The state of Maryland seeks to become a more inclusive society for women in terms of economic stability, leadership and other forms of equality.
Gov. Larry Hogan, who has declared 2020 as the “Year of the Women,” announced Friday that half of his 168 “Green Bag” appointments for the year are women. One of those appointments, Lori Morrow of Prince George’s County, will become the first parent ever to serve on the state board of education.
Even with all the successes, lawmakers and advocates said more work must be done.
“As we celebrate Black History Month, there are still a lot of things that happen in this country that is still disproportionately [unequal],” said Del. Diana Fennell (D-District 47A) of Colmar Manor. “We are going to keep doing things to make sure there is equality in the state.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland organized a women’s rally on Monday, Feb. 17 in Annapolis in support of a statewide legislative agenda during the General Assembly’s 90-day session.
Public hearings have already occurred regarding some legislation, such as a bill prohibiting employers for using a person’s salary history as a factor when applying for a job.
The National Women’s Law Center supports the measure because such tactics have a negative effect on women of color.
For instance, the organization estimates Black women in Maryland earn 68 cents to every dollar paid to a white man. Latino women in Maryland have the fourth-largest gap in the nation at 46 cents for every dollar paid to a white man.
“Maryland lawmakers have an urgent obligation to Maryland women, families and the state economy to pass this legislation,” the center said in a statement.
Fennell signed on as a co-sponsor for the Time to Care Act, which would establish a program for employees to receive paid leave to care for a spouse, child, parent, sibling or family members for whom the employee is a legal guardian.
Advocates have said the bill, scheduled for a public hearing Monday, Feb. 24 before the House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee, would be especially helpful for mothers after childbirth.
“Instead of being rushed back to work, we need to have more time and stay with our children,” Fennell said.
The other “pro-women” legislation listed calls for:
• Establishing a task force to analyze building regional centers for women veterans.
• Employers allowing a worker up to two hours of paid-time absence from work to vote during an election.
• Increasing the penalty for suffocation or strangulation for the first offense. If convicted, that person could serve up to 25 years in prison.
• Requiring the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections to operate a prerelease unit for incarcerated women who present the “least risk of violence, escape and record of satisfaction.”
To ensure small, women- and minority-owned businesses are part of the procurement process, Sen. Melony Griffith (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro wants the state to create a commission to analyze whether those groups receive fair access to projects.
According to the legislation, the group comprising more than two dozen people would review state practices, analyze whether any provisions negatively affected women- and minority-owned businesses from being chosen on contracts and recommend any necessary changes.
The 25-member commission would include two representatives from a small, women-owned minority business not awarded a state contract in the past year, the president of Morgan State University or a designee, and a representative from a small minority-owned business that served as a subcontractor on a state contract within the past three years.
A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 27.