End of Summer Update

Today we celebrate all of the women and men who labored throughout the decades to provide our generation with the many opportunities we have today. As your state Senator I have endeavored to that very same thing – to provide more Marylanders with more opportunity. And while it seems as though the Trump Administration in Washington has been intent on doing just the opposite, I have been working alongside my Democratic colleagues to move our state forward this summer.

I hope you enjoy this end of summer update. As always, please feel free to reach out with ideas or inquiries – I want to hear from you.

Fighting Jared Kushner and the use of debtors’ prisons, right here in Maryland: 

Working with the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, I sponsored a bill to end a little-known practice which is devastating our most vulnerable communities: de facto debtors’ prisons by a court order. This bill would significantly limit the issuing of arrest warrants for people who have unpaid debt by 1) ensuring the debtor was actually served a show cause notice, and 2) there are exceptional circumstances that require its issuance. Over the course of the last few years thousands of Marylanders have had body attachments issued for their arrest because they had a default judgment entered against them in court. Even more shocking is many of these debtors find themselves in handcuffs after missing a court date they were never made aware of in the first place.

In May I was shocked to learn of a vast, 12,000 unit real estate empire owned by none other than President Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. As The New York TimesThe Baltimore Sun, and others exposed, Kushner Companies is landlord to over 20,000 tenants in Maryland. The articles expose a money-making operation based on squeezing every penny out of struggling families by garnishing their wages and bank accounts, and by using a powerful and intimidating legal operation to win judgment after judgment in court.

Two weeks ago The Baltimore Sun (and then Architectural Digest) linked these two issues together: “Since 2013, the first full year in which the Kushner Cos. operated in Maryland, corporate entities affiliated with the firm’s 17 apartment complexes in the state have sought the civil arrest of 105 former tenants for failing to appear in court to face allegations of unpaid debt”, more than any other landlord in the state, and “court records show that 20 former Kushner tenants have been detained”.

In addition to the coverage of Kushner Companies’ holdings in Maryland and their use of body attachments, Maryland Congressional Democrats including Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Anthony Brown penned a letter to Kushner, saying Kushner’s firm “must abide by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations because its tenants receive federal rental subsidies through the Housing Choice voucher program.” The Baltimore Sun article also notes that “the lawmakers asked for information about how many lawsuits the company has filed against tenants, including those who receive vouchers, and how much money judges have awarded to the firm. They also requested “copies of all requests for body attachments filed by Kushner Companies in the state of Maryland.” Read more here.

We can’t let Kushner Companies and others collect debts by throwing people in jail. I promise to continue the fight to end this deplorable practice. I am eager to reintroduce the bill to end this practice next session.

The Trump Decision on DACA:

President Trump announced his intention to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As you can imagine repeal of this program will have devastating consequences for the many children and families looking to achieve the American dream.
In the state Senate I have fought to protect our immigrant communities from wage theft and other exploitative practices. I have also worked tirelessly with some of my Senate colleagues to ensure we create communities of trust throughout our state so that everyone feels safe. I’ll continue to fight hard on behalf of our immigrant communities and join those in my party that have condemned the President’s recent actions with regard to DACA.

Veterans Caucus:

Last session I was honored to appointed Chair or the Maryland Senate Veterans caucus. One of my goals in this new role was to develop and push a robust, bipartisan veteran’s agenda aimed at improving the lives of veterans and their families here in Maryland. On November 7th, the Caucus has invited over 100 veteran service organizations to help the Caucus in identifying top priorities for veterans in five issue areas: health, education, jobs, taxes, and quality of life. The Caucus will take the product of our work to Annapolis when the General Assembly reconvenes in January as our Veteran’s Agenda. This agenda will help the Caucus in fighting to improve the lives of veterans, including active duty members, reservists, National Guard, and their families. If you are or know someone who is interested in joining us at the summit, give our office a call at 301-858-3634.

News from the State House:

Most laws passed in the 2017 session go into effect on either July 1st or October 1st. Among the many laws that go into effect on July 1st are the raising of the minimum wage to $9.25, a prohibition on pre-k suspensions and expulsions, and tax relief for retired first responders. On October 1st a ban on hydraulic fracturing goes into effect among many other changes to the law.

What we have been up to:

This summer the Maryland Democratic Party launched the Summer of Resistance and Renewal. The effort is a major call-to-action for Democrats across the state to knock on doors, connect with local organizations, build broader coalitions, and band together to resist the Trump agenda and build a better future for our party and our state. In July party activists took a break from their non-stop organizing to rally together at Denizen’s Brewing Company. Click here to listen to my remarks to the more than 100 “do-something” Democrats in attendance.

This interim the Legislative Black Caucus is holding town halls across the state to discuss upcoming issues of interest in the 2018 session. In June I sat on a panel focused on criminal justice reform at the Montgomery County/Howard County town hall at Burtonsville Elementary School with my colleague, Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary. In August I headed down to Cambridge, childhood home of the titanic and fearless American hero, Harriet Tubman, for the Legislative Black Caucus town hall on the Eastern Shore. At the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Center, I led a discussion about the state of bail reform and our success in ending early childhood suspensions and expulsions in our state.

In early August I presented the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition with a summary of the 2017 session and a preview of what next session will look like. Click here to read the write-up. The Coalition’s next meeting is September 6th at 7pm at Einstein High School.

Our website is live! Go to www.SmithforMaryland.com to read more about my vision for a better Maryland and keep up to date with big news from Annapolis and the campaign trail.

This year we distributed more than $30,000 in scholarships to dozens of District 20 residents seeking higher education at Maryland’s many first-rate public colleges and universities. As a first-generation college student myself, I would like to thank all the applications for the inspiration you provided our team. I also want to thank our scholarship committee for their fantastic work and dedication to the process.

Community Updates:

  • Back to school! Montgomery County Public Schools open on Tuesday, September 5th. The whole 2017/2018 calendar can be viewed here.
  • Make sure you stop by Silver Spring Jazz Festival, which is one of my favorite end-of-summer traditions in Silver Spring! #SSJazzFest
  • Stop by and find us at the Takoma Park Folk Festival will be held on September 10th at Takoma Park Middle School.
  • Get ready for Silver Spring Restaurant Week hosted by Councilmember Tom Hucker: September 5th-10th.
  • The first-ever Montgomery County Friendship Picnic is being hosted by the Office of Human Rights on Sunday, September 17th. Click here for more info about this great opportunity to come together.
  • After years of work by thousands of advocates, the Purple Line broke ground on Monday morning. You can read more about the construction this exciting project will require here.

It has been a great privilege serving you in the General Assembly advocating for smart progressive policies aimed at expanding opportunity and moving our state forward. I aim to be responsive to your concerns and want to hear from you. Please feel to contact me anytime via email, phone, or social media at:

  • Phone: (301)-858-3634/(410)-841-3634
  • Email: will.smith@senate.state.md.us
  • Facebook Twitter 

I’ve spent the summer knocking on thousands of doors and plan to announce my intention to seek another term as your state senator. Please stay tuned for a special campaign announcement!

All the best,