The following e-newsletter is a joint communication from the Maine Women’s Policy Center and our sister organization, the Maine Women’s Lobby.
We must shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with the power of mercy. We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all. –Rev. William Barber II
We appreciate our many members who have taken action recently on bills to improve access to health care, support immigrants, address pay inequity, and defend abortion access. Here are some of the bills we’re still working on during this legislative session.
LD 327 is part of a national effort by anti-abortion advocates to pass personhood legislation that would grant a fetus legal rights to “heirs and an estate”. The purpose is to create confusion in Maine law, which already has clear protections for pregnant women, in order to chip away at abortion rights. LD 327 would open the door to wrongful death lawsuits against abortion providers performing a legal medical procedure. It’s nearly identical to a bill introduced in 2013 as part of a package of bills to restrict access to safe and legal abortion. We defeated it then and we need to stand together to defeat it now. This bill had a public hearing a couple weeks ago and will next head to the House and Senate for votes.
LD 1475, An Act To Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments in Families Today (LIFT), is a proactive effort to help Mainers move out of poverty. It includes many positive solutions to strengthen and improve our safety net—a welcome different approach from the harmful attacks on people living in poverty we see from the Governor and his Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). These solutions include breaking down barriers to work—like the “welfare cliff”, the high costs of child care and transportation, and expanding access to higher education; raising inadequate benefit levels; addressing the housing crisis; and creating benchmarks to hold our government accountable for how it administers programs helping people in poverty.
This bill also had a hearing a couple weeks ago and will be heading to the House and Senate soon. You can learn more about the LIFT bill at Real Reform Must Solve Real Problems.
Once again, the governor and some legislators are trying to score political points by attacking immigrants who are making Maine their new home. One example is LD 366 from Rep. Lockman. This bill would lead to racial profiling of people perceived to be immigrants and will further undermine trust between immigrant communities and the police. The Maine House just voted down LD 366 with a bipartisan majority vote of 77-59. Next it heads to the Maine Senate. To see how your Representative voted, check out the roll-call here.
Gov. LePage wants to ban asylum seekers and some other immigrants from receiving General Assistance (GA) while they are establishing new lives here in Maine and waiting for work authorization from the federal government. And he has proposed cuts for immigrants receiving help from other safety net programs as well. Please call your legislators and tell them to only support a budget that includes GA for immigrants and ask them to urge their party’s leadership to preserve what is left of the safety net for immigrants making their homes in Maine. Call to leave a message for your Maine Representative at 1-800-423-2900 and for your Maine Senator at:1-800-423-6900. Be sure to say your name, town, the legislator you are calling, and your message.
GA provides very limited amounts of assistance to help people meet their basic needs and it is a vital bridge to self-sufficiency for people who come to Maine seeking asylum. Over a thousand individuals and hundreds of families in Maine could become homeless under the Governor’s budget as proposed. In 2015, we raised our voices and the legislature chose to stand with immigrants instead of Gov. LePage’s anti-immigrant budget. Our voices are needed again. Please call your legislators today!
Maine’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide comprehensive services to Maine’s neediest children and families. Currently only 28% of the eligible Maine children are in Head Start programs and we have 1,100 more on waiting lists statewide. But even though these programs have a proven track-record of success and we know how vital quality early childhood programs are for developing brains, Head Start and Early Head Start face significant cuts in the Governor’s proposed budget. This would be a devastating blow to Maine families who need this program.
Contact your legislators and ask them to support additional funding for Head Start to serve families on our waiting lists or, at the very least, prevent cuts to these programs.
To learn more about Early Head Start in Maine, read this report released last week by Jessica Carson of the Carsey School of Public Policy: Toward a More Equal Footing: Early Head Start in Maine.
LD 1259 would address the pay gap and wage discrimination by strengthening protections for workers under the Maine Human Rights Act. This bill would prevent employers from seeking information about a prospective employee’s past salary before offering employment. When companies use prior pay to determine an employee’s current wages, pay discrimination of the past follows employees into their next jobs. Because women cannot make informed decisions about whether or not they are experiencing pay discrimination unless they can openly discuss pay with their colleagues, LD 1259 would also clarify protections under current law for workers who discuss their pay. This bill will soon have votes in the Senate and House. To learn more, check out this fact sheet about LD 1259.
UPDATES FROM THE FEDERAL BENCH
Last week the US Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina unconstitutionally used race as a factor in drawing two Congressional districts. As former Attorney General Eric Holder said, this ruling “sends a stark message to legislatures and governors around the country: Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law.” Learn more in these two articles: Supreme Court rules race improperly dominated N.C. redistricting efforts and Supreme Court Rules Race a Factor as It Strikes Down NC Maps for Congress.
This piece looks at the future of the Supreme Court and the speculation that Justice Kennedy will retire soon: Will He or Won’t He?. President Trump would nominate a replacement if any nominees leave the bench during his term. This would have major implications for access to abortion, civil rights, worker rights, voting rights, criminal justice issues…nearly every issue area that touches our lives.
President Trump already has a great deal of influence on the makeup of the entire federal courts system where there are currently 125 vacancies across the country. District and Circuit Courts hear many more cases than the Supreme Court and their rulings affect many policy areas. For example, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently maintained the nationwide injunction on the President’s travel ban—blocking key elements of the executive order from being enforced. In their decision, the chief judge wrote that the executive order, “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.” Learn more: 4th Circuit Court Ruling Keeps Trump’s Travel Ban On Hold.
BUILDING MOMENTUM FOR PAID LEAVE
We’ve written many times about the need for paid leave so that Mainers can welcome a new child, recover from a serious illness or injury, care for an aging parent, or help a sick spouse or other family member. One important way you can help is to share your story about the need for paid leave. You can go towww.surveymonkey.com/r/
In a budget proposal filled with harmful cuts to health care, early childhood program, and our safety net for those living in poverty, the President included a proposal for paid leave. While we are glad to see more policy-makers acknowledge that Americans need access to paid leave, the President’s proposal is wholly inadequate and unworkable—and it would exclude nearly four-fifths of those who need affordable leave. To read more about why this proposal is not a real solution and the damage the President’s budget proposal could cause, check out these pieces:
Here in Maine and in Congress there are paid leave proposals that could make a true difference for families. LD 1587 would create a system for paid family medical leave in Maine, and the FAMILY Actwould create a similar system nationally.
SAVE THE WOMEN’S BUREAU
The Trump Administration wants to eliminate the Women’s Bureau, the only agency in the entire federal government dedicated to empowering women to achieve economic security.
Trump’s proposed budget will cut the Women’s Bureau’s budget by almost 70%, eliminating all of the regional offices and essentially rendering the agency unable to fulfill it’s mission of empowering women to achieve economic security like it has in the past. The Women’s Bureau has been the voice of working women within the federal government and across states, cities and communities since 1920. The agency has supported important issues like paid family leave, equal pay, and access to affordable childcare.
Here’s what you can do to stop this:
1. By Friday June 9th, SIGN ON to the letter opposing these cuts: https://goo.gl/forms/
2. Tell the White House directly to fully fund the Women’s Bureau by clicking on this link: https://www.whitehouse.
- Respond to the survey by June 12th.
- Under Select Cabinet Agency Click Department of Labor: Full Department
- Under the “Share your idea, your proposal…” box simply state: The Women’s Bureau should be fully funded, so that all of the regional offices can remain open, fully staffed and functioning.
- Be careful NOT to select the Women’s Bureau under the question asking which agencies should be eliminated.
- You can select “None or N/A” for the remaining questions. Complete your personal contact information, then submit.
DON’T FORGET TO SAVE THE DATE!
Be sure to mark your calendar for our third Summit that will take a closer look at the policies needed to improve the economic security of Maine women. This interactive day is a great opportunity for activists, legislators, community leaders, students, and nonprofit organizations to share ideas, research, advocacy skills, and stories. We’ll be sharing more details soon.
WE CAN’T STAND FOR MAINE WOMEN WITHOUT YOUR HELP
It seems like there are relentless attacks on policies that promote equality, encourage financial prosperity, help those Mainers struggling with poverty meet their basic needs, and help us access health care. That’s why now it’s so important that there is an organization standing for the range of issues impacting women’s lives. We’re able to be the voice of Maine women when policy decisions are made because of the financial support of Mainers like you.
A monthly donation of $5 or more makes a continuing impact throughout the year. A gift of any size makes a difference. Please consider making a donation online at bit.ly/MWLdonate. Or mail your contribution to Maine Women’s Lobby, 124 Sewall Street, Augusta, ME 04330.
Thank you for standing with us during these challenging times.