COVID-19 Response + Recovery
Jheanelle is a proven leader you can trust in times of trial and crisis. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jheanelle worked to ensure the health and stability of District 20 residents. From the start, she called for and won critical renter protection and home foreclosure measures; release of data disaggregated by race and zip code; and access to food, testing, and services. To ensure a strong recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, she championed the Maryland COVID-19 Relief Act, which includes over $1 billion in relief and stimulus payments for Maryland families and small businesses. Passionate about inclusion, she fought to ensure that immigrant families are eligible for Maryland COVID-19 relief. In the years ahead, Jheanelle will continue to lead on legislation to support Maryland families, increase tax relief and fairness, implement housing protections, support students and parents, and ensure every resident is able to thrive.
The economic security of all Marylanders is one of Jheanelle’s top priorities in Annapolis. She has sat in the living rooms of countless District 20 families and listened to their challenges and triumphs. She was a sponsor of legislation to raise the state minimum wage, and helped champion the passage of earned sick leave. She successfully sponsored and passed Earned Income Tax Credit provisions that will enable low income Marylanders to keep millions of dollars in their pockets and help our economy. She believes the next critical priorities are achieving equal pay for equal work for women, tax fairness, paid family leave that includes at least 12 weeks away from work to care for a new child or family member, time needed for a health condition, etc. Maryland’s inequitable tax structure is directly linked to income inequality. Jheanelle has introduced legislation to increase tax fairness by reducing estate tax exemptions for millionaires so that they pay their fair share.
Every child deserves the opportunity to attend excellent schools, exceed high expectations, and graduate high school ready for the college or career of their choice. Jheanelle has spent her career working to advance educational equity and increase achievement in schools. She brought this passion and expertise to the House Ways and Means Committee, the leading committee on education policy in the House. She passed legislation dealing with trauma-informed schools which will provide support for parents, teachers, and students in addressing adverse experiences that impact learning. Jheanelle was a leader on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which includes over $4 billion in education funding and equity policies. Jheanelle has also helped bring $420 million to Montgomery County for school construction. District 20 and our state have alarming gaps in opportunity and achievement that impact the future of our state. Equity is at the core of our state’s success, and she will continue to work relentlessly to improve outcomes for all students.
Bold leadership is critical in our state and across the world to turn the tide on climate change, and Jheanelle is proud to be a leader on environmental justice. In her current term, she was proud to vote to ban fracking in our state, which she advocated for over several years. She also championed clean energy jobs and sponsored legislation to increase our state's renewable energy goals. Building on a statewide coalition-building effort, Jheanelle voted to increase the state’s renewable electricity standard to 50 percent of the total grid by 2030 and require the state to examine pathways for achieving 100 percent clean power by 2040. She has been an advocate for protecting our drinking water by calling on the governor to deny fracked infrastructure and new oil pipelines in our state. Her vision is for a cleaner, greener future in Maryland by increasing clean energy use with a focus on advancing wind power and affordable renewable energy sources.
Health Care and Equity
Jheanelle is committed to ensuring that all Marylanders have access to quality, affordable health care. Health care is personal for Jheanelle as she depended on Medicaid when she had no other insurance options, and several of her family members are able to access health care consistently for the first time through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). She has voted to ensure that residents have access to affordable and comprehensive mental, physical, and dental health, and to regulate the cost of prescription drugs. Her health work in the legislature has focused on racial and income disparities, particularly around maternal health. She believes it is unconscionable that Black women in Maryland are four times more likely to die as a result of childbirth, and sought to address this preventable statistic by passing three bills on maternal health that will bring impacted women and their families to the table, improve data, and expand access to doula services. She also worked with Senator Shirley Nathan Pulliam to require the Maryland Medicaid Program to provide life-saving medication to low-income Hepatitis C patients. Jheanelle will continue to advocate for solutions that create a healthy Maryland.
Jheanelle knows that for democracy to work for all of us, it must include all voices, and this doesn’t happen by accident. Regardless of color, background or zip code, voters should pick our leaders — our leaders do not get to pick their voters. When it comes to our elections, it’s critical that we have a transparent process we can trust, where Americans have equal freedom to vote. As Chair of Election Law, Jheanelle leads the House of Delegates in passing legislation to expand access to the right to vote. She has spent countless hours on the House floor debating the minority party and winning the votes to pass legislation to expand the number of early voting sites and early voting hours; access to voting eligible incarcerated individuals; enhancing mail-in voting by allowing voters to opt into permanent mail-in voting; making ballot drop boxes permanent; and reducing barriers for students and military voters. As a result of her work on fair elections issues in the 2021 session, Maryland Matters named her a “winner,” noting that “a star is born.”
Housing and Renters Rights
Jheanelle emerged during her first term as a leading legislator on housing stability. From housing tax credits, to being a voice for renters and homeowners during the pandemic, access to affordable, stable, and healthy housing is one of her top priorities and passions. She is the lead sponsor of just cause eviction legislation to prevent unfair lease non-renewal as well as legislation to place a moratorium on evictions and freeze rent payments during the pandemic. She has successfully called for foreclosure prevention measures that also included a pause on late fees and negative credit reporting. District 20 is situated in one of the most expensive housing markets in the region. Too many residents are burdened with the high cost of housing, impacting their ability to afford necessities. Increasing affordable housing options is achievable through expansion of state programs and the development of county partnerships. She continues to collaborate with colleagues at every level of government to expand affordable housing for renters, potential homeowners, and seniors, including sponsoring affordable housing legislation.
As an immigrant born in Kingston, Jamaica, Jheanelle is passionate about the rights of immigrants in our community. She proudly voted for the Maryland Trust Act, which would protect immigrants from profiling and prevent unjust detention. She will continue to champion this legislation until it achieves full passage, and work to ensure that all immigrants in our community have the opportunity to thrive. She also introduced a sensitive locations bill to prevent our hospitals, courts and schools from participating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and protect immigrants at these places that should be safe for everyone.
Jheanelle also successfully led legislation on the House floor that will decrease higher education barriers for undocumented immigrants.
From working closely with immigrant communities, Jheanelle understands that immigrant families also want affordable and safe housing, access to quality jobs, protections from exploitation, strong public safety, and great schools for their children - issues that Jheanelle prioritizes in her service and legislation.
Police and Justice Reform
From policing to re-entry, fairness and equal treatment are critical at every stage of our justice system. In the 2021 legislative session, Jheanelle was proud to help lead one of the most robust police reform bills in the country, which included repealing the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, requiring body cameras statewide, creating a transparent complaint and accountability system that includes civilian participation, raising the standard for use of force, restricting no-knock warrants, and other critical protections. Jheanelle has championed police reform from the start of her tenure. In her very first legislative session, she passed a bill to curb racial profiling in pre-textual stops — a bill that many said could not be done. She has also been the lead sponsor of a law to create transparency in prison labor wages, and her recently passed prison legislation will provide early release for incarcerated individuals who complete a correctional education program. These wins were all hard-fought over several years, and Jheanelle will continue to lead that fight for a system that provides equal justice.
Our treatment of seniors in our community says a lot about our values. Jheanelle connects with seniors often to understand their priorities issues frequently as her neighborhood includes several senior living residences. Our seniors are often on fixed incomes, value independent living, require transportation access, and have critical health care needs. She successfully passed a tax credit for seniors who are long-time homeowners, and her push for the rights of renters supports seniors who rent their homes. She also recognizes and advocates for support for caregivers who need resources to best care for family members. Jheanelle values our senior community and is an advocate for quality, affordable housing, accessible recreation services and better access to transit.
Small businesses in District 20 and across the state have faced uniquely challenging times over the past few years, from the impacts of the Purple Line construction, to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jheanelle worked to secure funds and support for struggling businesses, including $2.5 million in grants for impacted Purple Line businesses. She helped pass the MD COVID-19 Relief Act to provide grants and loans to small businesses as they recover; state unemployment tax relief with expanded options for payment and sales tax benefits. Beyond these unique challenges, small businesses need support and state reforms in order to survive and thrive. Jheanelle was named an “All Star” by the Maryland Retailers Association for her efforts to support the needs of small and Main Street businesses. Small businesses continue to need state reforms, grants, and legacy programs in order to survive in the long term, and she is committed to listening and passing critical legislation.
Transportation is a lifeline for residents in our community as it connects us to jobs, health care, food, and housing. In District 20, support from the state is critical to the success of projects like the Purple Line, and the efficiency of the Metro system. Jheanelle worked closely with legislators in our region, residents, and our state and county agencies to identify opportunities and solutions that keep our projects on track and prioritize people over cars. In 2018, she was a sponsor of legislation to dedicate $167 million in funding to the Washington Metro Transportation Authority (WMATA) in order to help the system meet their needs and continue to serve residents. Improving and augmenting bike lanes and the reliability and safety of our busses and trains are her top priorities. In our community, pedestrian safety and traffic issues have been a visible part of her advocacy with the District 20 team, working in partnership with the State Highway Administration. Jheanelle takes an equity approach to transportation projects, understanding the impact of new projects on low income communities and diversity. She believes in community input at all stages of the process and will continue to champion greater access to safe, reliable transportation options all across District 20.