In November, leaders of state-wide organizations and advocates addressing issues of concern to women of Maryland participated in a conference to identify potential legislative initiatives for the 2018 Maryland General Assembly. Those initiatives then constituted a ballot which members of MLAW considered. Members were asked to identify what they believed were the top initiatives for the MLAW Legislative Agenda 2018.
The MLAW Board of Directors reviewed the results of the balloting and identified issues that will comprise the MLAW Legislative Agenda 2018. The eight bills selected are listed below.
Rape Survivor Family Protection Act (HB1/SB2)
Five percent (5%) of rape victims of reproductive age (age 12-45) became pregnant as a result of rape, with the majority of pregnancies in adolescents. The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act would create a legal process for rape victims to terminate the parental rights of rapists when a child is conceived as result of rape. Victims would be required to meet a clear and convincing standard of evidence. This is the same standard used for other termination of parental rights cases – no more, no less.
Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act (HB301/SB270)
Maryland law strictly limits introduction of evidence of other sex crimes in sex assault and child molestation trials, making it extremely difficult to rebut false consent defenses or allegations that a child victim is lying. This legislation will enable prosecutors to introduce evidence of a defendant’s sex crimes and allegations of sex crimes against different victims, in addition to introducing this type of evidence in cases with the same victim (as established by the MD Judiciary). This legislation requires a thorough judicial review before the evidence can be used. The State must file a motion to introduce the evidence at least 90 days before trial. The Court must hold a closed door hearing to determine the admissibility of the evidence allowing the defense to challenge evidence’s admissibility. The Court must find that the evidence meets clear and convincing evidence standard. The Court may also consider factors related to similarities between evidence the State wishes to admit and the trial offense.
Final Permanent Protective Orders (SB491)
Current law requires that to obtain a final permanent protective order, the respondent must be convicted of certain crimes listed in the statute, sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment for at least 5 years that led to the issuance of the final protective order, and served at least 12 months of the sentence. The proposed legislation deletes the list of crimes for which the respondent must be convicted, sentenced and serve at least one year of the sentence and replaces the list of crimes with the words “any crime.” With this modification, a victim will not be limited to the specific crimes listed in the current law, but will be able to petition for a final permanent protective order if the respondent has been convicted of any crime where the person eligible for relief has been the victim of a crime committed by the respondent.
Expansion of Maryland’s Vacating Laws for Survivors of Human Trafficking
Victims of human trafficking are commonly arrested and convicted for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. In response to this injustice, Maryland became the second state in the county to pass a law allowing survivors of sex trafficking to vacate, or, set aside, their prostitution convictions. Since then, anti-trafficking advocates throughout the country have documented that survivors of trafficking are regularly charged with numerous offenses other than prostitution, and that labor trafficking survivors also experience criminalization tied to their victimization. In Maryland, however, access to this innovative form of legal relief remains limited only to survivors of sex trafficking who are convicted of prostitution. The proposed change in law will expand Maryland’s current vacatur law to apply explicitly to survivors of labor trafficking, as well as expand the number of crimes eligible for vacatur. Without these changes, Maryland’s vacatur law will continue to leave a large number of survivors without the legal relief they so desperately need to heal from the trauma of their exploitation and become productive members of their communities.
Healthcare Services for Pregnant Inmates
This bill would require all state, local, and private detention and corrections facilities to have written policies regarding healthcare services for adult and juvenile pregnant inmates. The legislation would leave the authority to determine and write the policies up to the state, county, or private facility, but would require that the policies address specific subjects (this list is still in development and may change): pregnancy testing, pregnancy options counseling, prenatal care, prenatal testing and counseling, access to abortion care, miscarriage management, labor and delivery, and postpartum care. In addition, it would require all state, local, and private detention and corrections facilities to provide these written policies to all adult and juvenile inmates and detainees with positive pregnancy test results.
Discrimination in Employment – Conditions
The bill clarifies that employers are required to give reasonable accommodations to all pregnant employees with a medical need for an accommodation, not just employees who need accommodations as a result of pregnancy complications, and it ensures that a pregnant employee won’t be forced to take paid or unpaid leave when a reasonable accommodation would allow her to continue to work and support her family.
Salary History and Information Disclosure (HB512/SB377)
Women and minorities are typically isolated in lower paying professions. Therefore, basing salary offers on past employment continues a discriminatory cycle. Also, past employment pay have no relevancy to the current position. Salary offers should be based in current position requirements as well as the skills and experience of the candidate. This bill prevent employers from requiring past salary information as a condition of employment.
This legislation will require firms with 15-49 employees to provide six weeks of job protected unpaid leave for qualifying employees. For employees needing leave for their serious illness or a family member’s serious illness, or a military deployment, they will receive 6 weeks of unpaid leave and maintain existing health benefits. Upon returning from their leave, their employer must restore them to the same position or an equivalent position.