Policy Positions and Resolutions

 

Baltimore Jewish Council policy is developed through an open, inclusive, representative and consensus-driven process. The Baltimore Jewish Council’s policy positions and resolutions guide our advocacy at all levels of government. These positions and resolutions represent a consensus of the organized Greater Baltimore Jewish community.

 

ABORTION

The Baltimore Jewish Council’s position in support of reproductive freedom is clear: “The Baltimore Jewish Council opposes government interference with the decision of a woman, in voluntary consultation with her family, her doctor, or her clergy, to determine all aspects of her reproductive life.” Jewish law is also clear that when the life of the mother is at stake, Jewish law not only permits, but also actually compels, the mother to abort the fetus to save her own life. This policy was approved by the Delegate Assembly on October 14, 1985.

 

Furthermore, the Baltimore Jewish Council “opposes all attempts to restrict the funding of Medicaid abortions.” This policy was adopted on March 13, 1980.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

The Baltimore Jewish Council adopted the policy of the National Jewish Community Relations Council (NJCRAC) on affirmative action. At this time, the BJC supported affirmative action in compensatory education, job training, recruitment, reviews of job and admissions requirements, as well as the basing of merit and qualifications on cultural, social, and economic backgrounds and not just test scores; it opposed quotas. This policy was approved on January 11, 1996. The Metropolitan Issues Committee drafted another statement to support affirmative action, which was then approved by the BJC Board (Addendum I).

 

This statement also supported affirmative action, placing greater emphasis on supporting education and job counseling, while continuing opposition towards quotas. This policy was adopted on November 4, 1998.

 

Addendum I

 

Resolution On Race, Affirmative Action And Higher Education

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors November 4, 1998

 

The American Jewish community is deeply committed to the principle of a just society, a concept that is at the very core of Jewish tradition. This tradition also encourages us to seek a society in which diverse groups and individuals can live in harmony while respecting each others’ beliefs, lifestyles and ethnic identities. Only in such a society can our security and the well-being of others be assured. In turn, we believe that it is the responsibility of public officials to provide equal educational opportunities for an increasingly diverse student population.

 

It is within this context, therefore, that the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) reaffirms its support of affirmative action programs , most notably in the form of compensatory education and job counseling, intensive recruitment of members of disadvantaged groups, ongoing emphasis on bias-free admissions and employment requirements, and racial preferences designed to achieve diversity and inclusion as permitted by law.

 

We recognize the need for numerical data and statistical procedures to measure and help assure the effectiveness of affirmative action programs. Nevertheless, the BJC remains opposed to quotas, which, we believe, are inconsistent with the principle of nondiscrimination as a goal of equal opportunity.

 

Finally, in light of the divisiveness of this issue, we support efforts by state and local officials to come to terms with the goals stated above.

AIDS

The Baltimore Jewish Council supports education and prevention programs that would help to reduce HIV infection.

ASSISTED SUICIDE

The Baltimore Jewish Council voted to oppose assisted suicide because Jewish Law expressly forbids it.

 

This policy was approved on February 26, 1997. The Executive Committee reaffirmed this position in the spring of 2015.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM

The Baltimore Jewish Council approved a resolution on statewide campaign finance reform that includes, among other things, support for voluntary funding for state legislative candidates, qualifying contributions and soft money limits (Addendum II).

 

The resolution was adopted on September 28, 1999.

 

Addendum II

 

Resolution On Statewide Campaign Finance Reform

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors September 28, 1999

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council has long believed that honest and efficient government is vital to the health of a free society. We join with many others in expressing our concern over the increasing threat that unrestrained political fundraising is posing to the legitimacy of our public institutions – both in appearance and fact.

 

We recognize that campaign funding is a component of free speech. However, we believe that the best way to allow candidates to meet their funding needs while still allowing constitutionally-protected political speech is to institute a system of voluntary public campaign financing. We therefore call on the state of Maryland to create a "clean money campaign reform" system that includes the following elements:

 

  • Voluntary public funding for state legislative candidates. Candidates for the state legislature would have access to public funds in their primary and general election campaigns in sufficient quantities to make them competitive with privately funded candidates.
  • Qualifying contributions. So as to ensure that only serious candidates would have access to taxpayer-provided campaign funds, candidates would have to raise a minimum number of contributions in their legislative district.
  • Limited private or political transfer contributions. Once a candidate accepts public money, he or she may only raise a limited amount of private contributions, up to a specific spending limit.
  • Limited matching money. Those publicly-financed candidates who are significantly outspent by an opponent would be eligible to receive supplemental funds up to a predetermined cap.
  • "Soft money" limits. Some reasonable limits would be placed on unregulated “soft money” contributions to political action committees.

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council believes that this proposal holds the potential to insulate politicians from the corrupting influence of those political contributors whose concerns are not those of the public as a whole. We call on the state legislature to implement this program, and restore public trust in the political process upon which we all depend for a safe and thriving democracy.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Addendum III

 

As a Jewish organization, devoted to pursuing the values of equality and social justice, the Baltimore Jewish Council has serious concerns about the imposition of the death penalty.

 

The Rabbis, through antiquity, have urged extreme caution in the prosecution of capital cases – an admonition we take seriously. Under Jewish law, the death penalty was not to be inflicted because of hatred for the offender, but was to educate people about the severity of the offenses and deter future offenses. Furthermore, it was to be imposed only after satisfying stringent requirements in order to protect the life of the innocent, a paramount value in Judaism. For instance, Talmudic law warns that culpability must be established beyond the shadow of a doubt [Makkot 7b] and that even the most convincing circumstantial evidence is not enough to allow the death penalty [Sanh. 37b]. Additionally it rejects the testimony of any witness with a material interest in the case, such as the exchange of a lesser sentence for their testimony [Sanh. 21 23b] and insists that to administer a death penalty there must have been a clear warning immediately before the assault in order to assure that the perpetrator was fully aware of his actions [Sanh. 80b, 40b]. The take away is clear. As long as there is any uncertainty, capital punishment is not appropriate.

 

These requirements were to apply only to Jewish societies governed by Jewish law, and we do not propose that they be applied literally to a secular criminal justice system in modern times. However, the values inherent in them are sensible guideposts to the question of capital punishment today.

 

Governor Martin O’Malley acknowledged some of these most basic concerns about capital punishment as performed in the state of Maryland – that there may be risk of executing the innocent in error, and concerns of racial and jurisdictional inequities – and the General Assembly thereupon established the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment and tasked it to study all aspects of the issue.

 

The State of Maryland moved admirably in response to the report with the passage in 2009 of the current language in Maryland statute 2-202, limiting capital punishment to cases with direct DNA evidence and video record of the event or the confession, rather than relying on inherently fallible eyewitness evidence. We applaud the State for instituting these important safeguards.

 

We have deep regard for the families of the victims of heinous crimes and the need to see justice done in the name of their loved ones. We trust that they can be comforted in their loss and achieve the closure they need, secure in the knowledge that the State of Maryland strives to be meticulous in the application of justice.

 

Judaism values life so highly, we insist on a criminal justice system that practices the utmost caution in carrying out the ultimate penalty.

 

This position was approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors on November 8, 2012.

CHILDREN

The Maryland Can Do Better for Children Campaign of Advocates for Children and Youth was endorsed by the Board. Maryland has one of the largest gaps between wealth and child well-being in America and the campaign offers specific solutions to this longstanding problem.

 

This position was adopted on September 11, 2008.

Child Abuse and Neglect

The Baltimore Jewish Council recognizes that child abuse and neglect exists not only in society-at-large, but in the Jewish community as well. Silence on this issue is intolerable.

 

We believe that the protection of our children must be one of our community’s highest priorities. We strongly believe that prevention, early identification and treatment are extremely important and should be the focus of our efforts on this topic. We encourage the judicial and legislative systems, government and social services agencies at all levels of government, as well as educational institutions and synagogues to continue to develop programs to prevent abuse, identify victims and support children and adolescents with regard to this issue.

 

Abusers thrive in an environment where discussion of this topic is silenced and reporting and punishment are discouraged. That must not be allowed to happen. We must develop the righteous indignation to fully protect our children by sending a clear message that those who molest or abuse children will be reported to the authorities, arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

 

When abuse and neglect affect children who are unable to protect or remove themselves from harm, the need for immediate intervention outweighs concerns about community and family preservation. Child abuse reporting laws have proven, since their widespread adoption in the 1980’s and 1990’s, to be of tremendous value in protecting children from harm. Maryland’s reporting laws should be both strengthened and more clearly defined, and penalties should be enacted for professionals who fail to report as required. As we have stated previously, in the Baltimore Jewish Council’s Domestic Violence Policy first approved in 1994, we support legislation that would limit the current broad exemption on reporting child abuse – sexual or otherwise – by members of the clergy, except in the narrowest circumstances when religious law requires confidentiality during penitential spiritual counseling. For those who commit sexual crimes against children, or protect those who do, there must be no sanctuary.

 

As a community, we must provide the support necessary for those families which are torn apart by abuse, rather than shun and castigate those who report. Because of the shame and fear experienced by children and adolescence that have been traumatized, prompt disclosure must be the responsibility of the adult not the children. The cycle of witness intimidation of those who report abuse must end now and our community must cooperate with legal authorities when they become involved. We encourage our own Jewish institutions to support the families and children who have been abused and to stand up against abuse and those who discourage reporting. We must raise the community’s awareness level by asking our Jewish leaders to write and speak out against abuse and neglect in a forthright and unequivocal manner.

 

We must teach our parents and educators how to speak to their children about personal privacy, how to listen and provide support when allegation arises and how to recognize the common behavioral signs and symptoms of abuse in children and adolescents even when verbal disclosure has not been made. This can easily be done in a modest, confidential and appropriate manner for all within our Jewish community.

 

This issue is everyone’s issue: the family, the school, the community at large and the Jewish community. Abusers are far more likely to be family members or neighbors, rather than educators or clergy. This is not to say that schools, synagogues, camps, and youth serving organizations should not address this matter; rather to note that simply dealing with it in the limited scope of school will not eradicate the scourge of abuse.

 

We believe that policies which provide and support funding for early identification, prevention and treatment are the best utilization of resources to address this issue.

 

There is no more sacred obligation than protecting the children entrusted to our care.

 

This position was approved on November 13, 2008.

Child Care

The federal Act for Better Child Care Services of 1987 was endorsed by the Government Relations Committee and approved by the Board. The Act includes the provision of additional resources for childcare for all children and families who need such care and for financial assistance to families who need child care support.

 

This legislative policy was approved on November 22, 1987.

Child Support Enforcement

The Baltimore Jewish Council supports the revocation of professional and/or drivers’ licenses of nonpaying parents of child support.

 

The position was adopted on March 2, 1995.

DECEPTIVE PROSELYTIZING

Policy Statement on Deceptive Proselytizing Approved by the Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors January 30, 2014.

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council is open and inclusive of all branches of Judaism. However, Jewish people who accept Jesus as their savior, calling themselves “Messianic Jews” or “Hebrew Christians” actually have adopted a religion that is not Judaism, and have removed themselves from the Jewish community.

 

For centuries, attempts have been made to convert the Jewish people to Christianity, and the Jewish community has always resisted these attempts. In that vein, it is disconcerting that these “Messianic Jews” or “Hebrew Christians” have created a false and misleading setting that purports to allow Jews to retain their Jewish identity while at the same time embracing Jesus. That simply is not truthful, and is disrespectful of Judaism and the proud heritage of the Jewish people.

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council condemns these tactics and views these misrepresentations as objectionable and socially unacceptable.

DOMESTIC ABUSE

The effort to address the problem of domestic abuse remains a profound challenge for the organized Jewish community, as well as for our many coalition partners. We encourage the courts, law-enforcement agencies, legislatures and social service agencies, to develop strategies, which are sensitive to our community’s concerns, to combat domestic violence and to protect all victims of domestic abuse. In our own community, we pledge to work with CHANA and other interested organizations such as Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Jewish Women International, as well as our coalition partners in other faiths, for more education, outreach and advocacy to combat domestic abuse in all its forms. (Addendum IV)

 

Addendum IV

 

Resolution on Domestic Abuse

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors

 

November 11, 2004

 

"Domestic abuse in the Jewish community has no boundaries; it affects all types of relationships, all socio-economic classes, all ages and all spectrums of religious and cultural life. The range of identified behaviors of abuse is broad and includes sexual, verbal, psychological, physical, and financial abuse."

 

- Findings of “A Portrait of Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community: Key Findings of the National and Chicagoland Needs Assessments, Jewish Women International, May 2004

 

The effort to address the problem of domestic abuse remains a profound challenge for the organized Jewish community, as well as for our many coalition partners. Jewish law and tradition generally place a high value on family preservation. However, we are concerned that this value sometimes has given rise to silence, denial and shame within our community, which have proven to be serious obstacles to increasing awareness and knowledge of the issue, and treatment and counseling for those in need of it. We support the work of agencies such as CHANA (Counseling, Helpline & Aid Network for Abused Women) both to provide services to victims of abuse and to educate the broader Jewish community about the extent of the problem in our midst.

 

We are also aware of the role that domestic violence plays in the lives of women trying to move from poverty to self-sufficiency. We encourage the courts, law-enforcement agencies, legislatures and social service agencies, to develop strategies, which are sensitive to our community’s concerns, to combat domestic violence and to protect all victims of domestic abuse.

 

We call for government policies and funding that support referrals to counseling and supportive services – and an option to provide transitional assistance to battered immigrant women and children who are fleeing domestic violence.

 

We encourage law enforcement agencies to prosecute perpetrators of violence. However, we recognize that there are circumstances when requiring victims to testify would be against their best interests, and the mere existence of compelled spousal testimony laws can discourage some victims from reporting their abuse in the first place in order to begin the process of removing themselves from harm. In such cases when the need to prosecute perpetrators of violent crime conflicts with the health and safety needs of victims, we side with the victims. Therefore we would oppose any effort to change the current law regarding compelled spousal testimony.

 

When abuse and neglect affect children, who are unable to protect or remove themselves from harm, we believe the need for immediate intervention outweighs concerns about family preservation. Appropriately tailored child abuse reporting laws have proven, since their widespread adoption in the 1980s and 1990s, to be of tremendous value in protecting children from harm Maryland’s reporting laws should be strengthened but clearly defined, and penalties should be enacted for professionals who fail to report as required. We support legislation that would limit the current broad exemption on reporting child abuse – sexual or otherwise – by members of the clergy, except in the narrowest circumstances when religious law requires confidentiality during penitential spiritual counseling. For those who commit sexual crimes against children, or protect those who do, there must be no sanctuary.

 

Because of the unique pathology of child sexual abuse, the documented likelihood of repeat offenses, and the need to allow parents to protect their children, we support the concept of public reporting of sexual predators, as embodied in statutes known as “Megan’s Laws.” However, we recognize that errors in reporting, and vigilantism are troubling potential byproducts of these laws. We call for the state to regularly update these lists to ensure for accuracy, and to work with community associations to better educate the public to avoid vigilantism.

 

In our own community, we pledge to work with CHANA and other interested organizations such as Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Jewish Women International, as well as our coalition partners in other faiths, for more education, outreach and advocacy to combat domestic abuse in all its forms.

EDUCATION

Accountability And Internal Reform

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council believes Accountability and Internal Reform can only be accomplished by a reform of the funding mechanism. Reform should address learning materials and the entire school culture, including the following: Educators, administrators, and parents should produce outcomes that fulfill state requirements and develop assessment strategies; Local schools should be able to make their own instructional and budgetary decisions; There should be established a public school accreditation program with “school-specific” goals.

 

The reform recommendations of the Educational Task Force were approved on November 18, 1991.

 

Charter Schools

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council approved a statement on public charter schools that included several recommendations. First, the development of charter schools should be accompanied by increased efforts to improve existing public schools. Charter schools should strictly observe the constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state. Charter schools and students should be required to achieve educational performance standards and should be evaluated on a regular basis. Charter schools’ policies should not discriminate against students and employees.

 

The policy statement was approved on November 10, 1999. (Addendum V)

 

Addendum V

 

Statement on Public Charter Schools

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors

 

November 10, 1999

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council is firmly committed to excellence and equality in public education and supports measures aimed at improving the quality of all public schools. The BJC believes the vast majority of American children will continue to be educated in the public school system. Public charter schools may prove to be an effective tool for the improvement of the public education system, if they provide families, particularly those in the nation’s urban centers, with another option in attaining quality education for their children within the public school system. However, the Council is profoundly concerned that charter schools not violate the constitutional separation of church and state. The crucial role the public school system has historically played in teaching America’s children core democratic values and appreciation for pluralism must be preserved. To that end, the Baltimore Jewish Council recommends that all steps be taken to ensure that:

 

1. the development of charter schools is accompanied by increased efforts to improve existing public schools, and that the performance and funding of public schools are not diminished in any way by the creation or maintenance of charter schools;

 

2. charter schools strictly observe the constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state so that public funds will not be spent on sectarian institutions overtly or through subterfuge. While charter schools may teach about religion objectively, they must not teach religion;

 

3. charter schools and students are required to achieve educational performance standards, although charter schools should retain freedom to adopt individual curricula to achieve such standards;

 

4. charter schools, individually and collectively, are reviewed on a regular basis to evaluate their educational and fiscal performance, and to assess the impact they have on the public school system, with particular attention on reviewing the possible adoption of those innovations in other public schools;

 

5. charter schools’ admissions, retention and employment policies do not discriminate against students or employees on the basis of who they are, what they believe or where they come from; charter schools charge no tuition; and are held to the same health and safety standards as other public schools; and

 

6. adequately funded monitoring systems and appropriate oversight bodies are put in place to review the overall performance of charter schools and ensure that church-state violations, educational failures, discrimination, fiscal irresponsibility and other problems do not go undetected in charter schools.

 

Choice Within The Public School System

 

As an alternative to the vouchers for low-income students, the Baltimore Jewish Council supports open enrollment between school districts within certain parameters, which include the following: an outreach program to low income students to ensure fair participation; the operation of limited choice within the public school system; school based management and empowerment of teachers, parents and local administrators; a fair selection process; the provision of subsidies for low-income students and addressing transportation costs; and the distribution among schools participating in the program.

 

Recommendation approved on September 14, 1992.

 

Course Requirements In Public Schools

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council opposes legislation that would prohibit the State Board of Education or a County Board of Education from requiring a student to enroll in certain courses that contain subject matter that is in conflict with the religious beliefs of the student or their parents.

 

This policy was adopted on March 4, 1996.

 

Funding Equity

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council supports funding equity to close the gap between wealthy and lower income school districts. Funding equity includes the following: more aid to low wealth school districts; a standard within all jurisdictions for a minimum spending amount per student that is sufficient for basic needs; the investigation of other sources of revenue besides property taxes to provide for education; an increase of statewide minimum salary requirements to attract and retain high quality teachers; and the creation of greater equity in pension and social security funding from the state.

 

The funding equity recommendation of the Educational Task Force was approved on November 18, 1991.

 

In 2001 the Baltimore Jewish Council voted to support the recommendations of the Thornton Commission on K-12 public education funding.

 

Public Funding Of Private Schools and Parochial Schools

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council supports public funding to private and parochial schools for certain ancillary services and instruction, provided that such funding is entirely non-sectarian. The Baltimore Jewish Council remains opposed to vouchers for private and parochial schools.

 

This position was approved on November 8, 2012. (Addendum VI)

 

Addendum VI

 

Public Funding Of Private and Parochial Schools

 

Recommendation approved on November 8, 2012.

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council is fundamentally committed to excellence in public education and has also long been a protector of the separation of church and state - a principle the Council believes essential to tolerance and religious freedom. However, the Council also believes that appropriately crafted public funding to private and parochial schools can be provided in a constitutionally permissible manner that is fully consistent with these principles.

 

Starting with the Supreme Court decision in Everson v. Bd. Of Ed., 330 U.S. 1 (1947) (declaring that government may reimburse parents for the cost of transporting their children to parochial schools) through more recent state and federal jurisprudence, the constitutionality of government aid for non-sectarian funding, services and instruction, has consistently been upheld. In fact, Maryland already provides textbooks to students in private and parochial schools.

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council supports public funding for schools in areas including: textbooks, technology, software, energy and infrastructure assistance, library aid and transportation. In addition, the Council strongly believes that government ought to have a role in funding, and insuring the availability of, auxiliary services such as school nurses, guidance counseling, testing and academic intervention for all students, as well as psychological, remedial, visual, speech, hearing and similar services for students with special needs.

 

Any funding provided under the aforementioned programs must be constitutionally permissible, needs-based, and, to the extent applicable, must be used solely for education or services that are non-sectarian in nature. For the avoidance of doubt, funds may be provided for the purchase or loan of technology, but such technology may not be used for instruction that is religious in nature. The Council would be supportive of legislative provisions that provide for strict oversight of compliance with such restrictions.

 

Although the Supreme Court has approved the use of school vouchers in some instances, the Baltimore Jewish Council has not reexamined this issue and, accordingly, remains opposed to such programs in accordance with its policy adopted on January 13, 1999.

Tax Credits for Education

The Baltimore Jewish Council supports excellence in public education. The Council also supports Jewish day school education and other institutions that promote Jewish continuity.

 

The Council previously withheld its support of tax credit programs that assist private education, such as Jewish day schools, primarily on concerns that such programs violate legal principles of separation of church and state. However, the constitutionality of such tax credit programs has recently been reviewed by the United States Supreme Court in an April 2011 ruling. This recent Supreme Court case upheld an Arizona tax credit program aimed at providing assistance for private school tuition costs.

 

The ruling recognized that a tax credit program does not provide “direct” financial assistance from the state to private schools and, therefore, the program is constitutional. The Court, in turn, noted that such programs may also “relieve the burden placed on [the state’s] public schools.”

 

The BOAST (Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers) program, an initiative that has previously been introduced in the Maryland legislature and mhas obtained the support of the Governor, grants a tax credit to businesses that donate to organizations providing private school scholarships for tuition that is less than the statewide average per-­-pupil cost. The BOAST program also grants tax credits to businesses that donate to organizations that fund enrichment programs in public schools or that fund professional development for similar programs currently exist in at least nine other states.

 

As noted above, the Council is committed to Jewish day school education and other institutions that promote Jewish continuity, and we believe the BOAST program will assist such institutions. Many private school tuitions do not cover the cost of educating a pupil and schools must rely upon donations from individuals, organizations and businesses. The BOAST program will encourage private business donations to scholarship funds that will help Jewish day schools provide a better education for our students.

 

The Council continues its firm and long-standing commitment to excellence in public education. Our support of BOAST is based on the understanding that the tax credit program will not reduce state resources available to fund public education. As the Supreme Court noted, such tax credit programs may better public education by relieving the financial burden on the public school system.

 

Moreover, a portion of the BOAST tax credits are to be allocated to donations to enrichment and professional development programs for public schools. Based on the above assessment, the Baltimore Jewish Council supports Maryland tax credit legislation that provides constitutionally permissible financial assistance to lower and middle-income private school students, as well as assistance for enrichment programs and professional development programs for public schools.

 

The Maryland Court of Appeals has consistently held, there is no prohibition against public appropriations to private organizations, including religious organizations, provided there is a public or semi-public purpose.

 

Approved by the Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors in December 2011.

EMPLOYMENT

In November 2006, the Baltimore Jewish Council voted to support the Flexible Leave Act, a Maryland bill which would allow private sector employees to use their already-earned sick leave to care for an immediate family member. It does not create an additional benefit because it does not mandate sick leave.

Employment Insurance

The Baltimore Jewish Council supports legislation that allows part-time workers who are contributing to the unemployment insurance fund to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

 

This policy was approved on December 20, 2007.

ELECTRICITY REREGULATION

As approved by the Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors November 12, 2009

 

In 1999 the Maryland General Assembly approved legislation facilitating the deregulation of the electric utility industry. This was designed to create competition in the marketplace and thereby reduce electricity rates. Also, Maryland continues to consume more electricity than it can produce. Lawmakers have introduced several bills calling for the reregulation of Maryland’s electric utilities.

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council remains deeply concerned about the effect of the high cost of energy on populations served by state and local governments and communal organizations; and, in keeping with the Talmudic commandment, “Open your hand to the poor and needy” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8), Jewish Community Services (JCS), an agency of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, has recently disbursed over $51,000 to 110 households between March and August 2009. This expenditure was directly attributable to the need to subsidize increased energy costs. Throughout Maryland, local utilities, legislators and the media have recorded, at record numbers, reports of individuals having to choose between keeping warm and putting food on the table. We believe this is an unacceptable choice.

 

Our dependence upon oil, especially foreign oil, not only endangers the environment, but also affects our national and local economies and our national energy security. This leaves the United States vulnerable to hostile countries and regimes and threatens our historic support for Israel. Conversely, that fact influences the debate in a different direction; one which would endorse higher prices.

 

As an organized community that is involved in a wide range of social issues, the Baltimore Jewish Council believes that any reregulation legislation must reflect the following criteria:

 

  • recognizes the dependence of the United States and other countries on foreign oil and requires formal consumer education programs in order to promote energy efficiency and conservation;
  • maintains the authority of the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to regulate electric utility companies and respective retail energy markets in the best interests of the public, including where and when new power plants, relying on varied energy sources, are constructed;
  • directs the PSC to reinstitute the Integrative Resource Planning (IRP) process, in order to meet Maryland’s short- and long- term energy needs. The PSC planning process must address the appropriate mix of efficient resources including transmission, capital upgrades, conservation efforts and new power generation;
  • directs that capacity charges must remain committed and used only for purposes for which they are being collected;/li>
  • judges all environmental and energy initiatives through the twin lenses of science and efficiency, as well as the lens of environmental justice, to ensure that we do not unduly burden our lower-income or vulnerable neighbors. Environmental justice is the fair and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development and implementation of environmental law;
  • reduces volatility and creates market stability through retail choice (e.g. choice of energy provider), in order to provide stable service at reasonable prices; consumer education regarding providers should be promoted;
  • considers service reliability, long-term economic stability, and sustainable environmental initiatives, including alternative energy sources. Planning for the future is essential to protect all Marylanders from blackouts and rising prices;

Finally, beyond state legislation, the BJC recognizes the importance of addressing energy policy at the national level since a significant percentage of Maryland’s electricity is secured from other states. Since individual state laws have limited impact on environmental issues, a strong national energy policy is required, including federal mandates for air quality, pollution and operation of the power grid.

ENVIRONMENTAL

Protecting and preserving the environment is a Jewish value rooted deep in our traditions and sacred texts. Our calendar and holidays track the cycles of nature. Our holy books bid us to preserve and protect G-d's creations. Jewish law teaches us to avoid destruction and waste of natural and human-made 5 resources (baal tashchit). The Talmud (Shabbat 67b) stipulates that in creating light, one must use the available technology that burns the cleanest and uses the least oil. Our observance of Shabbat is cited as an environmental ethic unto itself, a fortification against contemporary norms that can lead to excess and exploitation.

 

Modern environmental issues echo our Biblical teachings: Upon creating Adam and Eve, G-d led them around the garden, showing them its magnificence. Then God said to them: See my handiwork, how fine and excellent it is. All this that I created is here before you. Tend to it well. Do not corrupt or destroy it, for if you do, there will be no one after you to make it right again.(Ecclesiates Rabbah)

 

Environmental initiatives and policies should model/express the value of “tzedek tzedek tirdof”; the pursuit of justice in a righteous manner. This requires environmental policies that do not disproportionately burden the poor and that preserve the health and robustness of nature; that are grounded in sound science, and engage the participation of government, industry, institutions, and individuals. Our [social justice] value of Tikkun Olam – “the healing of the world,” urges us to make the environment a priority of and a shared responsibility within our community.

 

Sustainability is also a means for continuing to strive to meet high standards of organizational operations and behaviors both within and beyond the Jewish community, and we support these efforts to increase participation and expansion of environmentally-conscious practices such as:

 

Environmental Priorities

 

  • Watershed Restoration: support of programs and measures for erosion control, storm water mitigation, and best practices for land use to restore health to our land and waterways.

  • Waste Reduction: support increased participation in recycling and composting programs, reduction of the waste stream, design of products and materials that minimize waste, and encouragement of zero waste practices.

  • Air pollution reduction: support measures to produce effective results from the Maryland Healthy Air Act to curb particulate and gas emissions that contribute to health and water degradation.

  • Environmental Literacy & Awareness: support of programs that integrate environmental literacy in informal as well as formal educational and professional development settings as an integral process in building stewardship of our Earth.

  • Reduction of Energy Consumption: support and embrace goals such as the EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act to reduce our energy consumption 15% by 2015 and support of programs that achieve these metrics.

  • Green/Sustainable Building Practices: support of “best management practices” for Agriculture, Industrial, and Real Estate Development that encourage sustainable design and construction, diversion of waste/debris from landfills, reuse/recycling of materials, low VOC materials, and alternative energy sourcing.

  • Mass and Alternative Transit infrastructure expansion/improvements: support efforts to increase accessibility, efficiency and reduce carbon emissions of this infrastructure.

  • Renewable energy policies and incentives: support as a means for reducing carbon emissions, avoiding degrading land and water in the extraction process, avoiding the depletion of natural resources and securing energy independence. As foreign oil is not a sustainable energy resource, our growing dependence leaves the United States vulnerable to hostile countries and regimes and threatens our historic support for Israel.

  • Support of incentives for participation in conservation, waste and energy reduction efforts for individual households, non-profits, and businesses.

  • Work in conjunction with Jewish and other non-profit groups and organizations to better address funding needs to help our non-profits participate in environmental and energy related programs and projects.

This position was approved by the Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors on November 8, 2012.

 

ENERGY

Our dependence upon oil, especially foreign oil, not only endangers our environment, it also affects our economy and our national energy security. As it is not a sustainable energy resource, our growing dependence on foreign oil leaves the United States vulnerable to hostile countries and regimes and threatens our historic support for Israel.

EX-OFFENDERS

In 2004 the Maryland Justice Coalition asked the Council for support of a number of initiatives aimed at easing the re-integration of ex-offenders back into society. At its November 11, 2004, Board meeting, the Council adopted the following positions:

The BJC supports legislation that would make food stamps available to all who qualify, regardless of their criminal history or marital status. Maryland currently denies food stamps to drug felons who are not custodial parents.

The BJC supports legislation that would institute a "debt-leveraging" program that would relieve past child support arrearages of qualifying low-income non-custodial parents who pay their current obligations, and satisfactorily complete other requirements, including community-based parenting programs.

The BJC takes no position on legislation that would restore voting rights to all ex-offenders immediately upon their release from prison. Current law allows voting rights restoration to some felons after completion of their entire sentence, including parole, community service, fines and restitution.

In 2015 The Baltimore Jewish Council was asked by several coalition partners to form a position on criminal expungement. At its November 5, 2015 Board meeting, the Council adopted the follow posistion:


As a Jewish organization devoted to pursuing the values of equality and social justice as well as redemption and forgiveness, the Baltimore Jewish Council believes that minor legal transgressions should not result in a lifetime of punishment. Therefore, the BJC believes the Maryland General Assembly should provide for the expungement and shielding of minor criminal convictions, particularly for non-violent youthful indiscretions.*

*The above is a general statement of policy and does not represent support for any specific item of legislation until reviewed and endorsed by the BJC.

 

FAITH-BASED INITIATIVES

We support the goal of enhancing partnerships between government and religious communities, which share a common mission: to improve the condition of individuals and communities at risk, and pursue what the Jewish tradition calls tikkun olam, the repair of the world.

 

However, in our long partnership with government to solve social problems, we have been mindful of the importance of adhering to the separation of church and state, and manifesting our religious values without seeking to impose our beliefs on others. We call for a series of standards and restrictions to be upheld in any program that would direct taxpayer funds to religious organizations. (Addendum VII)

 

Addendum VII

 

Statement on Faith-Based Initiatives

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors

 

September 18, 2003

 

Introduction

 

In the past several years, the concept of the “Faith-Based Initiative” has gained increased currency. Both President George W. Bush and Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. have vowed to enhance the partnership between government and religiously-affiliated service providers. One stated goal of these initiatives has been “to get organizations on the front lines of America's social welfare challenges even more involved in addressing these needs.” Another has been to eliminate barriers that “sharply restrict… the equal opportunity for faith-based charities to seek and receive Federal support to serve their communities.”

 

One major source of confusion about Faith-Based Initiatives has been the definition itself: What exactly is a faith-based organization? All of the several dozen educational, cultural and human service agencies of The ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, for example, are faith-based, in the sense that they are motivated by the values and traditions of our faith. There is an important distinction, however, between agencies such as these, which are not “pervasively sectarian,” as the courts have defined it, and religious organizations such as churches, synagogues and mosques, whose primary concern is the propagation of their faith.

 

We agree that there are segments of the population in need of vital services who may only be reached by certain community and faith-based agencies that are closely attuned to the needs of their neighborhoods. Experience has proven that some agencies are better at transforming lives when they are motivated by religious faith.

 

However, in our long partnership with government to solve social problems, we have been mindful of the importance of adhering to the separation of church and state, and manifesting our religious values without seeking to impose our beliefs on others. We have created nonreligious 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations to fulfill the social obligations of our faith.

 

This separation we believe protects against the kinds of church-state problems that have plagued similar programs in other states. It also ensures that houses of worship need not become subject to intrusion into their religious affairs by agents of government.

 

We support the goal of enhancing partnerships between government and religious communities, which share a common mission: to improve the condition of individuals and communities at risk, and pursue what the Jewish tradition calls tikkun olam, the repair of the world. We believe that partnership can work best within the following guidelines:

 

  • In order for clients to avoid religious coercion, or the appearance of it, a secular alternative to a religious provider must be available. The simplest way to ensure that is to require faith-based providers to establish separate non-religious institutions to provide government-funded services. In fact, because the whole arena of government funding for religious organizations is fraught with constitutional risks, specific monitoring mechanisms must be put in place. The religious liberty of clients is at stake when the state begins to fund pervasively religious providers. The first step in avoiding some of these violations should be to require the recipient of government funds to establish an independent non-religious entity, such as a 501(c)(3) corporation.

  • All existing government performance and compliance standards must be required of faith- and community-based organizations. Permitting some providers to ignore regulations that are intended to ensure safety, quality and accountability in the use of taxpayer dollars would open the door to government-sanctioned fraud and abuse, and would unfairly discriminate against those who do not qualify as faith- or community-based organizations.

  • Faith-based services must not be allowed to admit clients to their programs based on their religion. Government-funded social service programs must serve all people eligible for those services and recipients must have access to all of the benefits of the program regardless of individual religious belief.

  • Providers must not be permitted to require participation in a religious activity as a condition of receiving taxpayer-funded services. It goes to the heart of the separation of church and state that government must not support religious coercion in any form.

  • We oppose the use of government-funded vouchers at religious institutions. With taxpayer money must come accountability, and allowing clients to use state vouchers anywhere they please will prevent that accountability. The first casualties will be the quality of services funded by the government, and the separation of church and state. At the same time, switching from the current grant system to vouchers will destroy the ability of agencies to efficiently plan and budget for the provision of services.

  • Religious institutions must be held to the same employment regulations as others, with limited exceptions. If faith-based initiatives are about giving “equal treatment” to religious organizations, then existing anti-discrimination laws must be applied equally to all who seek taxpayer dollars. For instance, government funds must not be spent on organizations permitted to post a job notice that says “No Catholics, Muslims or Jews need apply.” We do believe, however, that religious organizations should be permitted to hire executive-level or top management staff who have a religious connection to the community that is sponsoring and partially funding the program.

  • We are wary of the use of government funds for the physical construction of buildings owned by religious organizations. But such funding could be acceptable so long as the money is specifically earmarked for use in non-religious programming. State “bond bills” (capital grants) for faith-based organizations currently include the following language, which we feel should be adapted for any grant of capital funds to similar entities:

  • "No portion of the proceeds of the loan or any of the matching funds may be used for the furtherance of sectarian religious instruction, or in connection with the design, acquisition, or construction of any building used or to be used as a place of sectarian religious worship or instruction, or in connection with any program or department of divinity for any religious denomination."

  • One important exception to this principle is disaster relief. We believe that when government provides support to private institutions to help them recover from a natural disaster, or other similar relief efforts, these funds should be made available to secular and religious institutions on the same basis.

  • Federal housing policy allows people who live permanently in facilities subsidized with public funds to have religiously based programming, including kosher meals and the celebration of religious holidays. We support this longstanding government policy that has accepted religious accommodations in long-term care facilities, consistent with the First Amendment rights of residents to religious worship.

  • Some providers, particularly smaller ones with limited experience, do not have the proficiency or management skills to deliver services with public dollars. We believe that limited additional supports to expand the capacity of community organizations to serve people in need will only accrue to the benefit of neighborhoods and society. Since social service dollars are scarce, however, diversions from direct service funds should be avoided, and capacity expansion should be funded only with new dollars.

  • The expansion of faith-based initiatives can have direct and indirect impacts on existing providers. Long-established faith-based providers – such as The ASSOCIATED, Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and others – follow the rules and regulations, and avoid mixing religion with human services. Therefore any effort to relax those rules for religious organizations will put these providers at a disadvantage in their effort to access government funds.

  • Any expansion of eligible providers should not come at the expense of existing providers who in many cases are straining financially to provide effective services to people in need. Investment by government in helping vulnerable populations remains one of the most important functions that our government can perform to enable people to help themselves and their families. The viability of the not-for-profit social service network will depend on having sufficient resources to meet the needs. Particularly if government seeks to fund an entirely new class of service providers, it has a responsibility to ensure that these and all other providers have the capacity and resources to assess and meet the needs.

 

GAMBLING (see also “Slot Machines”)

The Baltimore Jewish Council opposes the initiative to introduce legal, commercialized gambling to Maryland. This position was adopted on November 9, 1995. "In December 2003 the Baltimore Jewish Council voted to oppose legislation that would legalize slot machine gambling in Maryland. We believe that if the state of Maryland is to meet its obligations – to the poor and the elderly, to its public school students and those with disabilities – these responsibilities must be shared by all citizens, and not laid on the shoulders of those least able to afford it, who are enticed to gamble on slot machines."

Slot Machines

Consistent with its policy in opposition to casino gambling, the BJC voted in December 2003 to urge the General Assembly to reject any legislation that would sanction slot machines or other types of electronic gaming devices, at racetracks or anywhere else. Maryland must meet its obligations, to its citizens and to communities that might suffer from the loss of the racetracks, through appropriate means, and not by taking advantage of human weakness.

 

This position was approved on December 17, 2003. (Addendum XIII).

 

Addendum XIII

 

Opposition to Legalized Slot Machines in Maryland

 

An explanation of Jewish communal concerns

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors

 

December 17, 2003

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council, the government and community relations arm of the organized Jewish community of Baltimore, in 1995 adopted a resolution opposed to the establishment of commercialized casino gambling in Maryland.

 

As we noted at the time, and restate now, “Our faith teaches us that social responsibility involves the constructive development of the world and the support of civic institutions maintained by funds raised in appropriate ways.” Nothing has changed in this regard. But due to an altered political landscape, the specific issue of legalized slot machines and their use at local racetracks has arisen anew.

 

As a community relations agency, as well as a faith-based one, we are concerned about the impact the loss of Pimlico Racetrack might have on the surrounding neighborhoods, both Jewish and non-Jewish. We are aware of forecasts of economic dislocation, neighborhood deterioration, increased crime and attendant problems. The several hundred thousand dollars provided annually from racetrack impact funds has helped stabilize southern Park Heights neighborhoods in particular.

 

Further, institutions important to the Jewish community, including Sinai Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, Weinberg Place, synagogues and others would be affected by the future of Pimlico. We call for a collaboration of state, local and private sector resources to provide for the long-term stabilization and enhancement of those neighborhoods most directly impacted by the future of Pimlico.

 

However, we are deeply troubled by the possible recourse to slot machines to sustain not only the racetracks, but other vital societal needs that are the State of Maryland’s responsibility.

 

While we do not condone any type of gambling when it impairs the ability to provide for one’s family or contribute to society, we are especially concerned about slot machines. Also known as electronic gaming devices, slot machines are among the most addictive forms of wagering. And because the amount of money needed to play is so low, slot machines are more likely to attract those who are drawn by the lure of easy payoffs but who can least afford to lose.

 

The Torah teaches us not to put a stumbling block before the blind1 (Leviticus 19:14), which has been interpreted to mean any obstacle or temptation that is likely to cause harm if put in someone’s way. It is difficult to think of a more glaring example than slot machines.

 

We believe that if the state of Maryland is to meet its obligations – to the poor and the elderly, to its public school students and those with disabilities – these responsibilities must be shared by all citizens, and not laid on the shoulders of those least able to afford it, who are enticed to gamble on slot machines. It is difficult to believe that a state that substantially increases its reliance on gambling in order to meet basic needs will be satisfied to stop with slot machines. Casinos surely would follow, with the attendant gambling addiction, crime, corruption and economic drain on non-gambling businesses that followed in all other states that have chosen that path.

 

Therefore, we urge the General Assembly to reject any legislation that would sanction slot machines or other types of electronic gaming devices, at racetracks or anywhere else. Maryland must meet its obligations, to its citizens and to communities that might suffer from the loss of the racetracks, through appropriate means, and not by taking advantage of human weakness.

 

GROUND RENT REFORMS

The Baltimore Jewish Council is concerned about a system of residential ground rent collections that has allowed the charging of exorbitant fees and, in rare cases, the eviction of residents from their homes due to the failure to pay relatively small amounts of ground rent.

 

We support a prohibition on the creation of new ground rents for single-family residential properties; the creation of a statewide registry of all existing ground rents, with reasonable fees and enforcement mechanisms; the strengthening of notice and posting requirements by ground rent holders; and continued efforts to eliminate any actual abuses the system currently allows, to be researched and recommended by a statewide task force of interested parties.

 

This position was adopted in February 2007. (Addendum VIII)

 

Addendum VIII

 

Ground Rent Reform Policy

 

Approved Tuesday, February 06, 2007

 

As the government and community relations arm of the organized Jewish community, our traditions and values inspire us to seek the protection of vulnerable individuals and families, including those made victims of financial abuse. In turn, we have long advocated for policies to prevent homelessness and foster economic self-sufficiency.

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council consequently is concerned about a system of residential ground rent collections that has allowed the charging of exorbitant fees and, in rare cases, the eviction of residents from their homes due to the failure to pay relatively small amounts of ground rent.

 

We believe that most ground rent holders act ethically and within the law in collecting the rents that are legitimately owed to them. And we acknowledge the economic need that ground rents served when they were first created, and recognize the many individuals who today depend upon modest ground rent payments to supplement their livelihoods, many of whom live on fixed incomes.

 

However, economic conditions have changed dramatically since the creation of ground rents, and we believe they no longer fulfill a legitimate need.

 

Therefore, we support:

 

  • a prohibition on the creation of new ground rents for single-family residential properties;

  • the creation of a statewide registry of all existing ground rents, with reasonable fees and enforcement mechanisms;

  • the strengthening of notice and posting requirements by ground rent holders; and

  • continued efforts to eliminate any actual abuses the system currently allows, to be researched and recommended by a statewide task force of interested parties.

GUN CONTROL

The Baltimore Jewish Council supports gun control, including bans on semi-automatic weapons and the requirement that gun owners keep their firearms locked or securely out of the reach of children.

HATE CRIMES

The Baltimore Jewish Council policy on Hate Crimes calls for the Jewish community to speak out against such acts and supports Hate Crimes legislation that creates enhanced penalties for crimes motivated by the victim's race, color, religious beliefs, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability. This policy was adopted on February 26, 1991.

 

Any legislation the Baltimore Jewish Council would support must adequately protect the rights of clergy and others to speak in furtherance of the tenets of their faith.” (Addendum IX).

 

Addendum IX

 

Hate Crimes Legislation

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors

 

May 20, 2004

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council endorses the statement adopted by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs at its February 2004 Plenum, “JCPA Resolution On Hate Crimes: Next Steps To Combat Bias-Motivated Hatred In America,” (attached) with the following addition:

 

"Any legislation the Baltimore Jewish Council would support must adequately protect the rights of clergy and others to speak in furtherance of the tenets of their faith."

 

JCPA RESOLUTION ON HATE CRIMES: NEXT STEPS TO COMBAT BIAS-MOTIVATED HATRED IN AMERICA

 

ADOPTED BY THE 2004 JCPA PLENUM

 

Hate crimes damage the fabric of our society and fragment communities. The urgent national need for both a tough law enforcement response and education and programming to confront violent bigotry has only increased since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Over the past two years, the FBI has recorded a very substantial increase in the number of crimes directed against Arabs, Muslims, and Sikhs. Crimes against Jews and Jewish institutions comprise over twelve percent of the reported hate crimes-- and sixty-five percent of the religious-based crimes.

 

With anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on the rise around the globe the United States must continue to set an example by leading the fight against prejudice and hate-motivated violence. The Jewish community relations field must continue to play a leadership role in crafting innovative legal and educational initiatives, and in working with law enforcement officials and broad interreligious and interethnic coalitions, in support of improved response at the federal, state, and local levels:

 

State hate crime laws. Over the past two decades, 46 states and the District of Columbia have enacted hate crime laws. Under these statutes, upheld by a unanimous Supreme Court in 1993, expressions of hate protected by the First Amendment's free speech clause are not criminalized. Yet, only 30 state laws include sexual orientation in their statute; only 27 include gender, and only 30 include disability. The JCPA supports passage of hate crime laws in those states without them, and supports strengthening laws in those states that now lack comprehensive laws.

 

The inclusion of any group in hate crime laws need not be viewed as an expression of support for that group, but rather as a recognition of the reality that certain segments of our society are subject to significantly greater incidences of hate crimes -- and that hate crimes legislation speaks to our collective disdain for criminal behavior motivated by hatred towards groups or individuals because of their association with a group.

 

Federal hate crime laws. The vast majority of bias crimes are effectively addressed at the state and local level. However, in states without hate crime statutes, and in others with limited coverage, federal investigators and prosecutors must have authority to assist local prosecutions and become involved. Pending legislation, the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA), would provide this expanded hate crime response authority. The JCPA reaffirms its support for the LLEEA and calls upon Members of Congress to enact this measure as a high priority.

 

Hate Crime Training and Data Collection for Law Enforcement Officials. Enacted in 1990, the Hate Crime Statistics Act has increased public awareness of the problem and sparked improvements in the local response of the criminal justice system to hate violence. In 2002, the FBI reported 7,462 hate crimes, including 931 crimes against Jews and Jewish institutions. The Bureau's annual report provides an important measure of accountability to identify law enforcement agencies that report - and those that do not. In 2002, just over 12,000 of the nation's 17,000 law enforcement agencies reported hate crime figures to the FBI - and the vast majority of them (84.5%) reported zero hate crimes. To improve reporting, training of law enforcement is needed. Hate crime reporting at colleges and universities is especially incomplete. The JCPA supports expanded participation in the FBI Hate Crime Statistics Act data collection effort - including better reporting by colleges and universities. In addition, JCPA supports efforts to empower victims of hate crime to report them to authorities.

 

Education and Training. There is growing awareness of the need to complement tough laws and more vigorous enforcement with education, awareness, and training initiatives designed to reduce bias-motivated violence - especially for youth. The JCPA supports expanded efforts to promote innovative anti-bias violence training and educational outreach for schools and the community.

 

The Use of the Bully Pulpit. Our civic leaders set the tone for national discourse and have an essential role in shaping attitudes. The JCPA encourages political, religious, and civic leaders to seek opportunities to speak out against expressions of bigotry, intolerance, and prejudice intended to intimidate or teach contempt for others in our society.

HEALTH CARE

Adopted on February 25, 1993, the Baltimore Jewish Council supports a universal health care system on the state level that would be available to all regardless of ability to pay. Any universal system should include a mechanism for effective cost containment, not compromise current standards of health care, and strongly address preventive care.

 

In 2001 the Baltimore Jewish Council voted to endorse the passage of universal health care legislation based on the “Health Care for All” plan developed by the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative.

 

In 2005 the Council voted to support the “Healthy Maryland Initiative,” which calls for a doubling of the state tobacco tax, with the estimated $200 million in new revenues used to expand access to health care in Maryland.

 

The policy below was approved on December 18, 2008. The Baltimore Jewish Council is in support of the 2008 "HEALTH CARE FOR ALL PLAN," because we support health care coverage for all Marylanders along with efforts to reduce costs and improve quality and access. While we support the plan, we urge that it rely on generating savings (such as through administrative efficiency and clinical effectiveness), and that these savings should be dedicated to paying for the plan, directly offsetting the need to generate revenues via tax increases. Additionally, our support is predicated upon the implicit assurance that the cost of Health insurance, purchased by employers and employees, would be reduced by an amount in excess of the mandated 2% increase in the payroll tax.

HEBREW CHRISTIANS AND THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

The position adopted by the Baltimore Jewish Council focused on what benefits Hebrew Christians are entitled to receiving when participating in Jewish community activity and programs. The policy states that those people who have actively removed themselves from the Jewish community by joining a Hebrew Christian group should not be eligible for Jewish community funds for services at Jewish Family Services.

 

This policy statement was approved on November 9, 1995.

HOUSING

The Baltimore Jewish Council believes that everyone who needs housing assistance should receive it; an individual should get enough assistance to live in decent housing; and there should be strengthened prohibitions against discriminatory housing practices. The above represents a summary of the legislation that the Baltimore Jewish Council has supported in the past.

IMMIGRATION REFORM

The Baltimore Jewish Council supports immigration reform that comprises the following: a rejection of the claim that immigrants drain the economy and will overpower American culture; the opposition to any alteration in the definition of a refugee for deportation purposes, and any change in the present law to allow for summary exclusion of people at the border; and exploration of funding schemes to alleviate financial burdens on states with a high concentration of immigrants. This policy was approved on November 17, 1993.

 

In December 2004, the Council adopted a new statement on Comprehensive Immigration Reform which reaffirmed our belief that immigrants add to the economic and cultural life of America, and called for a legalization program joined with enhanced security measures. (Addendum X)

 

Addendum X

 

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors December 16, 2004

 

Migration has been a central element of the Jewish experience since biblical times when famine forced the Jewish people to flee Canaan and resettle in Egypt. Leviticus 19:33 commands, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him.” This experience has been mirrored in American-Jewish life with the emigration of Jews to the United States in search of religious freedom and economic opportunity. As a reflection of our history, and based upon the biblical imperative to welcome the stranger, the American Jewish Community has long advocated for fair and just immigration and refugee policies.

 

At present, one of the most critical immigration issues is the problem of undocumented migration to the United States. The number of migrants living without legal status has continued to grow. Current estimates are that approximately eight to ten million undocumented migrants live in the United States. Over half are from Mexico and approximately 20% are from Central American countries like El Salvador. The undocumented population increases by 350,000 to 500,000 each year, about one-third of them people who are admitted legally but fail to depart as required.

 

Undocumented migration involves a set of interrelated issues including: the existence of millions of individuals living in the United States without legal status; the dangerous reality of unauthorized border crossings that has resulted in thousands of deaths and increasingly violent conditions in the border regions; the possible undetected entry of individuals carrying communicable diseases; the extensive backlogs for family immigration visas that result in prolonged and inhumane separation of families; and the United States’ pressing security needs that require the government to focus resources on individuals who pose grave dangers to the country.

 

We acknowledge additional concerns about the quality of education, high tax burdens, urban sprawl, and other issues that are affected by an influx of more than one million immigrants annually. Immigration alone did not cause these problems, but we recognize the government’s position that making real environmental headway and improving our educational and health care systems requires some reasonable limits on the amount of new, non-refugee immigration each year. We call for a willingness to waive said limits in cases of legitimate human crises. Moreover, raising existing limits on legal immigration would better reflect the economic realities as they have existed in the United States for the past several decades, particularly regarding migration from Latin America and Asia. We believe tackling this issue in a comprehensive manner also creates an extraordinary opportunity to enhance the overall security of the United States.

 

These migrants contribute to our economy, fill needed jobs and frequently pay taxes, all while enjoying limited access to our country’s social safety net. As a community of immigrants in a nation built from immigrants, we support measures intended to allow all segments of society to participate fully in our country’s rights and benefits.

 

We reject mass deportations for illegal immigrants who have resided in the United States for an extended period of time. The forcible expulsion of millions of men, women and children would cause incalculable bitterness and division within this nation and would be utterly devastating to the image of America abroad as a champion of human rights.

 

We instead support a process for migrants to obtain permanent legal status, thus vastly reducing the incentive to bypass our border crossings and reside here illegally. This process should be offered to those who have lived in this country for a substantial period of time, who are otherwise law-abiding people, and who have a demonstrated work history in the U.S. Security background checks would be required, and those found to support terrorist organizations would be excluded and deported.

 

This will permit the establishment of an effective security screening system to bar admission or legalization to terrorists and dangerous criminals while facilitating the immigration and acculturation of hard-working migrants. We believe reasonable limits on the number of immigrants admitted to the United States each year, even for economic reasons, will be more enforceable when most immigrants have both an incentive and the ability to arrive and reside here legally. This approach will allow immigration enforcement resources to be targeted on actual threats as part of the continued war on those who commit terrorism.

 

Existing wage, worker safety and other legal protections must be applied to immigrant workers – and those protections must be strictly enforced. Then employers will no longer have an incentive to hire undocumented residents over those who are here legally, either native- or foreign-born.

 

Unlike the immigrant amnesty program of 1986, this system can and will work, but we must substantially increase resources for border and internal enforcement; implement state-of-the-art anti-fraud technology; promote greater intelligence sharing among branches of the government; and continue the improvements already begun in the system that tracks foreign nationals who enter and leave the U.S. At the same time, resources must be increased substantially for the processing of requests for immigration approval by foreign nationals.

 

Once such a system of comprehensive immigration reform is in place, those who choose to remain outside the law should be denied all but the most basic protections and services afforded to legal residents.

 

Until then, we believe that fundamental to a sound immigration policy is the successful transition and integration of immigrants into American institutions and society. Therefore we urge:

 

  • Fair and humane access to government benefits that are supported, in part, by immigrants’ taxes;

  • English language acquisition and other education, training and support necessary for full participation in American life; and

  • Anti-discrimination measures, including protection of access to government-funded programs for those who have not yet mastered English.

 

We call on federal and state lawmakers, the Jewish Community and all Americans concerned about the country’s future to recommit to the complex process of developing a comprehensive proposal to reform United States immigration laws that will insure that our immigration system is secure, more humane, and free from stereotyping and xenophobia.

LIVING WAGE

The Baltimore Jewish Council takes no position on the living wage. After extensive research, discussion and debate, the Council was unable to reach a consensus regarding the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ support for living wage legislation as recommended in its “Resolution on ‘Living Wage’ proposals.”

 

This position was approved on December 14, 1999. (Addendum XI)

 

Addendum XI

 

Statement on Living Wage Legislation

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board Of Directors

 

December 14, 1999

 

In communities across the United States, “living wage” ordinances have either been passed or proposed that would raise the wages of a certain class of employees well above that of the minimum wage.

 

While federal minimum wage laws apply to virtually all wage-earners, living wage proposals apply only to those working for employers who receive public subsidies, tax breaks, or other economic assistance. Typically, living wage ordinances require that these government beneficiaries pay their own employees an agreed-upon living wage, some multiple above the poverty wage level, while they are working on projects or services for the public entity.

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council commends the goals of those who support a living wage law for the state of Maryland. We share with them the strongly held belief that all citizens deserve to be free from the degradations of poverty. In the direct service work of the agencies in our federation, and in our public policy advocacy, the Council and THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore strive to ensure that no citizen of this state suffers from a lack of decent shelter, clothing, food or medical care.

 

However, even those who fully agree on the goal of eradicating poverty can differ over the best strategies to that end. After extensive research, discussion and debate, we are unable to reach a consensus regarding the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ support for living wage legislation as recommended in its “Resolution on ‘Living Wage’ proposals.”

 

We question whether such legislation is an effective means of addressing poverty and whether its possible negative consequences may outweigh its benefits. We are concerned that a living wage requirement may hurt some of the very people it is intended to help. For example, if some employers are required to raise salaries for jobs that previously were intended for entry-level and low-skilled workers only, those employers will be more likely to hire higher-skilled workers, or reduce their workforce. Either way, fewer jobs would be available for those with the least experience.

 

Our commitment to helping low-paid workers improve their career and financial prospects is unwavering. However, we prefer public and private-sector programs that help all employees help themselves, through job training, child care and other efforts to remove the barriers to independence. Likewise, programs that provide incentives to all employers who hire and train low-skilled workers are preferable to initiatives that artificially raise wages for a small subclass of employees.

 

Our concerns about the possible unintended consequences of an otherwise well-intended policy leave us lacking the consensus needed to support living wage legislation.

MINIMUM WAGE

On the question of providing an equitable wage, Jewish tradition seeks a balance between employees earning their most basic living needs and allowing businesses to succeed. When wages fall short of providing for these needs, Jewish values seek to restore a fair balance on the employees’ behalf.

 

Therefore, the Baltimore Jewish Council supports an equitable minimum wage that enables workers to earn over the federal poverty line, but at the same time does not unduly burden Maryland businesses.

 

This position was approved by the Baltimore Jewish Council Executive Committee on September 24, 2013.

PHARMACIST CONSCIENCE CLAUSES

As a minority religion in a pluralistic society, we oppose government restrictions on religious exercise, except when necessary to protect compelling governmental interests, and then only in the least restrictive manner necessary. Access to safe and legal health care is just such a compelling interest.

 

Therefore, we support:

 

  • Legal protections for pharmacists to honor their sincerely held religious beliefs;

  • A requirement that such pharmacists give their employers advance notice of any religious objections that would interfere with the core functions of their job;

  • A requirement that facilities implement an alternative plan for ensuring timely access to these drugs;

  • A requirement that facilities post a clearly visible notice informing customers of their policy;

  • A feasibility study to allow hospitals to dispense certain medications in areas of the state where pharmacist refusals leave customers with no accessible alternative providers.

 

This position was approved on February 9, 2006. (Addendum XII)

 

Addendum XII

 

 

Baltimore Jewish Council Pharmacist Conscience Clause Statement

 

 

Approved February 9, 2006

 

Pharmacists in growing numbers across the nation, citing religious or moral objections, are refusing to dispense certain duly prescribed medications to their customers, often leaving them with no timely alternative to fulfilling their legal medical needs. These refusals to dispense have related primarily to medications such as birth control pills or the “morning after” emergency contraception medication, also known as “Plan B.” Objections also have been raised to dispensing a variety of other medications, including erectile dysfunction drugs, pain medications for terminally ill patients, drugs for use in executions and others. Some pharmacists reportedly have gone so far as to confiscate patients’ prescriptions for drugs to which they object.

 

At the same time, pharmacists have been fired for refusing to dispense medications that violate their religious principles. This divide only threatens to widen as more medications are developed that raise ethical concerns for some, and as more pharmacists assert their religious or ethical objections in the conduct of their professional duties. We can imagine a day, for instance, when some pharmacists raise conscientious objections to medications produced through controversial research on stem cells.

 

To date, however, there has been little evidence of either problem in Maryland: i.e., customers being denied legal medications they have been prescribed, or pharmacists being fired for asserting their religious values. We are wary of proposing legal fixes for a system that is not yet demonstrably broken. If, however, these problems come to light in significant numbers, the Jewish community calls for solutions that, to the extent possible, both protect the religious rights of professional pharmacists and ensure ready access to legally prescribed medications. Neither party to these disputes has the absolute right to impose their will on the other, in our view.

 

The Jewish community approaches this conflict with the hope that private parties can reach accommodations that allow medical providers to abide by their religious values while still meeting the health needs of their customers.

 

We do not call for a change in that aspect of Maryland law which establishes the right of individuals and institutions to refrain for religious or moral reasons from engaging in procedures related to sterilization, artificial insemination or termination of pregnancy (Article - Health – General, §20-214). However, we oppose the expansion of this unqualified right to the dispensing of legal and safe medications, such as contraceptive pills or emergency contraception medication. The dispensing of medication for use by the patient does not, in our view, necessarily rise to the level of direct participation in a procedure offensive to an individual’s conscience.

 

We believe that an employee’s religious needs should be accommodated, and the government should not force individuals to choose between their conscience and their job. However, this is not an absolute right and does not entitle people to demand any accommodation regardless of the harm it may cause, or to impose their religious beliefs on others. As a minority religion in a pluralistic society, we oppose government restrictions on religious exercise, except when necessary to protect compelling governmental interests, and then only in the least restrictive manner necessary. Access to safe and legal health care is just such a compelling interest.

 

We also believe that facilities – whether pharmacies, hospitals or other dispensers of medications – must make reasonable accommodations for their employees’ bona fide religious requirements. But employers should not be required to incur significant difficulty or expense in making these religious accommodations.

 

Therefore, if the evidence confirms the need for a new legal framework, we support:

 

  • Legal protections for pharmacists to honor their sincerely held religious beliefs;

  • A requirement that such pharmacists give their employers advance notice of any religious objections that would interfere with the core functions of their job;

  • A requirement that facilities which employ pharmacists who object to dispensing certain medications implement an alternative plan for ensuring timely access to these drugs, either through the use of other pharmacists on staff, or by referring customers, after confirmation by the facility, to a reasonably accessible alternative provider, including plans for serving customers in geographic areas with few pharmacies;

  • A requirement that facilities which employ and accommodate pharmacists who object to dispensing certain medications post a notice, clearly visible to the public, informing customers of this policy;

  • A feasibility study to allow hospitals to dispense certain medications in areas of the state where pharmacist refusals leave customers with no accessible alternative providers.

 

This policy mirrors those of the American Pharmacists Association and the Maryland Pharmacists Association. We believe it strikes an appropriate balance between respect for religious exercise and access to health care, which are both values that we seek to protect.

RELIGIOUS ACCOMODATIONS

With regard to religious accommodation in employment, the Baltimore Jewish Council believes that the employee, and not the employer, should decide what is the best way to determine religious observance that does not cause undue hardship to the business. Under present law, the employer makes religious accommodation decisions.

REVENUE PRINCIPLES

Addendum XV Statement on Revenue Principles

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors on December 17, 2003

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council is deeply concerned about the effect of state budget cuts on programs and populations served by state and local governments, the Jewish community and other private providers. We believe that the state must adopt a tax and budget structure that raises sufficient resources to fill those needs and invest in Maryland’s future. While no one likes paying more taxes, we prefer a fair, progressive and broad-based program of revenue enhancements to a fiscal approach that relies solely or primarily on budget cuts. The following list of principles should be used to evaluate tax and other revenue proposals, both individually and as they fit into an overall system of taxation in Maryland.

 

Fairness and progressivity

 

Tax fairness is not only morally right, it’s also essential to maintaining public support for the tax system. Traditionally, fairness has been divided into two important elements: horizontal equity and vertical equity. First, taxpayers with similar incomes should pay similar taxes, no matter how they happen to earn their money. Second, taxes ought to be based on the ability to pay them. Those who are struggling should pay the lowest rates.

 

Social Policy and Accountability

 

We support the limited use of the tax system to do more than just raise revenue. The tax system has long been recognized as one of the best market-based tools for adjusting prices to better reflect social costs. In times of budget crisis, tax policy can both raise revenue and discourage costly behaviors – such as smoking – that impose hardships and economic loss on the economy. But to ensure accountability, it is imperative that policy-based tax measures are reviewed regularly to determine whether they actually produce the outcomes intended. If an existing tax credit is considered for repeal in order to raise new revenues, the evaluation must include the amount of money that will be raised, the degree to which the credit is actually achieving its original goals, and whether those goals are still desired.

 

Balance, diversity and neutrality

 

We support a revenue system that relies on a diverse and balanced range of sources. While some narrowly drawn measures that are aimed at social costs can be beneficial, reliance on a diverse assortment can cancel out the biases of individual taxes. One of the goals of a revenue system is economic neutrality to prevent the unintended distortion of individual and business behavior. If reliance is divided among numerous sources and their bases are broad, rates can be made low in order to minimize the impact on behavior. A broad base itself helps meet the goal of diversification since it spreads the burden of the tax among more payers than a narrow base does. And the low rates that broad bases make possible can improve a state's competitive position relative to other states.

 

Competitiveness

 

Interstate and international economic competition has intensified in the past decade, increasing pressures on policymakers to evaluate a revenue system’s effect on economic development. Any state that imposes a tax burden far different from that of its neighboring states runs the risk of hurting its economy. That is why any individual business tax – along with the state’s overall corporate tax structure – must be compared with those of neighboring states. Moreover, we also recognize the need to maintain an environment that is conducive to business growth and development in Maryland, as this will ensure the continued growth of employment and productivity in our state. Equally important to Maryland’s economic competitiveness is the quality and sufficiency of core public services, including education, public safety, housing, health care, transportation and other essential needs. The total package is the measure of a state's competitiveness.

STEM CELL RESEARCH

The traditional Jewish perspective emphasizes that maximizing the potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life. Moreover, our tradition states that an embryo in vitro does not enjoy the status of a living being and its attendant protections. Thus, since stem cell research holds the promise of advancing our ability to heal humans with greater success, and since it does not require or encourage the destruction of life in the process, it should be pursued. (Addendum XIV)

 

Addendum XIV

 

Statement on Stem Cell Research

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council

 

December 16, 2004

 

Society today stands on the threshold of a new era in biomedical research. The wisdom granted to humans by our Creator has led to our greater understanding and knowledge of the building blocks of human life itself. Scientists revealed the existence and role of DNA and cellular science many years ago. Currently, scientists are not only able to describe the nature of cellular life, but manipulate it as well. Scientists now believe that embryonic stem cells – cells derived from the inner cell mass of developing pre-embryos – hold the promise of treating many life threatening conditions because they have demonstrated the capacity to develop into healthy organ tissue which could potentially replace that which has been destroyed by aging or disease.

 

A debate has emerged in American society at large and among our elected leaders as to whether public policy should permit, encourage, restrict or ban the further conduct of this biomedical research. The issue is one with complex moral dimensions. On the one hand scientific research indicates that there is great life-saving potential in the results that can come from research on embryonic stem cells with the aim of generating reparative tissue, as well as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) technology. In this technique the nucleus of an unfertilized egg cell is removed and replaced with the genetic material from the nucleus of a somatic cell (any cell of the body except sperm or egg cells). The egg is then stimulated to begin dividing, and stem cells can be extracted 5-6 days later. When the somatic cell is supplied from the cells of a given person, the stem cells isolated from the developing eggs can be used to make tissue that will not be rejected by that person's immune system because it contains his or her own genetic material.

 

In using this technology, we must be vigilant against any erosion of the value that society accords to human life. Jewish law and tradition places great value upon human life. The Torah commands us to treat and cure the ill and to defeat disease wherever possible; to do this is to be the Creator’s partner in safeguarding the created. Deuteronomy alerts us to the choice that we have been given between life and death. “Choose life,” our text commands us, “that you and your descendants may live.” The Mishnah, the well-known third 3rd Century compendium of Jewish law, taught that “one who saves a single life, it is as if that person has saved the entire world.” Our teachings are clear: As Jews, we are charged with the preservation of life. The traditional Jewish perspective thus emphasizes that maximizing the potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life. Moreover, our tradition states that an embryo in vitro does not enjoy the status of a living being and its attendant protections. Thus, since stem cell research holds the promise of advancing our ability to heal humans with greater success, and since it does not require or encourage the destruction of life in the process, it should be pursued.

 

We must be careful to distinguish between SCNT research conducted for therapeutic purposes, which ought to be pursued, and cloning for reproductive purposes – which we oppose. Thus, this research must be conducted under strict guidelines and with strict limitations to ensure that the research is indeed serving therapeutic purposes. Embryos utilized for research should never be permitted to be brought to life, nor should they even be implanted.

 

Furthermore, the recent approval of a $3 billion fund for stem cell research in California poses the risk that Maryland could lose some of its best researchers, resulting in a damaging blow to our state’s growing biotechnology industry. In addition to the potential economic losses, Maryland residents stand to lose some of the medical and therapeutic benefits of the cutting edge research being conducted in public and private labs throughout the state. This recent development creates an urgency for Maryland to issue a strong statement in support of this research.

 

Consistent with this policy, the Baltimore Jewish Council:

 

1. Supports research using embryonic stem cells, including the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) for therapeutic purposes; and government funding for such research;

 

2. Opposes efforts to restrict, penalize or criminalize scientists, clinicians, or patients for participating in stem cell research and SCNT technology;

 

3. Supports appropriate legislative and executive actions consistent with the above objectives, including legislation that encourages the development of new stem cell lines, in addition to the existing stem cell lines already approved for funding by the federal government;

 

4. Supports efforts by the scientific community to develop regulations and monitor those using SCNT technology;

 

5. Supports education of our community regarding donation of products of conception and unused frozen embryos for the purpose of such life-saving research.

 

We believe that the policy stated herein articulates the perspective of Judaism and the communities we represent and achieves the correct balance between pursuing new methods for saving human lives and maintaining the fundamental respect and sanctity of human life.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Substance abuse advocacy is a priority of the Baltimore Jewish Council. The Baltimore Jewish Council requests that the state and federal governments prioritize their substance abuse funding to treat all who request it; and increase funding for prevention methods, including job training and education. The Baltimore Jewish Council works with other advocacy coalitions, specifically ATAM (Addiction Treatment Advocates of Maryland, formerly known as CHASAM). The above represents a summary of the legislation that the Baltimore Jewish Council has supported in the past.

 

SUBMINIMUM WAGE

Policy Statement on Sub Minimum Wage
Approved by the
Baltimore Jewish Council
Executive Committee Meeting
On Thursday, December 11, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) urges renewed consideration of Maryland policies, practices and implementation of section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), also known as the subminimum wage. BJC recognizes that there maybe unintended consequences that may be involved in any changes to the current law. We recommend formulation of a comprehensive solution that ensures the best outcomes for those who would be affected by the law’s application in Maryland. We call for the establishment of a broadly represented statewide taskforce to study the issue in a timely fashion.

TAX REFORM PROPOSALS

The Baltimore Jewish Council supports tax legislation that would reduce taxes for low-income households, and also supports progressive tax proposals. Tax Reform Proposals were formulated in December 2003. (Addendum XV)

 

Addendum XV

 

Statement on Revenue Principles

 

Approved by Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors

 

December 17, 2003

 

The Baltimore Jewish Council is deeply concerned about the effect of state budget cuts on programs and populations served by state and local governments, the Jewish community and other private providers. We believe that the state must adopt a tax and budget structure that raises sufficient resources to fill those needs and invest in Maryland’s future. While no one likes paying more taxes, we prefer a fair, progressive and broad-based program of revenue enhancements to a fiscal approach that relies solely or primarily on budget cuts. The following list of principles should be used to evaluate tax and other revenue proposals, both individually and as they fit into an overall system of taxation in Maryland.

 

Fairness and progressivity

 

Tax fairness is not only morally right, it’s also essential to maintaining public support for the tax system. Traditionally, fairness has been divided into two important elements: horizontal equity and vertical equity. First, taxpayers with similar incomes should pay similar taxes, no matter how they happen to earn their money. Second, taxes ought to be based on the ability to pay them. Those who are struggling should pay the lowest rates.

 

Social Policy and Accountability

 

We support the limited use of the tax system to do more than just raise revenue. The tax system has long been recognized as one of the best market-based tools for adjusting prices to better reflect social costs. In times of budget crisis, tax policy can both raise revenue and discourage costly behaviors – such as smoking – that impose hardships and economic loss on the economy. But to ensure accountability, it is imperative that policy-based tax measures are reviewed regularly to determine whether they actually produce the outcomes intended. If an existing tax credit is considered for repeal in order to raise new revenues, the evaluation must include the amount of money that will be raised, the degree to which the credit is actually achieving its original goals, and whether those goals are still desired.

 

Balance, diversity and neutrality

 

We support a revenue system that relies on a diverse and balanced range of sources. While some narrowly drawn measures that are aimed at social costs can be beneficial, reliance on a diverse assortment can cancel out the biases of individual taxes. One of the goals of a revenue system is economic neutrality to prevent the unintended distortion of individual and business behavior. If reliance is divided among numerous sources and their bases are broad, rates can be made low in order to minimize the impact on behavior. A broad base itself helps meet the goal of diversification since it spreads the burden of the tax among more payers than a narrow base does. And the low rates that broad bases make possible can improve a state's competitive position relative to other states.

 

Competitiveness

 

Interstate and international economic competition has intensified in the past decade, increasing pressures on policymakers to evaluate a revenue system’s effect on economic development. Any state that imposes a tax burden far different from that of its neighboring states runs the risk of hurting its economy. That is why any individual business tax – along with the state’s overall corporate tax structure – must be compared with those of neighboring states. Moreover, we also recognize the need to maintain an environment that is conducive to business growth and development in Maryland, as this will ensure the continued growth of employment and productivity in our state. Equally important to Maryland’s economic competitiveness is the quality and sufficiency of core public services, including education, public safety, housing, health care, transportation and other essential needs. The total package is the measure of a state's competitiveness.

 

Baltimore Jewish Council 2017 Annual Meeting

 

June 07, 2017

Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion

6602 Park Heights Ave.

5:00 P.M. 

 

More information TBA.