text messaging.
At today’s press conference, advocacy organizations demanded that the General Assembly leadership immediately call a special session to address (1) emergency COVID protections for workers, renters, and homeowners; (2) Governor Hogan’s vetoes including a critical HBCU settlement; and (3) state revenue loss due to recent federal tax policy changes. The groups sent Maryland leadership a letter urging the special session two weeks ago.
“For several months, we have called on Governor Larry Hogan to take action on a variety of different pressing issues, and he has failed to act,” said Cathryn Paul, CASA policy analyst. “Over 13 other states have reconvened or plan to reconvene for a special session including our neighbor, Virginia. Their states have explored ample ways to reconvene and do so safely and urgently. Maryland residents facing unemployment and eviction because of the coronavirus pandemic just can’t wait until the next legislative session. Maryland delegates must protect the most vulnerable. Speaker Jones, President Ferguson, we need you.”
“There is an immediate and urgent need for the members of the Maryland General Assembly to pass common sense legislation to assist their constituents and working families across this state,” said Ricarra Jones, 1199 SEIU political director. “We consider the distinguished members of the Maryland General Assembly as essential workers; they are essential to our democracy; they are essential to the very people of the state that elected them. Since day one, Maryland essential employees have been showing up every single day and performing their duties. We are urging the members of the General Assembly to do the same, as essential workers. Show up for your constituents.”
“I have been a Giant food worker for 15 years. I’m just here to ask you [the Maryland General Assembly] to come and meet, because we are on the front lines, and a lot of things have changed but we have been doing our duties the same way,” said Christopher Harley, UFCW Local 400 member. “Metro for example has changed times, so we have been taking Ubers, taking Lyfts, to get to work, still at 6 o’clock in the morning to still open the stores, to still have the food on the tables for the community. A lot of our families aren’t working, so we are the only providers for the house, and we’re still there every day to do the job that we have signed up to do.”
“There is too much at stake right now to wait until January,” said Larry Stafford, Progressive Maryland executive director. “One of those things, that hits me near and dear, because I’m an HBCU graduate myself, is that I’m very worried about the fact that if we do not override the governor’s veto on the HBCU settlement, we stand to potentially lose out on $577 million dollars over the next 10 years for Maryland’s HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities]. We know that 76% or more of Marylanders support the General Assembly getting back to work and helping Marylanders get through this crisis. We are at the crossroads of a historic moment and the actions or inactions of our state representatives will be remembered. The true measure of a leader is revealed in what they do during a time of crisis.”
“More than half of the governor’s rental assistance allocation isn’t ready for localities to use at the moment. The General Assembly’s leadership is sorely needed right now,” said Zafar Shah, housing attorney with the Public Justice Center. “It is projected right now that 40% of Maryland renter households are unable to pay rent or uncertain that they will be able to. That is 274,000 households, and we know that the Black and brown households among those will be disproportionately impacted. We need our elected representatives in the General Assembly to convene and meet this crisis head on. Waiting until January may very well be too late for those households.”
“Since March, with the pandemic, I have been unemployed: These have been difficult days because we have not had the money needed to pay the rent,” said CASA Member Yeny Clem, a single mother of three children. “I have applied for the city assistance program for a month and I am still struggling to access it, meanwhile my landlord has already sent me a letter saying that I had until August 24 to pay the rent. If I don’t they will change the locks on my house and I will be evicted. I am worried because I do not have money and my family and I depend on this assistance program to have a roof over our heads. We need the Maryland delegates to gather in a special session and create laws that prevent evictions from taking place, because Governor Larry Hogan has abandoned us. We urgently need the support of our legislators to ensure that no one gets evicted. Leaving us on the street in the middle of the pandemic is inhumane.”
“Without a special session this state is tied to the budget decisions made by the Board of Public Works which can only cut from certain parts of the budget. And even worse, Maryland stands to lose $300 million in revenue because of corporate and business tax giveaways passed through the CARES Act,” said Nikki Thompson, Maryland Center for Economic Policy campaign manager. “Only a special session can address these retroactive tax measures by decoupling from these tax incentives. So while Maryland families are scraping together every penny they have to make ends meet, our state seems to believe that we can leave $300 million on the table and we simply cannot.”
“We need a special session to address the urgent needs including safety and healthcare concerns that we have for our members and community at large,” said Patrick Moran of AFSCME Council 3. “We call on the governor to immediately convene a special session because we can’t afford to see more of our members get sick and die. Tens of thousands of AFSCME members have worked throughout the pandemic, with over 600 contracting the virus. Worse yet, we lost two members due to their exposure at work. The legislature needs to increase our revenues and protections so that our members can continue to work throughout this time. Our members are providing incredible services such as food stamps, foster care, mental health services that have to continue whether there is a pandemic or not. They continue to show up facing the pandemic and the consequences because of it.”
“Thank you to each of the people who offer their voice of support for justice in this moment. We call on Governor Larry Hogan, Speaker Adrienne Jones, and President Bill Ferguson to recognize that this is not a political moment: this is a moral moment, a moment that requires leadership,” said Reverend Kobi Little. “The people who have entrusted you to lead: we pray that you hear them. And that you exhibit the courage and compassion and creativity to solve the problems of this day. We need you to be instruments of hope, help, and healing. It is not enough to be silent: silence is complicity. It is not enough to point the finger at other leaders. We need you to lean in now and lead.”
With over 100,000 members across the states of Maryland, Virginia, and South Central Pennsylvania, CASA is the largest member-based Latino and immigrant organization in the mid-Atlantic region. Visit us at www.wearecasa.org and follow us on Twitter at @CASAforall
The Maryland Center on Economic Policy advances innovative policy ideas to foster broad prosperity and help our state be the standard-bearer for responsible public policy. We promote robust debate and greater public awareness of the policy choices Maryland residents face together. Visit us at mdeconomy.org or follow us on Twitter or Facebook @mdeconomy
Our Revolution Maryland is celebrating its fourth anniversary as a leading political organization in Maryland. We are reclaiming democracy for working people and harnessing the transformative energy of a “political revolution” by supporting a new generation of progressive leaders, empowering millions to fight for progressive change and elevating the political consciousness. www.ourrevolutionmd.com
With over 450,000 caregivers, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in the nation. The 1199SEIU Maryland/DC Division represents over 10,000 members who work in major academic medical centers, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and community-based organizations throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Progressive Maryland is a statewide nonprofit advocacy organization promoting social, economic, and racial justice. With over 120,000 individual members, supporters, and organizational affiliates statewide, we are leading the fight for progressive change in Maryland through grassroots organizing, public education, and legislative advocacy. Visit us at progressivemaryland.org and follow us on Twitter at @Progressive_MD.
Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) organizes more than 12,000 Jews and allies across Maryland and the District of Columbia in support of local campaigns for social, racial, and economic justice. jufj.org
AFSCME Council 3 is the largest and fastest growing public employees union in Maryland. Council 3 represents 30,000 state, university and private employees working in every jurisdiction of the state. AFSCME members work in the trades, transportation, healthcare, academia, public safety, human services, and a variety of other industries.