Maryland lawmakers introduced legislation Friday to create the framework for a legal cannabis market ahead of the July 1 start of legalization.
Identical, cross-filed bills introduced in the House and Senate create a regulatory structure for Maryland’s new cannabis industry that includes rules for licensing, taxation, and equity, among other things.
“I feel very good about the bill. I think it is possible to be a national model,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, in a press conference Friday morning.
In the process leading up to the bill’s introduction, which included several Cannabis Referendum & Legalization Working Group meetings involving legislators from relevant committees, lawmakers stressed the importance of avoiding the kinds of mistakes that have created chaos in other states where cannabis is legal.
That concern is reflected in their first commitment: strict adherence to the July 1 deadline to have a functioning legal market in place.
“We’ve seen what happened in places like New York where there are over 1,400 unlicensed dispensaries,” said Ferguson. The legal cannabis market has been in turmoil in other states around the country following an oversupply crisis and subsequent downturn that saw the spot price of cannabis sink to record lows in December 2022, according to Cannabis Benchmarks.
In Maryland, as in other states, supply will largely be dictated by the number of licenses approved by the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Cannabis Commission, newly renamed to add “cannabis” to the title. In the bill, licenses are divided into several categories:
- Standard licenses permit growing or processing large amounts of cannabis or operating a storefront dispensary. The bill allocates a total of 300 such licenses for dispensaries, 75 for growers, and 100 for processors.
- Micro licenses are meant to ensure smaller boutique operators’ space in the market to grow or process smaller amounts or operate a delivery service without a storefront. For these smaller operators, the bill allocates a total of 200 licenses for dispensaries, 100 for growers, and 100 for processors.
- Incubator space licenses will allow licensees to house “micro license” operators. The bill allows for ten such operator licenses.
- On-site consumption licenses would allow holders to own and operate facilities where people could legally smoke, vape, or consume cannabis. The bill allocates 50 on-site consumption licenses in total.
According to the bill, the licensing process will take place in several rounds. With an eye toward creating an equitable market, the first round of applications for all license types will be limited to designated “social equity applicants.”
While some lawmakers had hoped to be able to set aside these equity licenses for members of marginalized communities, particularly the Black community, which the United States protracted war has disproportionately impacted on drugs, a court ruling forbidding set-asides on racial grounds makes this difficult.
Instead, lawmakers plan to designate equity licenses by location. As defined in the bill, equity applicants have gone to school in a disproportionately impacted jurisdiction or lived there for at least five of the last ten years.
Additionally, lawmakers signaled a commitment to ensuring those convicted of cannabis-related offenses will have the opportunity to participate in the legal market.
“The pathway is that if you’ve been convicted, this won’t stop you (from obtaining a license),” said Delegate C.T. Wilson, D-Charles County, chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee and one of the sponsors of the House version of the bill. “We’re going to ensure that those cannabis-related convictions aren’t held against you.”
Lawmakers are also taking steps to ensure access to the market through careful regulation of licensing application fees.
Applications for a five-year standard, incurabor, or on-site consumption license will cost $5,000, while the application fee for a micro license will be $1,000.
While lawmakers, including Wilson, had initially hoped to make the application fee refundable, lawmakers said they hope these fees, which would be among the lowest in the U.S., will not discourage potential applicants nor impede entry for what’s projected to be a billion-dollar industry in Maryland.
To ensure a functioning market by the July 1 deadline, lawmakers are also offering growers and distributors with current medical cannabis licenses to convert them to full-service licenses for a fee.
Another key component of legalization will be taxation policy, which plays a particularly important role in dictating how much cannabis and cannabis-related products will cost. The cost factor is one of the largest factors in dictating consumers’ willingness to abandon the illegal cannabis market in favor of the legal one, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
“The bill focuses on a pretty simple taxing structure,” said Wilson after Friday’s legislative session. There he told reporters that the tax on cannabis will begin at 6% and rise to 10% after five years.
To help keep prices low, the bill also prohibits the kinds of “piggyback taxes” that would allow counties to impose their own cannabis taxes.
While lawmakers prioritize keeping prices low when designing the taxation scheme for cannabis (Wilson told Capital News Service that they expect the state to lose money initially), lawmakers still want to ensure a portion of tax revenue the new industry generates is allocated to social equity.
Ferguson said the bill will use 30% of revenues to “invest in communities that the war has negatively impacted on drugs.” The goal is to empower communities and investments, he said.
Ferguson said that ideally, the money will go toward helping businesses open and “helping to invest in community development projects, affordable housing initiatives.”
Wilson and Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard, told reporters they expect a hearing on the bill in Wilson’s committee within the next two weeks, where lawmakers can iron out disagreements over the details.
Additionally, lawmakers must tackle the issues of decriminalization and expungement, aspects of the process of particular importance to new Gov. Wes Moore, who expressed confidence in the process in a statement on Friday.
“Governor Moore recognizes this bill as a well-crafted piece of legislation and is looking forward to future collaboration with the legislature to ensure Maryland is moving towards equity in our criminal justice system by supporting policies that promote redemption and reform.” The statement also said, “The governor is committed to legalizing cannabis, expunging the records of anyone convicted of simple possession, and investing in this emerging industry while prioritizing equitable access to all Marylanders.”
By GREG MORTON and DOROTHY HOOD
Capital News Service
Fauquier Health Expands Nursing Using Global Approach
It is no secret that hospitals have faced a major increase in the amount of labor costs resulting from the pandemic. This increase in cost could especially be seen when working through contracted labor and staffing firms. Since the start of the pandemic, Fauquier Health has prioritized finding creative solutions to address the shortage of healthcare workers and as such has expanded its nursing care to include a diverse array of registered international nurses.
In July 2023, Fauquier Health officially welcomed eight international registered nurses from the Philippines to the team including: Cherilyn Valenzuela; Joanne Lagura; Kathyrine Sarzuelo; Suellen Olaco; Dave Galimba; Dorothea Joaquin; Ma Carmela Danao; and Arissa Eusebio. The arrival of these new nurses has been met with excitement and relief. Now five months into their 3-year contracts, these nurses are fulfilling vital and valuable bed-side care across many departments of Fauquier Health including women’s services, skilled nursing, medical/surgical, the emergency department, and more.
“The recruitment of international nurses enriches our team, while our ongoing support for our local colleges reinforces our commitment to the communities we serve,” shared Linda Parnell, Interim-Chief Nursing Officer at Fauquier Health.
One of these new nurses, Suellen Olaco, RN, shared: “As a nurse, I have the opportunity to touch peoples’ lives in many aspects. What I love most is to help people recover from their illnesses and witness their smile in achieving a healthy state of being.”
When asking Dorothea Joaquin, RN, what the best part of her experience at Fauquier has been so far, she commented, “Meeting and working with my colleagues. This is the best place I have worked so far.” She went on to say, “I have enjoyed meeting new friends and fellow Kababayans whom we can call our family away from home. Thank you to Fauquier Health for making our dreams a reality.”
“I am excited to welcome these new nurses to our community and to our Fauquier Health team,” shared Rebecca Segal, Chief Executive Officer at Fauquier Health.
In 2024, Fauquier Health plans to continue expanding upon this new global nursing approach and welcome six more international nurses to the team. For more information on recruitment and career opportunities at Fauquier Health, visit FauquierHealth.org/careers.
Frankie Stamps Sees Dramatic Results From Fauquier Health Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation’s LSVT BIG Program
Frankie Stamps, local community member, has an impressive resume of talents from pickleball and juggling, to underwater diving and over 2,000 skydiving jumps. Saying he tries to stay active is an understatement. What most may not know upon first meeting Frankie, is that he has also been living with Parkinson’s disease for just over 10 years now. After initially being diagnosed with the disease in 2013, Frankie quickly started to understand there are two sides of treatment for Parkinson’s – half is medication, and the other half is exercise.
Upon initial diagnosis, Frankie was introduced to the LSVT BIG exercise program. “The BIG Program consists of a very specific set of exercises that you are supposed to do twice a day in the AM and then again in the PM,” Frankie shared. “The exercises focus on big movements that are larger than life, so that when you do real life things, your movements are a bit more normal.” Frankie shared that those suffering with Parkinson’s are affected in different ways. For instance, some may have tremors that start on one side and eventually end up traveling to the other side, whereas some don’t experience tremors at all. He elaborated that a great deal of those living with the disease tend to experience a decrease in muscle movements and posture, almost as if they are shrinking in on themselves. According to Frankie, “When you retool your mind to do big exercises and force yourself to take big steps, it becomes seemingly more natural throughout the day. Eventually, this becomes your new normal.”
Several years later, in December of 2016, Frankie told his neurologist he was ready to take a refresher course to fine tune some of those skills he had once learned. However, due to the long commute, he was hoping to find a location closer to Warrenton. Frankie was referred to contact Fauquier Health’s Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation team, located right in the town of Warrenton. Linda Wise, his therapist at the time, worked with Frankie for a duration of about four weeks until he completed the program. Frankie completed 16 total visits.
Fast forward to the current year, 2023, it became apparent to Frankie that he was ready to take another refresher course. After discussing it with his neurologist, he immediately called Fauquier Health’s Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation department. At first, he wasn’t sure if he would still have the opportunity to work with the same therapist as he had in 2017. To his surprise, Linda was once again going to be his therapist. “She quickly remembered me because I teach people to juggle and I tried to teach her six years ago,” he joked. “She told me I haven’t really been practicing how to juggle. I told her, I haven’t really been practicing my BIG exercises, so I guess we are both in deep water.”
The difference this time around is that Frankie is actually working with two therapists – Linda Wise and Leslie Fidler. As LSVT certified therapists, Linda and Leslie apply a level of consistency and discipline to their techniques to ensure effectiveness. Linda is an occupational and physical therapist who is certified in the LSVT BIG exercise program. Leslie is a speech therapist who is certified in the LSVT LOUD program. Similar to BIG, LOUD is a separate therapy that focuses on increasing the volume of your speech and focusing on the pronunciations of your words. Frankie shared that the two therapies often cross over. For example, he found that others had a hard time hearing him when he spoke. Leslie was able to identify that it was not only related to speech, but the direction of speech. Frankie has been working on retooling the way he speaks to others by consciously making sure he is looking up or in the direction of the other person. Sometimes, those living with Parkinson’s tend to look downward which can muffle the volume of their voice. Frankie said, “The care has been excellent. My wife is so happy over the fact that I am standing up straighter and that I am doing a lot better.”
Parkinson’s “BIG for Life” Exercise Classes
BIG for Life Community Exercise is an exercise program led by therapists certified in the LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) technique for Parkinson’s Disease. The classes are available for those living with Parkinson’s Disease to complete targeted exercises and renew their enthusiasm for completing at home exercises. The bigger the movements, the better. To learn more or sign up for a class in the LSVT BIG or LOUD Programs, call Fauquier Health Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation at 540.316.2680 or visit FauquierHealth.org.
Fauquier Health Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation is part of the Fauquier Health Orthopedics and Spine service line. Fauquier Health is nationally recognized as a Center of Excellence for Joint Replacement by The Joint Commission.
Smithfield® Supports Communities During Commonwealth Clash with Donation of 260,000 Servings of Protein
This week, Smithfield® showed that its sponsorship of the Commonwealth Clash goes beyond just supporting athletics through its donation of much-needed protein to food banks in the communities surrounding Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia (UVA). As a part of Smithfield’s Helping Hungry Homes initiative, the brand donation provides 65,000 pounds of protein to the local communities supported by Feeding Southwest Virginia and Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to aid in hunger relief for the region.
Smithfield representatives presented the donations during two events at each respective food bank, highlighting the importance of center-of-the-plate protein donations for residents of these Virginia communities. The brand also showed appreciation for the staff and volunteers at each food bank by bringing its Bacon Bus to provide lunch.
“These donations, as a part of the Commonwealth Clash, bring these two universities — Virginia Tech and University of Virginia — together in the most meaningful way possible,” said Jonathan Toms, senior community development manager for Smithfield Foods. “Supporting Feeding Southwest Virginia and Blue Ridge Area Food Bank impacts these communities greatly, and we thank them for their continuous efforts to provide relief to the residents of our home state.”
Since the 2014-2015 academic year, Smithfield has sponsored the Smithfield Commonwealth Clash — the rivalry between Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia across all school-sponsored sports. Throughout the year, the company looks to support the communities surrounding Virginia Tech and UVA.
Feeding Southwest Virginia alone channels over $33 million in food and groceries through 380 partner feeding programs in its 26-county, nine-city region. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank serves those living with hunger across 25 counties and eight cities on either side of the Blue Ridge. With the help of more than 400 programs and pantry partners, it provides nutritious food to well over 125,000 people each month. But protein continues to be one of the biggest needs for local food banks because of costs and limited resources.
“Receiving this donation from Smithfield brings unsurmountable support in alleviating hunger for Southwest Virginia,” said Pamela Irvine, president and CEO for Feeding Southwest Virginia. “We are thankful for the partnership with the high demand for food assistance in our area.”
“Smithfield has our gratitude for this generous donation,” said Michael McKee, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. “This will provide much-needed center-of-the-plate protein to the residents of our community and continue to provide hope to our neighbors.”
Lawmakers Try Again to Set a Vote on Puerto Rico’s Status
WASHINGTON – A coalition of senators, House members, and prominent Puerto Rican politicians is pressing Congress to pass legislation that would set a vote on the future of the island territory.
“It’s been more than 100 years since Puerto Rican residents became U.S. citizens … well over 300,000 Puerto Ricans have served in our nation’s military,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, sponsor of the Senate bill, said last week. “I think we should all agree that Americans living in Puerto Rico deserve an overdue permanent and democratic answer on their political status.”
The Puerto Rico Status Act authorizes the island territory of over 3 million residents to hold a federally-binding referendum to choose among three options: statehood, independence, or sovereignty in free association with the United States.
Heinrich’s bill is companion legislation to a House bill introduced in April by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, R-Puerto Rico.
“For far too long, the people of Puerto Rico have been deprived of the self-determination that they and all people deserve,” Hoyer told Capital News Service. “We owe it to Puerto Ricans to bring an end to their island’s 124-year-old status as a U.S. territory and to grant them control over their island’s political future.”
As House majority leader, Hoyer brought a bill to the House floor in December 2022 to set a status vote for Puerto Rico; it passed the House but was not considered by the Senate.
“I remain committed to working with Puerto Rico’s elected officials and community leaders to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico have full autonomy and democratic control over their status,” Hoyer said.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, is among 21 other senators co-sponsoring the Senate measure.
“The United States is grounded in the principle that every citizen has the right to self-determination and representation in government,” Van Hollen told CNS. “While we are always working to reach this ideal, one way we continue to fall short is in denying the people of Puerto Rico these core American rights.”
Puerto Rico has been an American territory since 1898, when the United States acquired the island during the Spanish-American War.
The island’s residents are U.S. citizens but do not enjoy some of the same rights as residents of the 50 states, such as voting for president. Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner serves in the House but lacks voting power.
Critics say the territorial status has often resulted in Puerto Rico not receiving ample attention or much-needed aid when natural disasters strike, most notably when Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017.
“When I go to some parts of Puerto Rico that are without power in the wake of natural disasters, I say if this happened in Connecticut, there’d be riots in the streets,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut. “It is unfair and unjust for the people of Puerto Rico to be treated as second-class citizens. Colonial status must end.”
The latest congressional effort to get a vote on Puerto Rico’s status faces strong headwinds: nine previous bills and resolutions dating back to 1998 previously failed.
Puerto Ricans have voted in six referendums since 1967 on the issue of their political status. The past three referendums in 2012, 2017, and 2020 showed a majority support for statehood, but the issue faces partisan roadblocks in Congress, which ultimately decides if the island can become a state.
When the issue was voted on in the House in December of last year, the vote was 233-191. All Democrats but only 16 Republicans voted in favor of allowing Puerto Rico to vote on its future. The bill died as a new Congress was sworn in a month later.
In the first 70 years of American independence, debates on admitting new states to the Union revolved around whether they would be slave or free. Today, that debate is focused on whether a new state would be a Democratic or Republican state and send delegations representing those parties, which could flip the balance of power in the House or Senate or both.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in 2020 that statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia was part of the Democrats’ “radical” agenda. McConnell and other Republicans believe the admission of the two would send four Democratic senators to Washington, giving the Democratic Party a powerful advantage in the closely divided Senate.
Senators at last week’s press conference rejected that argument.
“Oftentimes when states come in and everyone assumes they are always going to be Republican or they are always going to be Democrat, and then the voters prove themselves to be independent,” Heinrich said. “We’ve seen that with Hawaii, we’ve seen that with Alaska, and I think this is about being true to the will of the people.”
The senator acknowledged that the path from territory to state can be arduous.
“It took us 50 New Mexico statehood bills to get there – many, many decades before we finally became the 47th state of the United States,” Heinrich said.
Some senators said they had constituents deeply interested in the future of Puerto Rico.
“We are home to more than 288,000 Connecticut residents of Puerto Rican descent, the highest density of Puerto Rican heritage anywhere in the country,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut.
The sponsors see the legislation as the best attempt yet to bring the issue of Puerto Rico’s future to a resolution.
“This bill is a compromise between members of the House that sit on different sides of the question of final status, but who agree that now is the time to make that decision,” Murphy said.
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said the 22 senators on the bill was “the highest number of original co-sponsors in history.”
“That bodes well for our fight for equality,” said the governor, who faces a challenge from González-Colón in next year’s Progressive New Party gubernatorial primary. The PNP is pro-statehood.
Besides Hoyer, cosponsors on the House Puerto Rico bill include Maryland Democratic Reps. David Trone, Jamie Raskin, and John Sarbanes.
By RYAN MERCADO
Capital News Service
Cash Bail Policies are Under Fresh Scrutiny
States can’t figure out what to do about cash bail.
The system — in which an arrested suspect pays cash to avoid sitting in jail until their court date and gets the money back when they appear — is deeply entrenched in the nation’s history as a way to ensure defendants return to face justice.
But cash bail is undergoing a reckoning as policymakers debate its disproportionate effects on underserved communities and people with low incomes who sometimes can’t afford bail — as well as just how much the system truly keeps the public safe.
This year, some states such as Illinois and jurisdictions such as Los Angeles County in California and Cuyahoga County in Ohio scaled back their bail systems, even eliminating cash bail entirely for low-level offenses in some cases.
Policymakers in other places, meanwhile, are moving in the opposite direction.
Republican lawmakers in at least 14 states — including Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin — introduced about 20 bills this year aimed at increasing the number of non-bailable offenses and either encouraging or requiring judges to consider defendants’ criminal records when setting bail, according to analysis by The Associated Press.
And in New York state, where changes to curtail the use of bail took effect in 2020, lawmakers have made several rounds of rollbacks amid concerns about rising crime rates.
Some bail policy advocates argue that these changes may contribute to racial and socioeconomic discrimination by relying on one’s ability to post bail and undermine the idea that those accused of a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“There’s no single answer to effective bail reform,” Meghan Guevara, executive partner with the Pretrial Justice Institute, a criminal justice advocacy group, told Stateline.
Measures to increase the use of cash bail or to include certain factors in assessing bail eligibility saw varying levels of success. In Wisconsin, voters approved a state constitutional amendment in April allowing judges to consider factors such as a defendant’s past convictions and the need to protect the public from bodily harm in “violent crime” cases.
Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation in July that requires judges who are setting bail to first consider factors such as a suspect’s flight risk, potential danger to others, past convictions for violent crimes, and previous failures to appear in court.
In Indiana, lawmakers in April passed their first swipe at Senate Joint Resolution 1, which would amend language in the state’s constitution and enable judges to deny bail to those they consider a “substantial risk.” The bill must pass again in 2025 before appearing on the ballot in 2026.
In Georgia, lawmakers considered legislation that sought to impose cash or property bail for dozens of additional crimes, including misdemeanors. It failed due to disagreements between the House and Senate, but Republican state Rep. Houston Gaines, who sponsored the measure in the House, expects the bill to pass in the next legislative session.
Gaines, in an emailed statement, said: “Eliminating cash bail has been a disaster in places it’s been tried — even New York has reversed course on some of its radical policies. We can’t afford to create a revolving door of criminals who don’t show up for court and victimize other individuals.”
Political backlash and rollbacks
Between 2017 and 2019, a bipartisan movement for changes to bail systems gained momentum at both the local and state levels. Some states, such as New Mexico, New Jersey and Kentucky, sharply curtailed their cash bail systems by almost entirely eliminating cash bail, expanding release programs and moving toward risk-based assessments to determine pretrial release.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic strained crowded jails and detention centers, and agencies eased bail systems to reduce exposure.
Between 2019 and 2020, homicide rates increased 30% — one of the largest year-over-year increases on record, according to data released by the FBI and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Homicide gun deaths also surged 35% in 2020, the largest year-over-year increase recorded in more than 25 years. Despite these increases, the overall violent crime rate in the country did not increase during the pandemic, according to federal crime surveys.
In California and New York, policymakers rolled back their pre-pandemic changes to cash bail.
“Fears about public safety are in many ways greatly overblown and misplaced,” said Sharlyn Grace, a senior policy adviser at the law office of the Cook County Public Defender in Illinois. “It is exceedingly rare for someone who’s released pretrial to be arrested and accused of a new offense that involves violence against another person.”
A report released by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in 2021 found that about 95% of individuals arrested and released between January and September 2020 were not rearrested while awaiting trial, and there was very little difference in rearrest rates before and after bail reform in the state.
New York had passed a sweeping overhaul in 2019, largely ending the use of money bail for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies, with a focus on imposing the “least restrictive” release conditions. The state’s bail law has undergone multiple rounds of revisions since then, primarily driven by calls from Republicans to amend or completely reverse the law.
In early 2020, New York expanded bail options, particularly in cases involving harm to a person or property. In 2022, the state further broadened the definition of “harm” and clarified factors judges must consider, such as criminal history, when setting release conditions.
This year, negotiations over additional changes led to the removal of the requirement for the “least restrictive” release, a proposal announced by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul last spring.
Some state Democrats and criminal justice advocacy groups have strongly criticized these changes, arguing that the most recent revisions represent a rollback in progress.
“These rollbacks have had a serious effect on our pretrial population, and we’re still seeing the same kinds of wealth-based and racial inequities that were the drivers of bail reform in the first instance,” said Jullian Harris-Calvin, the director of the Greater Justice New York program under the Vera Institute of Justice, a national nonprofit criminal justice advocacy group.
Money bail remains prohibited for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies in New York, with some exceptions related to rearrested individuals.
In 2018, then-California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed Senate Bill 10 into law, which would have made the Golden State the first to end the use of cash bail for all detained suspects awaiting trials. The American Bail Coalition, a nonprofit trade association representing the bail industry, pushed back hard, organizing Californians Against the Reckless Bail Scheme to lead a repeal effort through a veto referendum.
Voters repealed the measure in 2020. Some who opposed the law said the proposed risk assessment tool — which generally measures factors such as flight risk, public safety risk and criminal history — could potentially cause more harm than good, said Allie Preston, a senior policy analyst for criminal justice reform with the left-leaning policy institute Center for American Progress. Some bail policy advocates say using risk assessment tools in the pretrial process may contribute to more racial and socioeconomic inequities.
Jeff Clayton, the executive director of the American Bail Coalition, said in an interview that risk-based assessments are problematic because “there’s no scientific way to predict pretrial risk in terms of a particular defendant.” Clayton added that setting a bail amount offers more flexibility, which may be beneficial in some cases.
“The question is, can we engineer the alternate system better than the existing system of monetary bonds, posting bonds and staying in jail that’s existed throughout history?” Clayton said. “There’s reasons to suggest that we can’t do a better job.”
Although statewide change to California’s bail system failed, a few jurisdictions in the state have introduced other changes to their bail systems. Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco both use risk assessment tools and offer other services to help those released pretrial return for their court dates and address needs, such as transportation.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court implemented a zero cash bail system in October. Under the new bail protocols, those charged with nonviolent or less serious crimes will be detained before arraignment only if a judge determines they present a threat to the community or a potential flight risk instead of whether they are capable of posting bail. In cases of violent and serious felonies, however, the bail system remains intact.
“[Los Angeles County’s new] bail policy is a really important step towards promoting safety and justice and away from a system where the rich are able to buy their freedom and the poor languish in jail,” said Claire Simonich, the associate director of Vera California, an initiative under the Vera Institute of Justice.
Some residents, county officials, and members of law enforcement say the new policy will compromise law enforcement’s ability to address crime. And at least a dozen municipalities in Los Angeles County filed a lawsuit in September to block the new system from taking effect.
More legislative efforts
Lawmakers in some states have pushed for further changes in their legislative sessions.
Connecticut state Rep. Steven Stafstrom, a Democrat, said the problem in his state stems from an outdated constitutional provision that limits the state’s ability to deny bail, primarily reserving bail for capital offenses. But the state abolished the death penalty more than a decade ago. Since capital offenses no longer exist in Connecticut, there are limited legal grounds for holding people pretrial, especially if they have the financial means to post bail.
“We really need to first repeal that provision out of the state constitution and then move much more towards a risk-based system that takes into account someone’s risk and likelihood to flee as opposed to simply their ability to pay,” Stafstrom said in an interview with Stateline.
In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Democrats this year would limit the use of cash bail by the courts for misdemeanor offenses.
In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where Cleveland is located, informal changes to the court’s culture and practices have reduced the number of people required to pay cash bail, according to The Marshall Project, a news outlet focused on criminal justice. The state supreme court also made changes in 2020 and 2021 aimed at reducing the number of people jailed before trial. Last year, voters passed a measure that requires judges to consider certain factors when setting bail, including public safety.
The adoption of alternative approaches, such as pretrial risk assessments, is gaining ground across the country. Some two dozen different risk assessment tools are in use in at least 26 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Stateline is a sister publication of The Virginia Mercury within States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Stateline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Scott S. Greenberger for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Stateline on Facebook and Twitter.
by Amanda Hernandez, Virginia Mercury
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Virginia War Memorial Announces Winners of 2023 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest
An eighth-grade student from Henrico County and a high school junior from Fairfax County were the first-place winners in the Virginia War Memorial’s 2023 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest. The winners were announced at the 67th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony held Friday, November 10 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.
The winner in the middle school category is David Contreras, an 8th grade homeschooled student who lives in Henrico. His teacher is his mother, Rachel Contreras.
The winner in the high school category is Mia Ramos, a 11th grade student at W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax. Her teacher is Ashley Kipperman.
The annual competition was open to middle and high school-age students residing in Virginia and enrolled in public or private schools or homeschooled. The essay topic for the 2023 competition was “A Virginian Who Served in the Military During the Korean War Era Who Inspires Me.”
Both contest winners were invited to Richmond accompanied by their parents, guardians and teachers where they read their essays aloud as part of the Veterans Day Ceremony on stage in the E. Bruce Heilman Amphitheater at the Virginia War Memorial. The students were personally congratulated by and Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears; Major General James W. Ring, Adjutant General of Virginia; Virginia Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Daniel Gade; and Virginia War Memorial Director Dr. Clay Mountcastle.
The students also received prize packages donated by McDonald’s Restaurants of Richmond and Hampton Roads and the Virginia War Memorial Foundation.
“We are pleased to join Lieutenant Governor Earle-Sears, Commissioner Gade and all our fellow Virginians in congratulating Mia and David on their winning entries in the Virginia War Memorial’s 2023 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest. Congratulations also to all of the students from throughout the Commonwealth that took the time to write essays and submit essays this year,” said Dr. Clay Mountcastle, Virginia War Memorial Director.
“Educating our young people and passing on the stories of service and sacrifice of our men and women who served is one of our most important missions here at the Virginia War Memorial. With their inspiring words, both written and presented in person during the Veterans Day Ceremony, these two inspiring students demonstrate the importance of this vital mission.”
The winning essays are posted online on the Virginia War Memorial Foundation website: vawarmemorial.org/learn/contests-scholarships/essays.