By Cailey Locklair
Director of Government Relations
Baltimore Jewish Council
We are off to a running start this year as the 2014 Maryland legislative session has begun. In his final year as Governor, Martin O’Malley has generously provided funding to the greater Baltimore Jewish community for many of The Associated’s programs and agencies that support our shared vision of a better Maryland. In total, over his eight years as Governor, he has provided close to $25 million in direct funding to the entire Jewish community of Maryland. His support for our community’s work in helping to repair the world is unmatched.
This year, the Governor included the following items in his capital and operating budget: Capital Budget (infrastructure) funding for the Hillel Center for Social Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park and updating Sinai hospital’s power and climate control systems. In the operating budget (programs that fall under state agencies), the Governor included funding for non-public schools, the Medical Home Extender Program, The Maryland Israel Development Center (MIDC), hospital-based domestic violence programs, aging in place programs for seniors, funding for the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the state’s first Elder Abuse Center.
The Hillel building, located at the University of Maryland College Park, provides a center for students of all faiths, cultures and ethnicities to engage in social justice, dialogue and leadership development and is in its second and final year of funding. This year’s new capital project at Sinai hospital will provide the system with much needed power upgrades and will provide the hospital with the state’s first hospital-based uninterrupted power supply system. When power surges or outages occur, areas of the hospital such as the neonatal intensive care unit and operating rooms will be free from power interruptions. Funding will additionally provide Levindale with climate control upgrades.
Operating items included level funding for non-public schools ($5.1 million in increases last year) and the Medical Home Extender Program, which created additional primary care resources for the uninsured and underinsured residents in our community. Our Elder Abuse Center is in its second year of funding and is the first of its kind in Maryland. It helps address the growing problem of elder abuse, victims of which cannot be treated by traditional programs.
The Governor also provided increases to the MIDC and the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Finally, funding was also included for our Supportive Community Network and the Domestic Violence Programs. For more information on these programs, please visit bjc.org.
This year, the BJC has also been advocating for multiple policy issues. At the forefront: ensuring state dollars are not being used to support anti-Semitic boycotts and divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. We also want to increase the availability of kosher wines. Many policy issues will also be at the top of our agenda including minimum wage increases and monitoring storm water management legislation.
Nationally, the BDS movement has been targeting professional and academic organizations to support anti-Israel resolutions. As Delegate Ben Kramer pointed out recently in a meeting, “to single out from all the world’s nations the only democracy in the Middle East and the only Jewish state in the world, are blatant reflections of the most ancient and chronic racism– anti-Semitism.” Legislation is currently being drafted to ensure taxpayer dollars are not paying for membership, travel or lodging to organizations that issue such resolutions.
Finally, we are again working with Delegate Sam Arora to carve out a religious exemption to ship kosher wine while respecting the state’s intricate “three-tiered” system. Additionally, this year, Senator Bobby Zirkin has agreed to cross-file the bill in the Senate. Current law does not allow an individual to order wine online as from kosherwine.com or from out of state retailers. In Maryland, there is, unfortunately, a limited selection of kosher wine available. We believe that consumers seeking wine to support their faith should have access to the wines they seek.
The BJC Government Relations team is meeting with as many members as possible to secure funding and discuss our policy issues. The legislature has the power to cut from the budget and table legislation, so your involvement is critical. The two ways you can help include attending our legislative advocacy day on February 5 and by reaching out to your elected officials to let them know how important these programs and policies are to our community.