To the Montgomery County State Delegation,
Thank you for this opportunity to submit written testimony concerning the Woman’s Democratic Club’s most important legislative priorities for the 2018 legislative session. Through our Advocacy Committee, we will be keeping our members informed about proposed legislation that addresses our priorities and advocating for its passage. We know that we can continue to count on our Montgomery County State Delegation to sponsor and support legislation that is important to WDC.
Our Board has identified the following top priority “Issue Areas” that have a significant impact on women and their families.
- Working Families
- Affordable Housing
- Children and Youth
- Criminal Justice
- Working Families
WDC supports legislation that will add to the security and stability of working women and their families, and address serious issues of income inequality. Putting more income in working families’ pockets and ensuring a healthy workforce will not only benefit working families but also our State’s economy. Our legislative priorities are:
- Override Governor Hogan’s veto of the Healthy Working Families Act (Earned Sick Leave). Strongly urge the override of the Governor’s veto. Everyone should be able to stay home when they or a family member are ill, and to take time off for preventative medical care or to deal with the effects of sexual assault and domestic violence.
- Ensure fair scheduling for shift workers. Support legislation to require an employer to pay an employee for their scheduled work hours. Fair pay does not provide a living wage without fair work hours.
- Increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour (including tipped workers). Support State legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The State should follow Montgomery County’s lead. No full-time worker should be paid poverty-level wages in our State.
- Provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Support legislation to strengthen Maryland’s existing law that protects pregnant workers and enables them to continue working.
- Require employers to disclose salary ranges and prohibit employers from requesting information about applicant's’ past salary history. Support legislation to increase salary transparency and reduce discrimination against women in the workforce, who have historically not received equal pay.
- Provide a family and medical leave insurance program. Support legislation resulting from the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Task Force Study. The report and recommendations will be released in early December 2017. It is time for Maryland to follow the lead of other states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia by passing legislation to provide family and medical leave insurance.
- Expand child care tax credits and subsidies. Support legislation resulting from the findings of the Joint Committee on Children, Youth and Families. Maryland ranks 50th in the nation in providing child care subsidies for low-income workers. Affordable childcare is essential for working families and gives children a critical head start that results in lifelong benefits.
WDC supports legislation that will address the affordable housing crisis in Montgomery County and our State, and ensure that all families are adequately housed without fear of eviction. When families have a stable home, they prosper. Research has documented that concentrated neighborhood disadvantage, residential instability, health disparities, and joblessness are often caused by a lack of affordable housing. Our legislative priorities are:
- Support the legislative recommendations of the State’s Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness, chaired by Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Mary Washington. The purpose of the Joint Committee is to ensure that public resources, programs, and policies are coordinated and effective in preventing, mitigating the effects of, and ending homelessness.
- Prohibit property owners and management companies from discriminating against persons seeking housing based on their source of income. Support the “Home Act” proposed by Sen. Will Smith that will bar landlords from discriminating against renters who use government rental-assistance vouchers.
- Preserve Low Income Housing Tax Credits for all Maryland jurisdictions. Support efforts that will ensure the availability of Low Income Housing Tax Credits for all Maryland jurisdictions. A legal settlement requires DHCD to finance at least 1,500 units of rental housing for families within the Baltimore Region using Low Income Housing Tax Credits, resulting in the loss of Low Income Housing Tax Credits for financing rental housing in other parts of Maryland, including Montgomery County.
WDC supports legislation that will address the needs of our growing elderly population, especially elderly women. Due to income inequality and longer life spans, elderly women are more likely to live in poverty than men. Women are also more likely to serve as caregivers for relatives. Our legislative priorities are:
- Preserve the safety net for older adults. Ensure that vital services essential to the well-being of aging adults are protected. The Montgomery County Commission on Aging supports this advocacy area and plans to focus on budget items at the County level.
- Preserve and expand affordable rental housing for seniors. Support legislation that will increase access to affordable rental homes for seniors so that aging individuals can remain in their communities. This is of critical important for aging women because they tend to have lower incomes than men.
- Expand protections and resources for caregivers. Support legislation that will create support systems for those individuals who are caregivers for elderly relatives. Working, yet close to retirement-age women represent the vast majority of these caregivers.
- Freeze long-term care insurance rates. Support legislation that will freeze long-term care insurance renewal rates. While there is a cap on increases, it is set at 15% and people are being priced out of the contracts they have been paying for many years.
- Increase oversight of nursing homes and protection of nursing home residents. Support legislation that will increase oversight of nursing homes to ensure that these facilities are in compliance with legal requirements. In 2016, the Maryland Attorney General investigated a nursing home that improperly released residents who relied on Medicaid, to bring in more lucrative fees associated with Medicare. Maryland is also among the worst states in the nation in investigating nursing home complaints.
Children and Youth
WDC supports legislation that gives all children a “head start,” a quality education and protects them from “ACES” (Adverse Childhood Experiences). Research has shown that addressing ACES early in life can limit their long-term negative impacts on the individual, family, and society. Maryland also needs to prepare the next generation to enter the modern workforce so that Maryland remains competitive. Our legislative priorities are:
- Support full funding for public schools. Support legislation that will ensure that the funding formula recommended by the Kirwan Commission will provide adequate and equitable funding necessary to educate all of Maryland’s children.
- Provide early childhood education for all 4-year-olds and for low-income 3-year-olds. Support legislation that will expand high quality early childhood education programming for all 4-year-olds and for all low-income 3-year-olds. Children who live in areas with high concentrations of poverty are less likely to attend preschool than their peers from middle class families. As a result, they begin school already at a disadvantage. The impact of this disadvantage can continue throughout their school career and affect future job readiness.
- Establish Community Schools in high poverty areas. Support legislation that will promote the establishment of Community Schools within neighborhoods that have a high concentration of poverty. Community Schools provide access to social services within the school building. Parents who live in poverty often have difficulty accessing community services such as counseling, parenting classes, and other services that promote healthy families.
- Prohibit discrimination by non-public schools that receive public funds. Support legislation that will prohibit non-public schools that receive public funds from discriminating against students based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity, or disability. Maryland students may receive funding to attend non-public schools through the state’s BOOST scholarship program (Broadening Option and Opportunities Today). There are some non-public schools that indicate on their websites that “students who show special needs or problems will not be able to continue at the school.”
- Require Child Protective Services to become involved when a credible threat of harm is made to a minor. Support legislation that will require Child Protective Services to become involved when a credible threat of harm is made to a minor. Often crimes committed against minors are committed by those who were in a previous relationship with a parent. In many cases prior to the harm to a child, a threat of credible harm to that child was made.
- Expand the definition of neglect to include the commission of a violent crime in the presence of a minor. Support legislation that will expand the definition of “neglect” for purposes of “child in need of assistance” to include when a crime of violence is committed in the presence of a child. This will ensure that a child that witnesses violence will get timely services through local mental health agencies. Witnessing a crime has a long-lasting impact on a child.
- Provide specific protections for LGBTQ youth, including outlawing conversion therapy. Support legislation that will provide specific protections for LGBTQ youth in schools, homeless shelters, and other public facilities; and outlaw the use of conversion therapy. Currently, LGBTQ youth do not have adequate protections. Family law also needs to be updated to protect children of LGBTQ families. Although Maryland has been seen as a champion of rights for LGBTQ people, the Human Rights Campaign ranks 17 states ahead of Maryland on their equity index, which measures how well a state protects and affirms the rights of the LGBTQ community.
- Expedite and reduce the cost of second-parent adoption for lesbian couples when a child is born to one of the women.