Read a rundown on the top public policy issues facing state lawmakers in 2015, state-private sector partnerships for infrastructure, e-cigarettes and taxes and dealing with cuts to mental health programs.
Our mission is to promote the participation, empowerment, and leadership of women legislators. Every female state legislator in the 50 states, United States territories, and the District of Columbia is a member of the Network. The Network does not advocate for or against state policies, but sponsors informational briefings, workshops, and gatherings so legislators can better understand an issue and learn from one another.
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I hope you all have enjoyed a lovely spring. I spent some time last month reflecting on the rich and varied history of women in America, particularly in Tennessee. Tennessee trailblazers include Anna Lee Worley, who in 1921 became the first woman elected to our legislature, and Anne Dallas Dudley, who led the suffrage movement in Nashville during a time when it was very unpopular to speak out against inequalities women endured. Dudley’s courage inspired women across the nation to speak out for the right to vote.
David Ewing, writing in The Tennessean, chronicled the final victory of the suffrage movement: “On August 18, 1920, after all other Southern states had rejected the 19th Amendment, Tennessee was at the center of the suffrage movement—by the narrowest of margins. Representative Harry Burn, after getting a letter from his mother (aren’t mothers special?), changed his vote to yes for suffrage, and the legislature made Tennessee the deciding state to ratify the 19th Amendment. Burn’s single vote granted suffrage to 20 million women.”
Like the women of the early 1900s, we invite each of you to join in our efforts to equip women with tools to meet today’s demands in the halls of the legislature, the business world or at home. Please join the Network at NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Minneapolis this August. We will hold a special leadership training session on Tuesday, Aug. 19. Please email us if you’d like to sign up for the training, and watch for more information next month. Other events at the summit include a luncheon about women’s role in the economy, a reception, and the Walk for Wellness.
Please help keep the Network strong and growing by sharing your news and ideas. Submit items for this newsletter, and always feel free to contact us with ideas or questions. Take a look at the NCSL resources on children and families, below, and ask us for more information on any topic of interest.
Join us! We need you, and NCSL needs you!
Brenda Gilmore, State Representative, Tennessee
Vice President, Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL
Register today to receive the early-bird rate! Visit the Summit website
Check out NCSL’s list of women’s caucuses and commissions. Please tell us if we’ve missed an organization in your state! Visit the list of women's caucuses.
Councilmembers Kenyan R. McDuffie and Mary Cheh have introduced legislation to increase pay equity and transparency by prohibiting retaliation against employees for discussing their wages and eliminating wage nondisclosure agreements, or so-called “pay secrecy” policies. The “Wage Transparency Amendment Act of 2014” enables employees to freely discuss their wages without fear of termination, discipline, interference or other forms of retaliation by their employers. The bill also bans “pay secrecy” policies in private and public sector employment. Such policies prevent employees from discovering instances of discrimination.
“We are fortunate in the District to have the smallest pay gap between women and men, with women earning 90 cents, on average, for every dollar earned by men,” said McDuffie. “But when we look more closely, we see that the District fares much worse for certain populations: we rank 48th in the country for African-American women, at 55 cents, and 43rd for Latinas, at 48 cents. There are many factors that contribute to this gap,” said McDuffie, “and unfortunately, a lack of wage transparency is one.”
To further reduce the pay gap, the bill instructs the D.C. Department of Human Resources to annually report the salaries of District government employees, without identifying information, by agency, position, gender, and race. The bill also tasks the D.C. Department of Employment Services with submitting strategic plans to reduce wage disparities in private and public sector employment.
Explore NCSL’s information about labor and employment issues. Visit the website here.
The Indiana Commission for Women presented state Representative Terri J. Austin with its 2014 Torchbearer Award in March. The award honors women who have overcome obstacles and made Indiana a better place to live, work and raise a family. It recognizes women who have stepped forward as leaders by breaking down barriers to women’s full participation. “It is an honor to be recognized by the Indiana Commission for Women and to be able to work to remove barriers to the advancement of women in our state,” Austin said. “In order to find positive solutions to the problems facing women today, it is the duty of elected officials to identify these key issues and understand critical needs of women in our communities. Women should be encouraged to participate in finding real solutions and should be given the opportunity to be heard.”
The Louisiana Legislative Women's Caucus has voted to support three domestic violence bills authored by a colleague, Representative Helena Moreno. The Women's Caucus opposes all violence and domestic abuse battery perpetrated against women and children. The women legislators hope to one day eliminate all violence through public policy, public education and systematic changes. According to statistics provided by the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Louisiana has led the nation in the number of domestic homicides since 1997. Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence
This is the first time the bipartisan Women's Caucus, which began in 1986, has voted to take a collective position of support on any legislative instrument. Any positions taken by the Women's Caucus must receive 75 percent favorable votes of the membership.
The Louisiana Legislative Women's Caucus is proud to support:
The caucus thanks Moreno, Kim Sport and Charmaine Caccioppi of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, and all domestic violence advocacy groups for their tireless efforts on domestic violence and abuse policies. A special thanks is also extended to the male legislators who have stood strong with Moreno and the women legislators on this issue for years.
Under the leadership of Senator Nancy King, the caucus president, the Women Legislators of Maryland established a mentoring program during the 2014 session. The Women’s Legislative Leadership Group of Annapolis (WLLGA) is dedicated to supporting and assisting women in the field of Maryland public policy and believes that a strong society of women is the best way to help achieve and maintain a fair and balanced community for its members and the people of Maryland. The WLLGA mentor program provides women seeking to begin or grow their career in Maryland public policy the opportunity for professional growth, guidance and business development from women within the highest levels of the legislative arena.
Women Legislators of Maryland supported 14 bills in the 2014 session, eight of which passed. The successful legislation included:
SB 818/HB 559, which requires the secretary of state to establish and administer a Human Trafficking Address Confidentiality Program for victims of human trafficking.
SB 50/HB 955, which prohibits a person from using the “personal identifying information” or the identity of an individual without consent to invite, encourage or solicit another to commit a sexual crime against the individual. Under the bill, sexual crime is defined as an act that would constitute a violation of the state’s prohibitions against various sexual crimes, sexual abuse of a minor, visual surveillance with prurient intent, or various other acts, including human trafficking.
SB 460, which redefines a “person in a position of authority” in cases of sexual offense to include a person who is “employed by or under contract with” a public or private preschool, elementary school, or secondary school and expressly includes a coach, as well as a principal, vice principal, teacher or school counselor.
HB 27, which specifies policy, procedures and protocols that state and local correctional facilities must follow in the care of a pregnant inmate. The bill prohibits the use of physical restraint on an inmate while the inmate is in labor or during delivery, except as determined by the medical professional responsible for the care of the inmate. In addition, a physical restraint may not be used on an inmate known to be pregnant or in postpartum recovery, except under specified circumstances.
SB 333/HB 307 and SB 434/HB 647, relating to protective orders and peace orders.
SB 737/HB 1026, which requires employers with 15 to 49 employees to provide them with unpaid parental leave benefits.
HB 963, which requires each hospital that provides emergency medical services to have a protocol to provide timely access to a sexual assault medical forensic examination to a victim of an alleged rape or sexual offense who arrives at the hospital for treatment.
More information about the caucus’s 2014 activity can be read on our website. Visit the website.
Such a cold, long winter here in Minnesota this year! But spring is finally arriving, and with it comes the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA), a comprehensive package of legislation that the two of us are proud to author. WESA addresses the reasons women make so much less than men, often dooming them and their families to a life of poverty. WESA ensures that businesses that contract with the state comply with equal pay laws; allows employees to discuss their pay (for how does a woman know if she’s paid fairly if she doesn’t know what her male co-workers make?); encourages women in high-wage, nontraditional jobs and women-owned businesses in high-revenue, high-growth, traditionally male industries; helps women and men balance family and work responsibilities, so they don’t have to sacrifice their job security or job advancement when they take care of children, grandchildren or aging parents; requires workplace accommodations for pregnant and nursing women; and prohibits workplace discrimination for family caregivers.
Lastly, acknowledging that older women often live in poverty because of a lifetime of economic disadvantage based on their gender, WESA includes measures to help the next generation of older Minnesotans save for retirement. Minnesota’s Women’s Economic Security Act is in the final stages of our legislative process. As the tulips and crocuses finally peep through the melting snow, Minnesota women’s hopes for economic security are also ready to bloom.
-Representative Carly Melin and Senator Sandy Pappas
Please join NCSL Thursday, May 29, at 3 p.m. ET/ 2 p.m. CT/ 1 p.m. MT/ Noon PT for a FREE webinar about renewable energy. As states produce more renewable energy, challenges can arise because of larger amounts of wind and solar energy on the electric grid. This webinar explores a variety of solutions to reduce the effect on the grid and how states can cost-effectively integrate renewables into the power system. Register here
At least 26,000 young people who are 18 and older leave foster care without making a long lasting connection with a family. Typically, these kids step into adulthood without knowing how to apply for a job, get a loan, apply to college or even cook. In this StateCast, Nina Williams-Mbengue (NCSL Child Welfare Project) and Qiana Torres Flores (NCSL Working Families Project) talk about individual development accounts that encourage foster youth to manage and save their money for a better future. Listen to the podcast here
The Early Care and Education database tracks and updates early care and education legislation from the 2008-2014 legislative sessions. Issues include child care and child care financing, early childhood services, prekindergarten, professional development, home visiting, infants and toddlers, and financing early education. Access the database here
Health needs and services for various populations have come to the forefront as states work to make their systems more efficient and consider covering additional people under federal health reform. This brief, the third in a series about women’s health, highlights diseases and health challenges common to women, opportunities to improve access to care and effective treatment, and strategies to prevent conditions and health problems before they become problematic and expensive. Read the brief here
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