MLAW Announces Initiatives for the 2013 Legislative Agenda

With balloting from our membership complete, MLAW has selected six bills from the eleven presented at our Fall Conference to comprise the 2013 Agenda.  Those initiatives are:

Victims of sex trafficking are most often women and children.  Pimps and traffickers use every means of power and control to exploit their victims and derive significant profits from the sexual acts their victims are forced to perform.  This bill provides that profits disgorged from convicted offenders will be subject to forfeiture and will be used for an Anti-Human Trafficking Fund established by this legislation.  Fifty percent of the funds must be given to nonprofit or private organizations that provide direct services to victims of human trafficking, programs for prevention of human trafficking, or education programs on human trafficking.  The balance is to be distributed to law enforcement organizations that respond to and investigate human trafficking cases.

Working women need a basic workplace standard of paid sick days so they don’t have to choose between keeping their job and caring for a sick child or family member.  Here in Maryland, more than 800,000 of our neighbors are forced to make impossible choices: Go to work sick, send an ill child to school or daycare, or stay home and sacrifice much-needed income or, worse, risk job loss.  Working women are more likely to have significant caregiving responsibilities yet women-dominated industries are among the least likely to offer paid sick days.  Without this basic workplace benefit, women are often left with no choice but to forego pay in order to meet their families’ health care needs.  The proposed legislation requires employers to allow workers to earn a certain number of annual paid sick and safe days.  The “safe time” component of the legislation requires employers to allow survivors of domestic abuse or sexual assault to use their accrued paid sick leave to care for their health after these incidents or to seek legal protections or new housing.

5% of rape victims of reproductive age (age 12-45) became pregnant as a result of rape, with the majority of pregnancies in adolescents.  “Akin’s Law” 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.

As the main caretakers and nurturers of children, women are particularly concerned about the need to incentivize all professionals who work with vulnerable children to make good-faith reports of abuse and/or neglect, given the immunity already granted to such professionals who make good-faith reports.  When the failure to report is “knowingly,” any good mother or guardian of a targeted child would be relieved to know that such disregard of moral responsibility by a mandatory reporter is reinforced by statute and that reasonable penalties obtain to knowing violations of reporting requirements.  This bill adds 2 professions to mandatory reporters, as well as adding civil penalties for not reporting so that Maryland would no longer be an outlier.

Protective Orders and Peace Orders are civil orders to protect individuals against future violence and harassment.  This bill would move dating violence and sexual assault out of the Peace Order statute and into the Protective Order statute.  Dating violence and sexual assault are volatile cases that need the special attention that a protective order produces.  Over 41 other states currently include dating violence in their protective order statutes.  This will provide these victim/survivors with heightened protection and a better systemic response.

The bill enhances penalty for persons who commit a crime of violence when such persons know or should reasonably have know that a minor is within sight or hearing of the crime of violence. The enhanced penalty affects only those defendants who have been convicted of a crime of violence with these additional circumstances.

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