Maryland Nonprofits’ 2015 Legislative Priorities
By Heather Iliff, President & CEO, Maryland Nonprofits
Maryland Nonprofits hosted a Legislative Preview on January 12, 2015 that brought together 100 nonprofit leaders from across the state. Each week, we will include a recap from the Preview…
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Henry Bogdan, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy of Maryland Nonprofits, outlined the organization’s legislative priorities as follows:
•Adequately funding state programs and services and raising the revenues necessary to accomplish that goal. Maryland Nonprofits support efforts to make state programs as efficient and cost effective as practical, but there must also be a commitment to meet the needs of the people and communities these programs were established to serve. While some state programs have become inefficient or ineffective, many are also underfunded and inadequate. Raising adequate revenues would not require an unreasonable level of taxation. Objective data continue to demonstrate that Maryland is not ‘over-taxed’, dedicates a smaller proportion of its economic capacity to government services than most states do, and ranks among the lowest states in the percentage of the total tax burden paid by the business sector. While improvements can and must be made throughout government, no amount of re-organization can overcome years of financial cutbacks and underinvestment.
•Reforming state procurement of health, education and social services. At the urging of Maryland Nonprofits, a State Council has been created with stakeholder representatives to direct and monitor the implementation of reforms already identified by a state task force. Outdated and inefficient processes and requirements consume unnecessary time and effort of state agency staff and private, usually nonprofit service providers, at the expense of timely and effective services to the public. It is critical that the leadership of state agencies involved be committed to moving this process forward – and Maryland Nonprofits will work to reinforce the Council’s efforts.
•Enacting legislation to prevent discrimination in rental housing based on the ‘source of income’ of prospective tenants. There is a significant shortage of safe, affordable housing for lower income Marylanders. Qualified families or individuals fortunate enough to participate in the limited rental assistance programs face a further hardship when landlords, development owners or operators refuse to accept rental payments from government or private programs. Maryland Nonprofits will support the work of the broad “HOME Act” coalition in both state and local strategies to eliminate this practice.
•Improving the state’s registration and oversight of charities and fundraisers to better inform and protect the giving public. Legislation enacted in 2014 with Maryland Nonprofits support strengthened the powers of Maryland’s charity regulators (the Secretary of State and the Attorney General), and provided increased fee revenue from charities and fundraisers. The legislation also launched a collaborative effort of stakeholders and regulators to replace the backlogged and ineffective registration and enforcement with a new system that would reduce the reporting burdens on the state’s charitable community while also providing more useful information to the public when making decisions on charitable giving. This collaboration will need continued support and attention from state officials, the charitable community and the legislature.
•Promoting the development of Maryland’s Genuine Progress Indicator and other metrics as true measures of policy effectiveness and accountability. Maryland’s Genuine Progress Indicators (“GPI”) track data on a variety of economic, environmental and social factors. By calculating the composite values and costs of these elements, GPI establishes what is, in essence, an economic measure of the quality of life in Maryland. This project, as well as the better known ‘StateStat’ have the ability to provide policy-makers and the public invaluable measures of the effectiveness and impact of public policy choices. These metrics should continue to be produced and enhanced in collaboration with public and private stakeholders, so that they help guide future decision-making and give the public more realistic measures of the impact and effectiveness of government policy on their lives.
In addition to pursuing the Priorities above, Bogdan noted that Maryland Nonprofits will continue to advocate for public policies and decisions that are consistent with our Statement of Public Policy Principles and our public service mission, including:
•Improving voter access and participation.
•Campaign finance reform and proposals for public financing.
•Improving government transparency and access to public information.
•Efforts to assure adequate funding adjustments for providers to deal with the impact of the recently approved increase in the state minimum wage.
Join us for the Quality of Life Summit March 24th at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, MD.
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