To the Montgomery County State Delegation,
Thank you for this opportunity to submit written testimony concerning the Woman’s Democratic Club’s (WDC) most important legislative priorities for the 2019 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 and that is directly relevant to women and their families. Last year, because of your efforts thirteen of our priority bills were passed into law.
Our Board has identified the following top priority “Issue Areas.”
Children and Youth
Criminal Justice and Public Safety
General Statement. We ask you to support legislation that will equitably address the crisis in “affordable” and “low-income” rental housing in Maryland; eliminate homelessness; and ensure that all families have adequate, stable housing that makes families healthier, children more successful in school, and parents better able to obtain and maintain employment.
Increase the Supply of Low-Income Rental Housing in the State. Support legislation and appropriations that will provide for the development of more low-income rental housing units, and preserve existing low-income housing.
Preserve Low-Income Housing Tax Credits for all Maryland Jurisdictions. Support legislation that will ensure the availability of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) for all Maryland jurisdictions and help finance more low-income rental housing in Montgomery County and throughout the State.
Protect Families from Eviction. Support “Just-Cause Eviction” legislation to ensure all tenants receive due process and proper notice.
Prohibit Landlord/Owner Discrimination Against Persons Seeking Housing Based on Their Source of Income. Support “The Home Act” to protect renters who use government rental-assistance vouchers.
End Homelessness. Support the legislative recommendations of the State’s “Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness” to ensure that public resources, programs and policies are coordinated and effective in preventing, mitigating and ending homelessness.
General Statement. We ask you to support legislation that will ensure economic security for elderly women; contribute to healthy aging; and support affordable, compassionate elder care that is compliant with all requirements.
Stabilize Long-term Care Insurance Premiums. Support legislation that will slow the increase in long-term care insurance renewal rates.
Preserve the Safety Net for Older Adults. Support legislation that will ensure that vital services essential to the well-being of aging adults are protected.
Preserve and Expand Affordable Rental Housing for Seniors. Support legislation that will increase access to affordable rental homes for seniors so that aging individuals, especially single women, can remain in their communities.
Expand Protections and Resources for Caregivers. Support legislation that will create support systems for those individuals, most of whom are women, who are caregivers for elderly relatives.
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 compliant with all legal requirements.
CHILDREN AND YOUTH
General Statement. We ask you to support legislation that will implement the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission; fully fund public schools and educational services (especially schools with a high concentration of children living in poverty); ensure that child care facilities are compliant and safe; protect children against violence and abuse; and promote safe and healthy living environments, including addressing food insecurity.
Recommendations of the Kirwan Commission.
Ensure Full Funding for our Public Schools. Support legislation that implements the funding formula recommended by the Kirwan Commission to provide adequate and equitable funding necessary to educate all of Maryland’s children.
Provide Early Childhood Education for all 4-year-olds, Low-income 3-year-olds and All Children with Disabilities. Support legislation that will expand high quality early childhood education so that all children, regardless of income or ability, receive the head start they need to succeed throughout their school careers.
Elevate the Status of the Teaching Profession. Support legislation that improves working conditions for teachers, allows more time for collaboration and strategic planning; ensures salaries are comparable to other high-status professions; and implements career ladders for teachers.
Establish World Class College and Career-Readiness Pathways. Support legislation to expand the options for high school students after 10th grade to earn an industry recognized credential, an Associate’s Degree, or other college credit work that emulates global standards.
Provide More Resources for At-Risk- Students. Support legislation that increases per pupil funding with additional resources for specified categories of student need, including students who live in poverty, students with limited English proficiency, and students with a disability.
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.
Provide Specific Protections for LGBTQ Youth, Including Protecting Parental Rights. 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.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY
General Statement. Support legislation that prevents violence against women, including closing gun loopholes; supports survivors of human trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence; reforms the criminal justice system; ensures fair sentencing practices; provides for an equitable juvenile justice system, and keeps immigrant families together.
Strengthen Laws to Prevent Domestic Violence and Assist Survivors. Support legislation that closes loopholes in existing laws, and strengthens the Protective Order Law which covers domestic violence victims.
Promote Gun Safety. Support legislation that outlaws guns made by 3-D printing; bans guns on college campuses; expands the ban on gun purchases by those on probation for stalking using emotional threats; and closes loopholes in Maryland’s gun safety laws.
Prevent Human Trafficking and Aid its Victims. Support legislation that modernizes our human trafficking laws to make it easier for prosecutors to prosecute human traffickers and vacates some criminal charges committed by a human trafficking victim.
Protect Rape Survivors from HIV infection. Support legislation that requires the State to provide nPEP (non-occupational Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) at no charge to a rape victim. nPEP can prevent the transmission of HIV if administered within 72-hours of exposure.
Standardize Police Sexual Assault “Best Practices” and Training. Support legislation that standardizes police sexual assault best practices for all Maryland jurisdictions and provides for certification training in jurisdictions with high levels of “unfounded” sexual assault cases.
Authorize Third Party Audits of Unfounded Sexual Assault Cases. Support legislation that authorizes 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.
General Statement. We ask you to support legislation that ensures positive community health, including a healthy environment; provides for adequate mental health services; protects women’s health, including access to reproductive choice; and guarantees an affordable, functioning health care delivery system (including insurance, Medicaid, ACA replacement, provider networks etc.).
Preserve Consumer Access and Protections that Ensure Quality, Affordable Health Care. Support legislation that mitigates the negative effects of Federal legislation or administrative actions that reduce health care benefits or affordability. This includes, but is not limited to legislation that stabilizes the individual insurance market in Maryland; codifies consumer protections that were in State law prior to the ACA; codifies the individual mandate; defines essential benefits that must be offered in health benefit plans; ensures inclusion of integrative (holistic) approaches to healthcare; provides full funding for Medicaid and the Medicaid expansion; and moves 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 that increases the use of clean renewable energy in order to reduce high levels of disease caused by poor air quality; reduces the high rates of maternal mortality; monitors efforts to contain the opioid epidemic, including implementation of the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) Act; expands access to health care facilities and providers in our rural counties; bans endocrine disrupting synthetic turf on sports fields used by our children and other residents; and maintains adequate funding for the Disabilities Administration.
Provide Increased Mental Health Assistance. Support legislation resulting from the recommendations of the Behavioral Health Advisory Council.
General Statement. We ask you to support legislation that adds to the security and stability of working women and their families and addresses serious issues of income inequality, including legislation that ensures fair work practices; requires a living wage; provides for equal pay; guarantees fair employee leave policies (including family leave and parental leave); fosters women’s equality in the work place, and subsidizes affordable, quality childcare.
Increase the Minimum Wage to $15 Per Hour (including Tipped Workers). Support State legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour so no full-time worker is paid poverty-level wages in our State. The State should follow the lead of Montgomery County, which passed legislation last year to incrementally increase the minimum wage to $15 hour.
Require Employers to Disclose Salary Ranges and Prohibit Employers from Requesting Information about Applicants’ Past Salary Histories. Support legislation to increase salary transparency and reduce discrimination against women in the work force, who have historically been denied equal pay.
Provide a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program. Support legislation to expand the availability of paid family and medical leave.
Finally, as each of you develops your legislative agenda for 2019, we ask that you keep in mind the recommendations of the Maryland Commission for Women and 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?
Fran Rothstein, President