The WBA Legislative Policy Committee also monitors legislation on a variety of other issues of particular interest to women and families. Specifically these include:
Probate: An Act Improving Spousal Elective Share - The WBA/MBA/BBA-drafted bill (S705) modernizes property rights of surviving spouses; under current law a spouse has stronger rights to marital property if s/he divorces rather than stays married. The bill provides safeguards against evasion, notice, right to know the decedent’s assets and procedural rules absent from current law. (Judiciary)
Health Education: An Act Relative to Healthy Youth which,for schools providing sexuality education, requires a age-appropriate,medically accurate sexual health curriculum, including making healthy decisions about relationships and sexuality.
Women in Prison: The WBA is concerned for the special needs of incarcerated women who are pregnant or who are mothers and for programs (educational, training, drug rehabilitation) equal to those offered male prisoners. The WBA supports An Act Relative to Safe Pregnancies and Related Health Care for Female Inmates (in State Prisons, County Houses of Correction and Jails) which prohibits shackling during delivery and requires pre- and post-natal services.
The WBA has supported an Act Creating a Mass. Corrections Commission to monitor Dept. of Corrections; an Act Providing for the Protection and Care of Certain Children to require DOC to make every effort to keep newborns with incarcerated mothers; and An Act Regulating Programs Outside Correctional Institutions for Female Inmates, educational, vocational, health, housing and child care services in place for re-entry into the community.
The WBA supports a bill to establish employment leave and safety remedies to victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault. The law would require Massachusetts employers with more than 50 employees to give up to 15days of leave in any 12-month period to victims and their immediate family members. The bill does not mandate the leave be paid. Such leave is intended to allow them to appear in court, receive medical attention or counseling, victim services,housing or legal assistance, or handle other issues directly related to the abuse.
The WBA supports legislation to create a special legislative committee to study sex segregation in state service (public) employment and wage inequities between male- and female-dominated jobs of comparable value and make recommendations to eliminate pay disparities which are found and update the work of such a committee in 1983.
The WBA has supported legislation which would reduce the vesting requirement for the state public pension system from 10 to 5 years to the benefit of women workers who are disadvantaged by the current vesting requirements.
Family Law: The WBA supports legislation to give divorcing parents in choice in terminology used; for example, “parental right sand responsibilities” instead of “custody”.
The WBA has supported a bill to overhaul the process by which parents acknowledge parentage of a child, An Act Relative to Establishing Paternity written by the BBA/MBA and An Act Relative to the Health Insurance of Children of Divorced Parents, legislation to require insurance carriers to recognize and acknowledge the custodial parent in a variety of ways. The carrier must provide information with regard to the available coverage, notify custodial parents of impending changes or lapses in coverage, and permit the custodial parent to submit claims for payment without the signature of the non-custodial parent.
Childbirth/ Breast Feeding: The WBA supports bills to establish a Committee on Midwifery in the Board of Registration and to allow certified nurse-midwives to practice in home settings without physician supervision.
The WBA supports legislation which would encourage employers to create breastfeeding sites.
Reproductive Rights: The WBA has supported Healthcare Privacy Act to prevent protesters from photographing people entering/leaving a facility with the intent of invading privacy, coercing or putting people in fear of bodily harm and a bill to allow minors’ abortion choice with counseling alone rather than parental consent and which would reduce the age to which 12S applies to sixteen. The WBA opposes bills that would create a substantial burden on the courts and the young women seeking judicial consent by allowing parental involvement under certain circumstances.
The WBA supports legislation to codify the standards of Roe v. Wade into state law and preserve current practice. The WBA opposes an undue burden standard amendment and other anti-Choice measures such as a bill that would require that physicians or their agents provide women with excessive state-scripted “counseling” at least 24 hours prior to an abortion (“A Woman’s Right to Know”).
Civil Rights: The WBA supports a Mass.Constitutional Amendment to prohibit initiative petitions/popular vote on civil rights issues.
The WBA supports full implementation of the Goodridge decision on same sex marriage.
Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault:
The WBA supports An Act to Prevent Harassment and Witness Intimidation. This law is necessary to protect all victims of harassment and to prevent witness intimidation since many victims of harassment do not meet the relationship requirement established in the criminal restraining order law, M.G.L. ch. 209A.
We support an anti stalking bill which would make possible civil “no contact” orders; and a variety of technical amendments to MGL c. 209A which would strengthen the protections for women who are victims of battering and oppose efforts to weaken law.
We support efforts to expand and improve the Family Violence exemption that would require training of DTA workers to actively screen for domestic violence so that appropriate exemptions from certain welfare requirements can be granted. (See Housing and Welfare sections below.)
The WBA opposes Section 202, Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act: Section 202 changes the progressive MA approach to removal and jurisdiction and endows judges with continued jurisdiction where a co-parent lawfully moves to another state with her child. This would strain poor co-parents, hurt women, and give domestic abusers a tool to manipulate and harass the co-parent.
The WBA opposes various Acts Relative To Responsible or Shared Parenting - The bills would harm children because they usurp and override the Court’s practice of using the “best interest of the child”standard when deciding child custody.
Children’s Issues: The WBA is concerned about the health, education and safety of children and pays special attention to areas such as adoption and abuse.
The WBA opposes bills to overrule the SJC’s “Paternity of Cheryl” case.
The WBA has supported efforts to end child hunger by establishing a unified application system for and increases access to all food programs
We support affordable child care bills: for state loans/grants to develop child care &Head Start centers & legislation which guarantees access to child care forwelfare recipients in education & training, to those in first year off welfare & to families below the poverty line.
The WBA supported efforts to help reduce homelessness and promote housing stability for low-income families with children.
Family Medical Leave: The WBA has supported the FESA bill which would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave (with health insurance and job guarantee on return) for birth, adoption or the illness of oneself or a family member and the “Baby UI” bill to provide unemployment benefits for family and medical leave recall status for serious health condition of employee, or child,for childbirth or newborn care or adoption or foster care placement.
Equal Rights Amendment: The WBA supports SD337/HD1265, An Act Prohibiting Discrimination in Insurance Policies would prohibit gender discrimination in all forms of insurance
The WBA opposes any attempts to repeal the 2008 law ending discrimination in annuity pricing and practices.
Work Family Council: An Act to Establish a Work Family Council to develop broadly shared understandings of critical work-family issues in the Commonwealth, and to promote through privately funded research,experimentation, and education responsive public policies and innovative private sector practices.
Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Workplace Discrimination: WBA has opposed a bill that would require plaintiffs in cases before the MCAD to retain expert testimony in order to recover damages for emotional distress and limit such awards against public employers to $100,000. This bill would severely compromise access to justice for all citizens of the Commonwealth and particularly women.
Legal Services: The WBA has opposed bills which would hinder IOLTA legal services funding by requiring burdensome requirements on banks and attorneys under the guise of client disclosure and by requiring client consent for such interest and which would require legal services domestic relations programs to serve equal numbers of mothers and fathers as dangerous to women. Due to the limited funding of civil legal services, assistance to victims of domestic violence (DV)must take priority. Women are the vast majority of DV victims.
Housing: The WBA opposes mandatory rent escrow legislation. To require tenants in eviction cases to deposit with the court the amount of rent their landlord claims is due simply in order to have the right to present their case in court would deny access to justice.
Welfare: Since welfare policies have a disproportionate impact on women and children, the WBA supports programs which offer real long term solutions through education and training, increasing self-esteem, not cheap, short-term,punitive solutions. We work for measures which increase child care subsidies and extend Medicaid benefits for recipients entering the paid work force, and for appropriations necessary for effective education and training. We support efforts to expand and improve the Family Violence exemption that would require training of DTA workers to actively screen for domestic violence so that appropriate exemptions from certain welfare requirements can be granted. (See also Domestic Violence section above.)
The WBA has supported extensions to the 24 month benefits time limit for completion of education and training and budget line items increasing the gross income test for “working poor” families to 130% of federal poverty level and bills toallow recipients of Transitional Assistance to count hours devoted to education and training toward the program’s work requirement. The WBA has supported An Act for Responsible Welfare Reform to revise the state’s current welfare law(chapter 5) to avoid the federal penalties and keep benefits for vulnerable families; the bill also addresses DTA’s failure to provide necessary services and work supports to TAFDC recipients with disabilities and other substantial barriers to employment.
Diversity on corporate boards and upper level management: The WBA has supported bills that would make the state’s pension fund more accountable in the exercise of its power to influence policies of major corporations. The pension fund investments in corporate stocks give the state a significant voice in electing boards of directors andin determining the outcome of shareholder resolutions related to corporate business practices. The WBA urges the state to use this power to promote equal opportunity and nondiscrimination incorporate management and in the workplace.
Addressing the state’s budget: The WBA supports efforts to identify progressive methods to increase state revenues to avoid drastic budget cuts in education, welfare,health care, and other programs vital to women and children. The WBA supported the 2002 tax rollback freeze because it was fiscally irresponsible to implement tax cuts when the needs of our poorest citizens and other important government services are under- or un-funded.
Privacy of Counseling Records: The WBA has supported legislation to promote essential privacy protection in situations when a criminal defendant seeks disclosure of a victim’s therapeutic counseling records. These would include advance notice to victims and counselors before records are subpoenaed, court hearings on whether to allow disclosure and protective orders to prevent unnecessary disclosure of confidential records.
Elder Law/Medicaid: The WBA is alert to policy measures which could impoverish elders through insufficient maintenance and resource allowances for community spouses of Medicaid recipients; therefore we support bills to Help Families Care for Elders; re: Assets of Medical Assistance Recipients; re: long term care insurance; to correct income calculations for spouses of nursing home Medicaid recipients bills.
Civil/Human Rights: The WBA has supported the Committee for the Public Counsel Services (CPCS) budget proposals to increase in the compensation rate paid to the private attorneys who are assigned to represent indigent CPCS clients.
The WBA supports an Act to establish a commission to investigate the integration of international human rights standards in Mass. laws and policies (in accordance with CEDAW, the international Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women).
The WBA supports Congo Conflict Minerals bill. This bill will prohibit the Commonwealth from contracting with companies that do not comply with federal regulations for the certification of minerals originating in the Congo. It will place Massachusetts in the forefront of efforts to end the war and the sexual violence that are devastating the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Death Penalty: The WBA opposes the introduction of the death penalty in Mass. The WBA believes that a death penalty would make our society less just and understands the danger of mistaken convictions,the arbitrary and discriminatory features of the system, the lack of a deterrent effect and the costs. The WBA believes that the current mandatory sentence for first-degree murder - life without parole - is sufficient to meet public safety needs.
(The WBA's legislative policies do not necessarily reflect the views of our sponsors.)