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MEET JHEANELLE

Jheanelle Wilkins was born in Kingston, Jamaica and moved to the United States with her mother and brother when she was five years old. Growing up in humble circumstances, Jheanelle learned the importance of being an advocate and serving others.

Jheanelle is a progressive, community-driven legislative advocate dedicated to policy change that makes a difference in people’s lives. She has organized and fought for greater opportunity for all residents in our community, including raising the minimum wage, earned sick leave for workers, protecting our environment, and improving our schools. She believes we are strongest when all voices are heard and all communities are represented in the democratic process.

She resides in downtown Silver Spring and enjoys patronizing District 20s restaurants and businesses.

Legislative Advocate

Jheanelle has leveraged her organizing and advocacy background to help pass impactful legislation in the Maryland General Assembly. In the Maryland General Assembly, she serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. Jheanelle is the chair of the Montgomery County Delegation’s Land Use, Transportation, and Public Safety Committee, and Vice Chair of the Montgomery County House Caucus. Her legislative achievements include legislation related to maternal health, justice reform and racial profiling, advancing educational equity, and the economic security of families. Jheanelle was the lead sponsor of legislation that curbs racial profiling and removes unnecessary criminal penalties for minor, nonviolent offenses. Her legislation to expand tax credit eligibility for retired veterans will help our service men and women to continue to live in Maryland. Jheanelle has a proven record of legislative achievement on District 20's most pressing issues.

 

Career

Throughout her career, Jheanelle has fought for progressive values and to advocate for policy change. Professionally, she is the Director of State and Local Government Affairs at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights coalition. She has played lead roles in advocating for federal immigration reform, promoting educational equity, advancing criminal justice reform and protecting voting rights. In her career, she has shaped federal and state policy; trained and engaged activists from Portland to Biloxi on progressive issues; created and implemented issue campaigns at the federal and state levels to pass legislation that promotes equality; and facilitated the participation of thousands of people in the political process.

Education

Jheanelle earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Delaware and a Master of Public Administration in Social Policy from the American University.

ISSUES

Affordable Housing

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. I’m proud to live in our thriving, diverse community, and have a track record of  working to ensure affordability for current and potential residents. Increasing affordable housing options is achievable through expansion of state programs and the development of county partnerships. I have worked with colleagues at every level to expand affordable housing for renters, potential homeowners, and seniors, including sponsoring affordable housing legislation in the 2018 session.

Economic Security

The economic security of all Marylanders is one of my top priorities in Annapolis. I have sat in the living rooms of countless families in our community and listened to their challenges and triumphs. I am a sponsor of legislation to raise the state minimum wage, and helped champion the passage of earned sick leave. I believe that a livable wage and resources to support a standard of living are the right of every resident. By bringing the county and state together, we can create high-quality jobs that enable working people to support themselves and their families, and increase access to affordable child care and housing.

Educational Equity

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. I’ve spent my career working to advance educational equity and increase achievement in schools. I bring this passion and expertise to the House Ways and Means Committee, where I serve on the Education Subcommittee and use my seat at the table to speak up for all students. Our district and 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 I will continue to work relentlessly to improve outcomes for all students.

Environmental Justice

Bold leadership is critical in our state and across the world to turn the tide on climate change, and I'm proud to have the endorsement of the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters. I was proud to vote to ban fracking in our state, which I advocated for over several years. I have also championed clean energy jobs and sponsored legislation to increase our state's renewable energy goals. I have been an advocate for protecting our drinking water by calling on the governor to deny fracked infrastructure and new oil pipelines in our state. My 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

I’m committed to ensuring that all Marylanders have access to quality, affordable health care. Health care is personal for me. I depended on Medicaid when I had no other insurance options, and several of my family members currently access care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA has been successful in Maryland, and we must work to ensure that it’s affordable for everyone. I’ve voted to support greater access to health care in Maryland and curb the cost of prescription drugs. I will continue to advocate for solutions that create a healthy Maryland.

Immigrant Rights

As an immigrant born in Kingston, Jamaica, I’m passionate about the rights of immigrants in our community. I am a champion of the Maryland Trust Act, which would protect immigrants from profiling and prevent unjust detention. I was proud to vote for this bill and work in coalition for its passage in the House of Delegates. I 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. In addition, I successfully led legislation on the House floor that will decrease higher education barriers for undocumented immigrants.

Justice Reform

From policing to re-entry, fairness and equal treatment are critical at every stage of our justice system. As a legislator, I have advocated for reforms that include greater transparency and information-sharing with the public, civilian inclusion in the law enforcement complaint process, increasing training for law enforcement on the use of force and implicit bias, money bail reform, and reforming the sentencing practices for juveniles. I have successfully passed several justice reform bills that promote equality and strengthen our justice system.

Seniors

Our treatment of seniors in our community says a lot about our values. My neighborhood includes several senior living residences, and I've had the opportunity to work closely with my neighbors and seniors across the district to understand the challenges they face and increase their standard of living. Our seniors are often on fixed incomes, value independent living, require transportation access, and have unique health care needs. I value our senior community and I am an advocate for quality, affordable housing, accessible recreation services and better access to transit.

Transportation

Transportation is a lifeline for residents in our community as it connects us to jobs, health care, and housing. In District 20, support from the state is critical to the success of projects like the Purple Line, and reform of the Metro system. I work closely with legislators in our region, and our state and county agencies to identify opportunities and solutions that keep our projects on track. I believe in community input at all stages of the process and will continue to champion greater access to reliable transit all across District 20.

CONTACT JHEANELLE

Friends of Jheanelle Wilkins
P.O. Box 7601
Silver Spring, Maryland 20907