Jones Introducing Package of Bills to Reduce Health and Financial Disparities in Communities of Color

Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) unveiled a package of bills Tuesday aimed at minimizing race-based socio-economic and health disparities.

“Our country had a moment of reckoning this summer when thousands of protesters, in every state, demanded that we address the racial inequality that continues to exist,” Jones said in a statement. “As the first Black speaker in Maryland history, I cannot waste this moment.” 

According to a news release, Jones’ Racial and Economic Justice Agenda is the first comprehensive legislative package of its kind and was crafted in partnership with dozens of federal, state and local leaders to address systemic racism in housing, banking, corporate management, health, government and business.

“It is exciting to see such a comprehensive legislative agenda addressing the need for policies to ensure economic empowerment and environmental justice for Black and Brown communities in Maryland” said Dr. Sherita Hill Golden, vice president and chief diversity officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “In order to achieve health equity, it is crucial for all of our citizens to have access to healthy and affordable food and housing, parks and green spaces for exercise, and economic opportunities that enhance access to healthcare.”

The package outlines 30 policy recommendations and a series of bills, including:

  • Legislation sponsored by Del. Pamela E. Queen (D-Montgomery) to stop credit and loan applicants from being denied if they can produce alternative forms of credit worthiness;
  • A bill sponsored by Del. Benjamin T. Brooks Sr. (D-Baltimore County) to help first-time homebuyers afford down payments by creating tax-free savings accounts;
  • A bill sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair Alonzo T. Washingotn (D-Prince Geroge’s) that would deploy a Certified Business Enterprise program to increase the ability of minority-owned businesses to compete for state contract bids;
  • Legislation sponsored by Del. CT Wilson (D-Charles) poised to provide more resources for minority-owned businesses and alter the state’s procurement process;
  • A bill sponsored by Del. Darryl D. Barnes (D-Prince George’s), the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, that would give minority business owners more opportunities by directing $10 million to the TEDCO Builder’s Fund;
  • Legislation co-sponsored by Dels. Erek L. Barron (D-Prince George’s) and Jazz M. Lewis (D-Prince George’s) to set up Health Equity Resource Communities; and
  • A bill sponsored by Health and Government Operations Vice Chair Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk that would declare racism a public health crisis and require medical professionals to undergo bias training during their licensing process.

Jones will also introduce legislation that would require companies receiving a minimum of $1 million in state capital to prove racial diversity is present on its board and in its mission, require all companies that have business contracts with the state to demonstrate racial diversity on their board by 2023 and create an equity scorecard to document corporations’ spending with minority businesses.

The package will be introduced soon.

Jones unveiled the outline of her package on the same day that the House Appropriations Committee held a brief hearing on her other top priority for this legislative session, directing an extra $577 million over the next decade to the state’s historically Black colleges and universities. A similar measure passed through the General Assembly last year but was vetoed by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).

“Justice and equity reaches further than police reform,”  Jones said. “We have to create better access and more pathways to economic opportunities. We must get it right.”

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Hannah Gaskill
Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.