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Letters to the Editor

February 18, 1999

Keep track of women's issues

To the editor:

The Washington County Commission for Women (CW) urges the citizens of Washington County to pay attention to the work of our delegation on issues affecting women and families during the legislative session.

Areas of interest to the CW include child abuse and neglect, economic self-sufficiency, education, health, human and civil rights, and safety and security. The specific bills include the following:

- Child Abuse and Neglect: There are three proposals concerning child abuse and neglect; a proposal to make it a misdemeanor for specific individuals mandated to report suspected child abuse and neglect to knowingly fail to report; establishment of child death review teams to determine the circumstances of a child's death; multidisciplinary teams proposal for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

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- Economic Self-Sufficiency: A proposal to require banks to provide basic banking accounts to assure that low income populations can afford bank accounts.

- Education: Two education proposals. A proposal to permit members of families receiving welfare payments (TANF) to substitute education for work required of TANF recipients and to encourage the completion of high school or GED by TANF recipients; and a proposal for universal, in-classroom breakfast for all children to aid in increased education performance.

- Health: The health proposal concerns newborns; to test newborns for hearing disorders before discharge from hospital.

- Human and Civil Rights: There are two proposals in this area; a proposal for a statewide ban against residential housing discrimination based on source of income, including Section 8 certificates. The other proposal is for sexual harassment workplace training for all new employees of businesses with 25 or more employees.

- Safety and Security: In this area there are two proposals. One expands the civil order protection to cover abusive relationships where the parties do not live together. The other proposed that courts be given an opportunity to limit the abuser's access to firearms.

The Commission for Women has participated in and supported the legislative agency for Maryland Women, a broad coalition of organizations and individuals across the state supporting legislation of special interest to women and their families, for five years. This year, with our newly-elected delegation taking their seats, the commission urges all county residents to follow the above legislation and see how our delegation performs on these important issues.

Last year, the 1997 Legislative Agency for Maryland Women made some important changes affecting women in our state and our county:

- Permitting victims of domestic violence to file for divorce based on cruelty or vicious conduct without the one-year waiting period.

- Enabling recipients of Maryland's Earned Income Tax Credit to receive 10 percent of the credit refundable in cash.

- Providing prescription drug coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices at the same rate as other prescription drugs.

- Adding nurses, certain educators and unlicensed physicians to those individuals who can testify to a child out-of-court statements concerning his/her abuse.

- Establishing a breast cancer screening program for low income, uninsured and under-insured women.

Our delegation played a role in these successes and we at the CW thank them for their support.

We hope our new delegation can continue this tradition of support for the Legislative Agenda for Maryland Women and we encourage county residents concerned about the issues facing women and families in our county, to support these proposals as well. You can follow their progress by computer (yours or those at the Washington County Free Library) at http://mlis.state.md.us or by telephone: 1-800-492-7122.

Please add your voice of support for the Legislative Agenda for Maryland Women.

Patsy Ardinger, Chair

Washington County Commission for Women

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