The Maryland Black Caucus, the largest legislative Black caucus in the country, unveiled a suite of measures on Jan. 18.
The Maryland Black Caucus, the largest legislative Black caucus in the country, unveiled measures Jan. 18 seeking to prioritize healthcare, housing access, business opportunities for minorities, and criminal justice and education reform, the Associated Press reports.
According to Jheanelle Wilkins, Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus’ chair, the package’s healthcare portion is aimed at solving health inequality.
“Our agenda seeks to address health disparities and maternal health and cancer that plague our communities and lead to high mortality rates,” Wilkins said at a news conference announcing the package. “We will seek to increase access to housing and create a more stable environment for renters and Marylanders.”
Part of the healthcare portion of the legislative body’s proposal deals with creating a more streamlined process for medical forms for pregnant women once they leave the hospital, as well as getting patients into contact with community-based services that cater to their needs.
Additionally, the legislators support the expansion of Maryland’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board’s authority to limit how much people pay for prescription drugs. They also would like increased awareness of the availability of screenings for cancer.
The Caucus is backing an expansion of the practice of criminal record expungement laws. Though the state has made some progress as far as expungement laws go, advocates for the bill say that there are quite a few misdemeanors—for example, driving without a license or without insurance—that are ineligible for expungement. They also want an office created that will allow for the incarcerated to express the conditions they live in.
The Caucus is also seeking greater protection for those who rent in Maryland, supporting two bills that protect tenants. One bill seeks to require a landlord to provide just cause in order to deny a renewal of a lease and establish clear protections for tenants from an eviction process. Another bill seeks to prohibit landlords from looking at the criminal history of an applicant three years post-release.
The Caucus plans to invest in minority businesses by increasing important contracting opportunities for minority businesses and by creating an interactive dashboard for Maryland’s Board of Public Works, which is responsible for approving many of the state’s contracts. Taken together, these reforms represent the Caucus’s focus on increasing the transparency of the state contract-awarding process while increasing opportunities for minority-owned businesses.
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Source: Black Enterprise