ANNAPOLIS – Women in Maryland want job training for the poor, hearing aids for kids, and relief for victims of employment discrimination, according to the Legislative Agenda for Maryland Women.
The agenda, released Tuesday, is the result of eight months of forums and conferences in which members of the Maryland Commission for Women ranked legislative initiatives they will bring to the Maryland General Assembly this year.
Compassion, said commission Chairwoman Fran Tracy Mumford, is the common thread that ties the agenda together.
“If we are to have true compassion, we need our legislators to see through the eyes of others,” said Mumford. “We are at a crossroads with what will be happening on a national level.”
The agenda consists of about 13 initiatives falling into six categories – children’s health, civil and human rights, economic self-sufficiency, education, family violence, and health and safety. And they target issues like domestic violence, child support, child abuse, sexual harassment, and the livable wage.
On behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Eileen Briskon, discussed two bills on the agenda to better provide children with hearing aids, which can cost as much as $2,500 each.
One bill would mandate insurance companies provide hearing aids as a health benefit.
“The goal is to provide hearing aids for all children before they turn six months of age,” said Briskon.
The second measure calls for the Maryland Department of Education to create hearing aid banks that will provide hearing aids for students who don’t have them.
Dorothy Scott, chairwoman of the Prince George’s County section of the National Council of Negro Women, talked about racial profiling. She discussed a bill, sponsored by Delegate Howard P Rawlings, D-Baltimore, to require an individual’s race be included on a driver’s license and for information on traffic stops to be reported to the Attorney General.
“Maryland is not the only state that has racial profiling. . . But we would like Maryland to be on the forefront,” said Scott.
Another issue on the table is kinship care. Sen. Delores Kelley, D- Baltimore, is sponsoring a bill to provide assistance to the caregivers of children who are not the children’s legal guardians and therefore don’t get any aid.
This legislation is for those “lost souls who don’t fit in anybody’s category,” said an optimistic Kelley who noted the bill has been assigned to a “friendly committee.”
Two initiatives fall under the economic self-sufficiency category. One, sponsored by the Maryland Center for Community Development, calls for banks to provide accounts for people who have low incomes. It is an issue advocates for the poor have been pushing for years.
“Every year we get close but we lose,” said Deborah Povich, a spokeswoman for the center.
The center is taking a new approach this year – a bill requiring the state keep its money only in banks that support low-income bank accounts.
“This year we’re asking the state for help,” said Povich. “This is not specifically a gender issue but women are disproportionately more among the poor.”
Many of the issues are perennial ones, but one member said it doesn’t matter: “We’ll just keep sending it until it passes.”