PUBLIC POLICY AND ADVOCACY

PUBLIC POLICY AND ADVOCACY PRIORITY FOCUS:

  • Increase Women Candidates Running for Political Office
  • Voter Education, Registration, & Rights
  • Issue Timely Policy Alerts
  • Issue Position Papers related to our Public Policy and Advocacy Issues

EMAIL: publicpolicy@ncbwpgc.net for more information.

Throughout our program year, we engage with community leaders, influencers, and other women-serving organizations to advocate for various legislation that will benefit our community. We particularly monitor closely, the workflow and progress of important legislation that impact women, girls and their families. 

FOR THE LASTEST ON PUBLIC POLICY ACTIVITIES, check out the following four (4) messages:

----------------------Public Policy and Advocacy Message #1

MLAW Legislative Briefing and Legislative Agenda now available

Click here to download our 2022 Legislative Briefing Packet.

The Briefing is held to officially launch our annual Agenda and discuss the bills we will support this year. Our 2022 Agenda can be downloaded here. Throughout the legislative session, you will receive legislative alerts and updates from MLAW telling you how to take action. Your voice is essential to pass our 2022 Agenda, so please call or email when you receive an alert.

----------------------Public Policy and Advocacy Message #2

MARYLAND STATE LEGISLATORS OPENED THE 444TH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY  

Some of the topics, laws, and actions highlighted by state legislators included that impact on our health and well-being: 

Climate Solutions Now Act: An omnibus bill that sets statewide carbon emission goals and establishes specific action related to renewable energy, construction, and emission data. The bill’s primary goal is for Maryland to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2045, with an interim goal of 60% reduction by 2030. 

Climate Crisis and Environmental Justice Act (HB 171, SB 135): The bill specifies two carbon fees. The first, a non-transportation fuel fee, starts at $15 per ton of carbon dioxide, increases $5 per ton per year, and is capped at $60 per ton. And the second, a transportation fuel fee, starts at $10 per ton, increases $3 per year and is capped at $37 per ton. 

Environmental Human Rights Amendment: An amendment to the Maryland Constitution adding, “each person, as a matter of human dignity, has the fundamental and inalienable right to a healthful environment.” The ratification of this amendment would give groups and citizens the opportunity to contest local sources of pollution, such as the placement of pipelines or incinerators. According to Del. Wanika Fisher (D-Prince George’s), this will be the third time this amendment has been presented to the General Assembly.

Gas Station Environment, Health, and Community Protection: Citing the “aggressive” emergence of new convenience store gas stations across the state, Del. Sheila Ruth (D-Baltimore) presented legislation designed to limit the clustering of gas stations. It would require new gas stations to be at least 1,000 feet away from any existing gas station, as well as 1,000 feet away from residential property or other sensitive land uses like schools and day care centers. If passed, the bill would also require new gas stations to install one electric vehicle charging station for every gas pump.

The Maryland General Assembly’s first day of session was Wednesday, Jan. 12, and its last will be Monday, April 11.

----------------------Public Policy and Advocacy Message #3

A CALL TO ACTION:  Urging Congress to Pass Critical Voting Rights and Economic Justice Legislation    

Voting Rights and Economic Justice, the theme of the November 16, 2021, Freedom Walk held in Washington, DC, urged Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Act, The Freedom to Vote Act, the Build Back Better Act, and the Washington, DC Admissions Act (Statehood) to protect our voting rights and economic justice.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act H.R.4) would restore and update the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 which stopped states from enacting racially discriminatory voting restrictions. It would also strengthen the government’s ability to respond to voting discrimination. So far in 2021, 49 states have introduced more than 400 anti-voter bills and at least 19 states have passed 33 of them. These voting restrictions disproportionately impact people of color, women, voters with disabilities and young and older voters, making it more difficult for them to access the ballot box. Gains in Black voting rights have been reversed by these restrictive new laws. In most of the states where Black voter turnout had surged, white voter turnout rates once again far exceed rates for Black voters. We are also seeing gerrymandering targeting communities of color. Just another way to sabotage elections and marginalized people of color.

The Freedom to Vote Act introduced in the Senate September 14, 2021, addresses voter registration and voting access, election integrity and security, redistricting, and campaign finance. Specifically, the bill expands voter registration (e.g., automatic, and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g., vote-by-mail and early voting). The Freedom to Vote Act represents a major step forward in the push to enact comprehensive legislation to strengthen American Democracy. The Freedom to Vote Act across America will represent and promote racial justice and equity for all Americans and thwart the assault on voting rights taking place across the states. This bill will protect our elections from voter suppression, partisan sabotage and gerrymandering and dark money.

H.R. 5376 – Build Back Better Act as stated on the CONGRESS.GOV site was introduced in the House on September 27, 2021, by Rep. John A. Yarmuth of the Budget Committee. The bill provides funding, establishes programs, and otherwise modifies provisions relating to a broad array of areas, including education, labor, childcare, health care, taxes, immigration, and the environment.  Portions of the bill specifically address providing funding for job placement, career services, safe drinking water, public health, infrastructure, housing, rental, homeowner assistance programs, small business assistance, transit services, clean energy projects in low-income areas, and the infrastructure of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It establishes programs to provide up to six semesters of community college, free universal preschool, and healthcare for those in states that have not expanded Medicaid. There are also provisions for up to 12 weeks of paid family medical leave, and the requirement that the Department of Health and Human Services negotiate maximum prices for certain brand-name drugs under Medicare.  

The Washington, D.C. Admission Act, is landmark legislation that would admit Washington, D.C. as the 51st state of the Union. The bill would give D.C. residents voting representation in Congress and would allow for full, local self-government.

A Call to Action – NCBW, Inc. rebukes all voter suppression tactics used to keep African Americans from exercising their Constitutional right to vote. NCBW, Inc. supports the Freedom to Vote Act and the expansion of voter registration. NCBW, Inc. supports the Build Back Better Act and initiatives to provide economic empowerment across communities. NCBW, Inc. supports landmark legislation that would admit Washington, DC, as the 51st state of the Union.

NCBW, Inc. Chapters shall:

  • Write letters to their Congressional representatives to urge passage of the John Lewis Voting Act, The Freedom to Vote Act, the Build Back Better Act, and the Washington, DC Admissions Act (Statehood).

Create virtual meetings with legislators to discuss these bills and advocate for support. Publish public statements and position papers in support of these bills.    Send “Thank you” emails to legislators who support these bills.

We must be diligent in ensuring that issues that specifically affect our economic justice and Constitutional rights are being addressed and secured. We must make our collective voices heard to those who have been elected to represent our interest. Black women are the largest voting group and have been on the front lines working to ensure that all eligible voters have their voices heard.

Contact your elected officials now with the utmost urgency.


NCBW is a National 501c3 non-profit organization. Through advocacy, we work as change agents to influence policies that promote gender equity in health, education, and economic and political empowerment.

References: Voting Laws Roundup: March 2021 | Brennan Center for Justice, www.congress.gov

----------------------Public Policy and Advocacy Message #4

Below are the legislative agenda items that have been adopted through our partnership with the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women, (MLAW). NCBW-PGC support is recommended by the president who is referring the agenda items to the Public Policy Committee for their review and formal recommendations to the Chapter for advocacy action.

Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program Establishment -Time to Care Act, (NC100BW-PGC supported FMLA in past years)

Bill Number: TBD

One Sentence Synopsis:  This legislation would ensure Marylanders no longer have to choose between the job they need and the family they love by establishing a family and medical leave insurance fund to provide partial wage replacement for employees who take leave to care for a new child, a family member with a serious health condition, their own serious medical condition, or a family member's military deployment.

Committees: Senate Finance, House Economic Matters

Lead Sponsors: Senator Antonio Hayes, Delegate Kris Valderamma, Lead Group: Time to Care Coalition, Lead Group Contact: Myles Hicks, Campaign Manager

Describe the problem: Unpaid leave forces too many Americans, especially those whose needs are the greatest, to choose between income and family when illness strikes, when new babies arrive, or when the needs of a family member with a disability intensify. A lot of populations have been affected during this pandemic, but families are dependent on working women. In Maryland, 79% of mothers are in the workforce. Nearly 25% of women take 10 or fewer days of parental leave, potentially putting themselves and their children at risk physically and emotionally We have seen that women are being disproportionately affected because they are more likely to leave work to care for their families. While Maryland saw a net gain of 13,000 men entering the labor force from January 2020 to June 2021, the number of working women fell by 57,000 in the same time frame, according to the Maryland Department of Labor.

Describe your proposed legislation:  The "Time to Care Act" establishes a Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) program through which employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid leave from their jobs to care for new children, other family members with serious health conditions or disabilities, or themselves. The program provides wage replacement during the leave period ranging from $50 to $1000 per week. The benefit level is calculated based on the employee’s weekly wage and the State’s average weekly wage. In general, the amount received by low-income employees reflects a higher percentage of their total wages. Wage replacement benefits are drawn from a fund pool into which employers and employees contribute. Contributions are mandatory and are calculated based on the employee’s wages. The job security and partial wage replacement offered by paid family and medical leave will provide women economic security until they return to the workforce.

Benefit to Communities of Color: We have seen racial disparities in access to wealth and wealth building are compounded by a lack of access to paid family and medical leave. The Time to Care Act works to assist people of color because the partial wage replacement received by a low-income employee reflects a higher percentage of their total wages. A paid family and medical leave program can help alleviate some of the health and economic disparities many people of color face.

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Primary Caretakers Bill (NC100BW-PGC supports advocacy for Black women and girls for health, education, economic empowerment and social justice)

Bill Number: TBD

One Sentence Synopsis: This bill asks judges to consider whether a person convicted a of non-

violent offense is a caretaker of a dependent, and if so, whether that person can be placed into a community-based alternative to incarceration that would prevent separation of the caretaker and their dependent.

Committees: TBD

Lead Sponsors: Senator Jill Carter, Lead Group: Maryland Justice Project, Lead Group Contact: Ava Levine (Intern); Monica Cooper (Executive Director)

Describe the problem: It is estimated that up to 90,000 children in Maryland have a parent that is either in prison, jail, or under parole/probation. Over the past 40 years, the number of women in prison in Maryland has increased by over 400%. When caretakers are sent to prison and separated from their dependents, both suffer. Well over half of incarcerated women in Maryland are mothers, and more than half were primary caretakers prior to incarceration. Furthermore, given that most women are incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, and few transportation options to the prison exist, it is often difficulty for children to visit their incarcerated mothers, further breaking the bond between a mother and her children. Children with incarcerated parents have been shown to have higher rates of physical health problems (including migraines, asthma, and HIV/AIDS) in addition to higher rates of mental health problems (including depression, anxiety, and PTSD). Most children of incarcerated mothers live with their grandparents, instead of their fathers. Maryland policy also typically results in newborn babies being separated from their incarcerated mothers directly after birth. Ultimately, incarceration and the family separation it results in are becoming increasingly large problems for women in Maryland.

Describe your proposed legislation: The Primary Caretakers Bill asks judges to consider whether a person convicted of a non-violent offense is the main caretaker for a dependent. If so, the judge can send the person to a community-based alternative to incarceration where appropriate, in turn allowing the caretaker to remain with their dependent. While judges retain discretion as to what exactly the community alternative is, examples include but are not limited to substance abuse treatment, job training, and parenting classes. Given that more than half of incarcerated women are mothers, this bill will have a direct impact on women. Not only does the option for a community-based alternative to incarceration help end the mother-child separation that incarceration so often results in, but it also is more likely to help women get the targeted help they need that may not have been otherwise available in prison. Community-based alternatives to incarceration have repeatedly been shown to be successful in developing the relationship between a parent and their child and for improving parental skills. By allowing women to avoid incarceration and stay with their dependents through a community-based sentencing alternative, needless family separation and harm to both the mother and child can be avoided.

Benefit to Communities of Color: By diverting people from incarceration, the Primary Caretakers Bill will absolutely benefit communities of color. Historically and today, people of color, and specifically Black people, have been disproportionately targeted and unfairly punished by Maryland’s justice system. Maryland’s prison population is approximately 70% Black, whereas the state population is approximately 30% Black. Allowing caretakers to remain with their dependents can help reduce the number of people of color incarcerated in Maryland.

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Safe Harbor (NC100BW-PGC advocates for the safety of children and positioning their futures for economic empowerment, safety, education and good mental and physical health.)

Bill Number: TBD

One Sentence Synopsis: This bill will provide a safe harbor for child victims of sex trafficking and prevent their further victimization by connecting them to any services needed through the already established regional navigator program while preventing any criminal or delinquent charges that might be brought against them because they are a victim of trafficking.

Committees: Senate Judicial Proceedings, House Judiciary

Lead Sponsors: Senator Susan Lee, Delegate Brooke Lierman, Lead Group: Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, Lead Group Contact: Amanda Rodriguez, Esq., Chair MHTTF

Describe the problem: Most trafficking victims are women and girls. Currently children can be charged in the criminal or juvenile justice system for acts that are directly related to their victimization including prostitution and other related offenses. Children are, by law, considered victims of human trafficking per se if they are engaging in sex work; however, unlike any other victimization, they can also be charged for the very act that makes them a victim. This paradox in the criminal justice system leads to further victimization both as children, but often leads to further abuse as adults.

Describe your proposed legislation: This bill would provide a safe harbor for child victims of sex trafficking and prevent prosecution for acts committed as a result of trafficking including prostitution and other related offenses. Legislation was passed in 2019 that established the regional navigator program that connects child survivors of trafficking to necessary services. This bill will benefit women and girls by preventing them from being criminalized for being a victim. Children, would instead, receive services and assistance instead of being forced to fight against the stigmas associated with societal views on sex work and the criminal justice system for acts that were committed against them.

Benefit to Communities of Color: Yes. Children of color are over-represented as child victims of sex trafficking. Communities of color are over-criminalized and this bill would prevent pushing child victims of sex trafficking which are disproportionately children of color in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

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Repeal of Marriage as a Defense to Sex Crimes - Love is No Defense (NC100BW-PGC opposes domestic violence in all its forms)

 Bill Number: TBD

One Sentence Synopsis: This bill proposes to repeal the law allowing marriage as a defense to sex crimes.

Committees: Senate Judicial Proceedings, House Judiciary

Lead Sponsors: Senator Susan Lee, Delegate Charlotte Crutchfield, Lead Group: TBD, Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), Lead Group Contact: Lisa C. Jordan, Executive Director & Counsel

Describe the problem: This is a bill to repeal the current statute that makes marriage a defense to some sex crimes. Sexual Assault disproportionately affects women. Like many states, Maryland’s laws were based on the premise that marriage was consented to sex and that, therefore, a man could not rape his wife. Unlike many states, Maryland has not yet firmly rejected that antiquated and fundamentally disrespectful concept.

Describe your proposed legislation: Criminal Law §3-318 provides that marriage is a defense to certain sex crimes. We have made some progress: Spouses can be prosecuted for any sex crime if they have a limited divorce. Additionally, if the parties have been separated and apart and “without cohabitation” (meaning without having sexual relations) and they have been separated for three months or have a written separation agreement, then they can be prosecuted for sex crimes that are not based on age or capacity. Finally, if the rape involved actual force or threat of force, marriage is not a defense. For other sex crimes, marriage is a complete defense. This bill repeals Criminal Law §3-318. Marriage should never be a defense to a sex crime.

Benefit to Communities of Color: Black and Indigenous women who are victims of sex crimes receive less police protection, less interventions, fewer prosecutions of their assaulter, and less assistance. African American females experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races, (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001). 48% of Latinas in one study reported that their partner’s violence against them had increased since they immigrated to the US. (Dutton, Mary; Leslie Orloff, and Giselle Aguilar Hass. 2000, Characteristics of help-seeking behaviors, resources, and services needs of battered immigrant Latinas: Legal and Policy implications. Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy. 7(2)). This bill will help reform a criminal justice system that fails women of color.

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Interim and Temporary Protective Order Virtual Petition and Hearing (NC100BW-PGC advocates against domestic violence)

Bill Number: TBD

One Sentence Synopsis: This bill seeks to expand access to safety through the courts by enabling

petitioners eligible for protective orders who are seeking medical treatment in a hospital or urgent care setting to petition for an interim or temporary protective order from that setting and have the hearing conducting remotely.

Committees: Senate Judicial Proceedings, House Judiciary

Lead Sponsors: Senator Shelly Hettleman, Lead Group: Baltimore Jewish Council and MNADV, Lead Group Contact: Sarah Mersky Mickie, Deputy Director, BJC and Melanie Shapiro, Public Policy Director MNADV

Describe the problem: Currently, victims of abuse, including domestic violence and sexual assault, cannot obtain protective orders from their abusers in a hospital or urgent care setting, thus, leaving the facility unprotected. This bill would allow all eligible victims of abuse the ability to apply for temporary or interim protective orders in those settings.

Describe your proposed legislation: This legislation would allow victims of abuse who are eligible to request interim and/or temporary protective orders to do so in a hospital or urgent care setting. Currently, if a victim is in those facilities due to a violence incident, they cannot leave the hospital protected from their abuser. Further, victims who are in a hospital or urgent care setting for other medical reasons who trust their medical professional and feel safe in those settings to disclose their abuse, cannot receive a protective order before leaving. This legislation applies to everyone eligible for protective orders including, domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and elder abuse victims.

Benefit to Communities of Color: Yes, this bill creates additional protections for all women, children, and victims of abuse eligible to request a protective order. Additionally, Black women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races, (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001). The protective order process is an alternative to the criminal court process and already marginalized communities often do not report offenses to the police due to unequal, unfair and unjust treatment.