Legislative LEGAL WATCH
The NAWL Legislative Committee monitors federal legislation that has the potential to impact women's rights and the ability of women to practice law. The Committee will report to the NAWL Board any legislation that is being monitored. Neither the Committee nor NAWL will lobby Congress.
January 15, 2012
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Just before their holiday break, the House and Senate finally approved by unanimous consent the House bill extending TANF funding through February 2012. Without the bill, funding for the program would have expired on December 31, 2011. The program will need to be reauthorized in the current budget negotiations.
Child Protection. Two bills were introduced in the House at year-end to protect children. H.R. 3741, sponsored by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), requires state child welfare agencies to promptly report information on missing or abducted children to law enforcement as soon as their disappearance is known, as well as to the National Crime Information Center. Currently only two states, Illinois and Florida, have this reporting requirement on the books.
In addition, H.R. 3766, the Jeremy Bell Act, and introduced on December 23rd by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA). The bill would penalize by fine, imprisonment, or both, public and private school employers who allow school employees to transfer to other schools or school districts if they are convicted child sex offenders. The bill would require states to create a clearinghouse for schools to use to track the identity of such educators as well as termination information, and would amend the Adam Walsh act to require all employees of an educational entity to pass a fingerprinted background study.
Equality in Employment. H.R. 3753, sponsored by Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA) and titled “The Fairness in Restrooms Existing in Stations (FIRE Stations) Act,” would promote gender equity in fire houses by establishing a grant program for fire stations to receive up to $100,000 to build women's restrooms, showers and changing facilities. Legislative findings indicate that 50 percent of all fire departments do not have any female employees, partially as a result of the lack of facilities for women.
International. Rep. Richardson also sponsored House Resolution 508, recognizing, among other things, the tenth anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
August 18, 2011
The Budget Control Act of 2011. Congress and the Administration reached an agreement to increase the debt ceiling a few weeks ago, but the legislation requires some cuts to spending that will affect women and families. The Act has three parts:
- It requires $1 trillion in discretionary spending cuts over 10 years, targeting programs such as family planning clinics, food stamps, college tuition assistance, child care and a host of other programs serving and employing women.
- It creates a bipartisan congressional "super-committee" which must propose an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.
- It provides for automatic cuts in 2013 if the super-committee fails to reach its goal.
The Respect for Marriage Act of 2011. On July 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on repeal of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-marriages. While same-sex couples can currently marry in six states, they cannot access federal spousal and survivor benefits under federal law. The Respect for Marriage Act of 2011 (S. 598), would repeal parts of DOMA to allow equal treatment for same-sex couples.
HHS Regulations Implementing the Affordable Care Act. As part of the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services announced new regulations which will eliminate co-pays and deductible limits on eight preventive care services for women, to take effect in August 2010. The services will include:
- FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
- breast-feeding support, supplies, and counseling;
- domestic violence screening and counseling;
- annual office check-ups, or well-woman visits;
- screening for gestational diabetes; human papillomavirus (HPV) testing for women 30 and older;
- sexually transmitted infection counseling and;
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling.
However under the rules, religious institutions that provide health insurance for their employees may opt out of covering contraceptive services.
U.S. Senate Resolution supporting National Ovarian Cancer Month. On July 29, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution, sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI supporting National Ovarian Cancer Month (S. Res. 242). The resolution recognizes that:
- Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers, the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States;
- The mortality rate for ovarian cancer has not significantly decreased since the “War on Cancer” was declared 40 years ago;
- All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, and 90 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer do not have a family history that puts them at a higher risk;
- There is currently no reliable early detection test for ovarian cancer; and
- Due to the lack of a reliable early detection test, 75 percent of cases of ovarian cancer are detected at an advanced stage, making the overall 5-year survival rate only 45 percent.
The resolution designates September 2011 as National Ovarian Cancer Month in order to increase awareness of the disease.
Bill to Eliminate Child Pornography. On July 28, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Protecting Children from Internet pornographers Act (H.R. 1981). The bill increases from ten to twenty years the maximum prison time for pornography offenses involving a child younger than twelve. It also would protect child witnesses or victims by prohibiting their harassment or intimidation while they testify during a child pornography case. In addition, under the bill anyone conducting a financial transaction knowing that it will facilitate access to child pornography would be subject to federal prosecution.
June 24, 2011
Women’s Caucus Task Force Chairs named. In late spring Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Gwen Moore (D-WI), co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, announced the Women’s Caucus task force co-chairs for the 112th Congress. For more information
April 14, 2011
Current Status of the Budget for FY 2011. On April 8, 2011, Republicans and Democrats announced that they reached an agreement as to a budget measure that would provide funding for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2011.
February 15, 2011
The U.S. House of Representatives is voting this week on a Continuing Resolution to provide funding for the federal government for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year. The House budget plan contains substantial cuts to a number of programs, and would completely eliminate current year funding for Title X, the National Family Planning Program, which is now funding 4,500 family planning clinics at $327 million.
January 31, 2011
Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ) has introduced the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill designed to limit the circumstances under which federally subsidized insurance programs would pay for abortions.
January 5, 2011
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have approved a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011, which eliminates the Burris Amendment, a provision that would have allowed women to obtain privately funded abortions at military facilities.
December 15, 2010
The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), up for reauthorization this year, is a federal grant program and the single largest funding source for services for domestic violence victims and their children.
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the International Violence Against Women Act of 2010 (S. 2982).
December 9, 2010
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is scheduled to consider the International Violence Against Women Act of 2010 (S. 2982) on December 14, 2010.
December 8, 2010
On November 18, 2010, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) held a hearing on ratification by the United States of the United Nation’s Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The Paycheck Fairness Act hit a roadblock on November 17, 2010, when Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the Act.
June 23, 2010
NAWL Finds Solicitor General Elena Kagan To Be "Well-Qualified" For The Position of Associate Justice of The United States Supreme Court.
May 11, 2010
NAWL to Evaluate Nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to Supreme Court.
May 10, 2010
NAWL Releases Statement on Oklahoma Abortion Legislation.
April 30, 2010
NAWL Legislative Update April 2010. The Global Democracy Promotion Act.
February 3, 2010
On February 2, 2010 the White House held a conference call: Violence Against Women Priorities in the Budget on February 2, 2010. The Office of the Vice President highlighted the increased budget requests for programs to combat violence against women.
January 20, 2010
Status of legislation introduced in 2009 and reported in NAWL Legislative Updates in 2009. In sum, only one bill NAWL focused upon became law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.