Security, Hate Crimes and More at Maryland General Assembly

The 2019 Maryland General Assembly session ended last month, and thanks to the hard work of the Baltimore Jewish Council, the advocacy arm of The Associated, legislators passed a number of bills in support of the Baltimore Jewish community.

Front and center were new funding for security measures for Maryland’s houses of worship and the passage of hate crimes legislation.

Fueled by the recent surge in anti-Semitic and racist incidents–the hate crimes bill, which passed overwhelmingly by the Maryland General Assembly – expanded penalties to include individuals who threaten to commit a hate crime. Now all threats, such as the bomb threats called into the JCC two years ago, as well as e-mail threats and social media threats, will be punished.

“As jurisdictions across Maryland have experienced an increase in hate crimes, and the Jewish community has particularly felt that impact, it is critical that our laws keep up to punish and deter offenders. We thank Governor Hogan and the members of the General Assembly for approving this legislation that makes it clear it is unacceptable to threaten to commit a hate crime in our state,” said Howard Libit, BJC executive director.

The bipartisan bill was spearheaded by House Delegate Sandy Rosenberg of Baltimore City, Senator Ben Kramer of Montgomery County and Senator Bobby Zirkin of Baltimore County.

In addition to this legislation, the Assembly allocated more than $8 million for security to organizations who may be the target of a hate crime. This includes $3 million in new funding for houses of worship which can be used for both infrastructure and personnel.

One bill that did not come up for a vote was designed to make Holocaust education mandatory in public schools. Libit and the BJC plan to follow-up with state education officials and the state school board this year to address Holocaust curriculum additions.

Here are some of the highlights of what was accomplished to support the Jewish community.

Security Funding

  • $3 million in grants will be available for houses of worship who may be under threat of heat crimes. Grant money can be used for personnel or infrastructure.
  • $2 million in security funding for school and day care centers that are at risk for hate crimes, which doubles the amount in funding from this year.
  • $3.5 million for security for infrastructure for aging schools.

Other Capital and Operational Funding

  • Hillel at the University of Maryland, College Park received $1 million for its new Hillel at the University of Maryland, being built in downtown College Park, behind Frat Row. This is in addition to the $1 million previously allocated by the State.
  • Myerberg Senior Center received $75,000 for long-overdue maintenance needs.
  • Sinai/LifeBridge Health received $1 million for new ambulatory outpatient care building, in addition to $4 million previously allocated by state government; $1 million pre-authorized for FY2021.
  • Continued Level Funding to Associated Agencies and LifeBridge for health care, housing, Holocaust Survivors’ assistance, domestic abuse and other social service needs.
  • Tuition Assistance for families attending nonpublic schools was funded at $7.5 million through the BOOST program.

New Legislation

  • Aging in Place: The General Assembly approved a bill creating a new fund to make grants to nonprofit organizations and area agencies on aging to expand and establish aging-in-place programs for seniors.
  • Environmental Bills
    The General assembly passed to pieces of environmental legislation with the support of the BJC and the Pearlstone Center.
    • Polystyrene Ban: The General Assembly approved making Maryland the first state in the country to ban polystyrene foam food containers and cups.
    • Renewable Energy: The General Assembly approved a mandate that half of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by 2030.

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