2018 Advocacy Priorities - Board Approved 10.18.17

The Advocacy Committee has six priority Issue Areas.  Issues Captains have contacted Partner Advocacy Groups and State and County legislators to identify the following WDC legislative priorities for 2018.  Those priorities that are approved by the WDC Board, will form the framework for the specific bills for which WDC will advocate, including the preparation and delivery of oral and written testimony.  The Montgomery County State Delegation will hold its Priorities Hearing on November 13, 2017, at which WDC Board President Fran Rothstein will present WDC’s 2018 State Legislative priorities. Note that in general, specific State bills that address WDC’s priorities will not be known until after the Maryland Legislature convenes on January 10, 2018.  The Advocacy Committee may propose additional priority legislation at that time.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING – Issue Co-Captains Ellen Myerson and Nancy Scull

End Homelessness. Support the legislative recommendations of the 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 landlords and other property owners 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.

Increase the Supply of low-income housing in Montgomery County. Support legislation that will provide new construction of affordable and low-income rental housing in mixed-income multi-family buildings with nearby public transportation; expand the Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDU’s) program; increase the percentage of new construction units that a builder must designate as affordable low-income rental units to 20% (currently 12.5%) for new construction of 20 units or more (currently 50 or more units); require builders to include units at lower income rates than the current MPDU program’s rates (60 - 70% of AMI), in order to create more units at 30% of AMI (Councilman Marc Elrich is developing a bill on this); identify and acquire vacant, dilapidated, and foreclosed housing stock to develop more low-income housing (Councilman Tom Hucker has had two bills on this issue and is developing other initiatives dealing with affordable housing); support programs that house homeless families; support efforts to include more affordable housing on County-owned land as sector plans are developed.

AGING – Issue Captain Stefanie Hennes

Freeze long-term care insurance rates.  Support legislation that will freeze long-term care insurance renewal rates. Sen. Roger Manno will reintroduce his prior bill (previously SB-176).  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.

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.

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 – Issue Captain Deborah Stine

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.

Change 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.

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.”

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.

Support full funding for our 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.

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.

End child marriage by increasing the marriage eligibility age to 18 years. Support legislation that will change the age of eligibility for marriage from the current age of 15 with parental consent to age 18 under all circumstances. Early marriages often prove to be harmful to the children involved for a variety of reasons: the likelihood of not completing a high school education, potential for domestic abuse, early parenthood, and increased protentional for poverty. Legislation passed last year that would change the age of eligibility for marriage to age 18 under all circumstances, but agreement could not be reached in the Conference Committee.

Provide specific protections for LGBTQ youth, including protecting parental rights and outlawing conversion therapy. Support legislation that will provide specific protections for LGBTQ youth in schools, homeless shelters, and other public facilities; protect parental rights regardless of biological relationship to children and facilitate second parent adoption; 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.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE – Issue Captain Joan Riggs

Terminate rapist’s parental rights. Support legislation that will enable rape victims to seek termination of their rapists’ parental rights when a child is conceived as result of rape. Current law prohibits such termination. Legislation passed the Senate and House last year, but the Conference Committee was appointed too late to take action.

End indefinite juvenile probation. Support legislation that will require set terms for juvenile probation.  In Maryland, the length of probation is not limited by law, so courts can place a child on indefinite probation, up to when that child turns 21, the upper age limit of juvenile jurisdiction. The exact terms can vary widely as can the time frame over which probation must be completed. Reasonable terms of probation, including length of probation, may help more juveniles to be successful in meeting the terms of their probation.

Allow the Courts to determine whether a juvenile should be charged as an adult. Support legislation that will repeal provisions of the current law that excludes from juvenile court jurisdiction certain cases that involve criminal acts committed by juveniles. Currently, under certain circumstances juveniles who are arrested are automatically charged as adults. Last year legislation was proposed that would repeal this provision of the law and allow the court to decide whether a child should be tried as an adult, but it did not pass.

End life without parole. Support legislation that will prohibit life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles who commit criminal offenses while they are under age 18. Such legislation would bring Maryland in line with seventeen other states that have prohibited these death-in-prison sentences for children. This legislation was proposed last year but received an unfavorable House Committee Report.

Authorize third-party audits of unfounded sexual assault cases. Support legislation that will authorize all county law enforcement agencies to conduct third-party audits of sexual assault cases if the percentage of unfounded cases exceed the national average by more than 5 percent as reported by the Uniform Crime Reports. This legislation was proposed last year but received an unfavorable House Committee Report.

Standardize police sexual assault “best practices” training. Support legislation that will standardize police sexual assault best practices for all Maryland jurisdictions and provide certification training in jurisdictions with high levels of “unfounded” sexual assault cases training. This legislation was proposed last year but was not voted out of Senate the Committee.

Reform bail bond and pre-trial release requirements. Support legislation that will reform Maryland’s outdated and inequitable bail bond procedures. The legislation was proposed last year but was not voted out of Committee.

HEALTH – Issue Co-Captains Mary Lou Fox and Margaret Hadley

Preserve consumer access and protections that ensure affordable health care.  Support legislation to mitigate the negative effects of Federal legislation or administrative actions (or inactions) that reduce health care benefits or affordability, whether or not the ACA is dismantled.  This includes, but is not limited to legislation to stabilize the individual insurance market in Maryland; codify consumer protections that were in state law prior to the ACA; codify the individual mandate; define essential benefits that must be offered in health benefit plans; provide full funding for Medicaid and the Medicaid expansion; and move Maryland in the direction of Universal Coverage/access to health care.

Address community health Issues.  Support legislation that improves the quality of life and protects our most vulnerable populations, especially women and children, including legislation to increase the use of clean renewable energy in order to reduce high levels of disease caused by poor air quality; reduce the high rates of maternal mortality; address the opioid epidemic, including full funding for the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) Act; close the loopholes in our gun safety laws; expand access to health care facilities and providers in our rural counties; and maintain adequate funding for the Disabilities Administration.

Provide increased mental health assistance.  Support legislation resulting from the recommendations of the Behavioral Health Advisory Council that will be available this winter. Post-Partum mental health legislation was passed last year, but there is a need to make sure that the bill is implemented. The Medicaid structure for Behavioral Health needs to be maintained, and recommendations from the ongoing Involuntary Civil Commitment pilot program in Baltimore should be reviewed and acted upon.     

WORKING FAMILIES – Issue Captain Ginger Macomber

Over-ride Governor Hogan’s veto of the Healthy Working Families Act (Earned Sick Leave).  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. This legislation was proposed last year but was not voted out of Committee.

Increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour (including tipped workers). Support County and State legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.  The Montgomery County Council passed a bill in 2017, but it was vetoed by County Executive Leggett.  A revised County bill (28-17) has been reintroduced. WDC testified in favor of this bill. Similar State legislation was proposed last year but was not voted out of Committee. 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 to enable pregnant workers to continue working.  This legislation was proposed last year but was not voted out of Committee.

 Require employers to disclose salary ranges and prohibit employers from requesting information about past salary history. Support legislation to increase salary transparency and reduce discrimination against women in the work force, who have historically not received equal pay. This legislation was proposed last year but did not receive a favorable Committee report.

 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 childcare subsidies for low-income workers.  Affordable childcare is essential for working families and gives children a critical head start that results in life-long benefits.

GENERAL

The Advocacy Committee supports the recommendation of the Maryland Commission on Women that our legislators consider the following criteria when drafting, sponsoring and voting for legislation.

  • Will this legislation improve women’s lives? 
  • Will it increase safety for women?
  • Will it improve women’s physical and mental health? 
  • Will it improve women’s economic health?