The Maryland General Assembly begins on Wednesday, Jan. 9. That’s the 90-day period when our state representatives from Allegheny to Worcester counties, and, of course, Baltimore County and City, gather to dialogue about important issues for the state’s residents. Of course, they also pass the next year’s budget.
The Baltimore Jewish Council is ready for the 2013 session.
Among some of the items on its radar are funding for an expansion of the University of Maryland’s Hillel Center for Social Justice, the Sinai Hospital Medical Home Extender Program and the Domestic Violence Prevention Program (DOVE) at Northwest Hospital.
Despite a cramped and outdated building, the number of students served by the Hillel Center has
increased by 150 percent in the last decade. BJC, working with Federation of Greater Washington, with the support of the University of Maryland, will be asking Gov. Martin O’Malley to request $1 million per year in the state’s capital budget for fiscal years (FY) 14 and 15 for construction and renovation.
Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore City), vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee said, “It
will enhance Jewish life on the campus, and that is an important public policy goal.”
Rosenberg has met with O’Malley to show his support. He noted that “it’s an integral part of the campus environment.”
BJC will be asking for state support of the Sinai Hospital Medical Home Extender Program in the amount of $250,000 per year for FY14 and 15, and $75,000 per year for the next two fiscal years for the Elder Abuse Center.
BJC will also request $225,000 for FY14 for the new Supportive Community Network.
“This will go to help senior citizens in Northwest Baltimore to develop a grassroots mutual support network to help seniors age in place.” said Lane Levine, a Baltimore native and community network director for CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. “This means [seniors] can live and remain in their home communities as opposed to being compelled to move into assisted living facilities or to leave the city to live with another caregiver.”
The Maryland-Israel Development Center, a non-profit economic development organization, is on BJC’s agenda. This partnership between The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of
Baltimore, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and the Israeli Ministry of Trade will be seeking $275,000 for FY14.
BJC will also work to maintain funding levels for other statewide programs such as Jewish Community Services, the Jewish Museum of Maryland and CHAI.
Because the Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers (BOAST) Act failed last year, the BJC is seeking a different means to secure funding for non-public schools. This year, the BJC will ask the government to put more money in the budget for ancillary services in private and parochial schools.
BJC will also attempt to again secure a passage for a newer version of the BOAST bill, which Rosenberg said is “an appropriate way to assist charitable contributions to both religious schools as well as public schools.”
This is actually the eighth year this bill will be introduced in some form, according to Cailey Locklair, BJC director of government relations. “It was renamed last year and re-introduced with changes to make it more palatable.”
Following events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gun control will factor in to the BJC’s 2013 agenda. Dr. Art Abramson, BJC executive director, told the JT that the BJC’s primary focus will be reinstitution of an assault weapons ban.
Locklair, approaching her second session with BJC and seventh working professionally on state legislative issues, said this will be one of the first sessions in a while in which she does not anticipate any huge or overwhelming issues looming, “other than the fiscal cliff, of course,” she noted.
“We don’t have the budget problems in terms of either cutting service or increasing taxes that we’ve had in the recent past,” he said. “The fiscal outlook has improved, so there won’t be that focus on balancing the budget. We will have one, and we won’t do it with gimmicks because we’ll preserve our AAA rating from Wall Street.”