Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Three Bills for Women on the Ides of March

Monday, March 15, 2010 was the Ides of March 2010.  And it was a good day for women!

Eating Disorders to be Addressed in New Legislation

On Friday, March 12, Senator Daylin Leach's office contacted me and asked if I'd come to Harrisburg and support a bill that would mandate insurance coverage of recommended treatment for individuals with eating disorders.  This bill, like the law mandating coverage of mammograms, would stop insurance companies from limiting coverage to solely stabelizing the woman's weight.  It would allow women the time to have the full medical and psycholigical treatment necessary for the woman to effectively deal with not only the physical issues but also the underlying issues surrounding her disorder.

So at 11 am yesterday, I attended a press conference in the Capital Rotunda on SB 1138 to increase awareness and show support for this legislation that would require insurance companies to cover non-hospital residential care for eating disorder patients, thereby allowing doctors and patients the ability to choose the best treatment plans for the individual patient.

You can read the latest version of this bill on the PA General Assembly website.

Marital and Familial Status Protections in Employment

Following a short lunch, I had a meeting with Representative Michael Carroll.  He is the prime sponsor of HB 2245, the newest incarnation of a bill that would add marital and familal status protections to the employment section of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.  This is Pennsylvania's anti-discrimination law.  The bill passed out of the State House Government Committee on Monday, March 8, 2010 and is now in the House Appropriations Committee. 

I met with him to ask about next steps and to request that the General Assembly expand the definition of family status to include family responsibilities across the life span.  As currently defined in this bill, an individual would be protected from discrimination in employment based either on their marital status (married, single, separated) or because they have children under the age of 18 living in the home.  However, if they are perceived to be responsible for the care of another adult family member (such as a spouse, parent, aunt, adult child, etc) and are denied employment or treated disparately at work, then there are no protections.  Expanding the family status definition to include these family responsibilities would eliminate this form of family-based discrimination and, as with flex-time, make for a better family-friendly work environment.  These protections should also increase the committment and productivity of workers at their workplace by reducing the work-family stress associated with work environments that don't recognize family responsibilities.

Representative Carroll felt this would strengthen the bill and agreed to offer this idea as an amendment to the the bill when it comes up again in the Appropriations Committee hearing.  However, at this point he does not know when that hearing will be held.

The WorkLife Law Center at University of California Hastings College of Law contains detailed background information on this form of legislation.  Their home page for this issue is at http://www.worklifelaw.org/FRD.html

You can read the latest version of this bill on the PA General Assembly website.  Note that this version (HB 2245, PN 3182) does NOT contain the proposed amendment that Representative Carroll and I discussed.

Anti-Shackling Bill Moves Another Step Towards Passage

Finally, before returning home, I sat in on the Senate Appropriations Hearing.  SB 1074 was the last item on their agenda.  This is the bill that prohibits correctional facilities within the state from shackling pregnant women during labor and delivery.

Like in the hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, there were some technical amendments made to the bill.  And then without any discussion, the bill was unanimously passed.

Senator Leach, the prime sponsor of this bill, said that the Senate is expected to place the bill on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday and will then vote for final passage.  It will then go to the PA House of Representatives for their review.

You can read the latest version of this bill on the PA General Assembly website.

It was a GREAT day!

Three bills - access to treatment for eating disorders, prohibiting family-based employment discrimination, and prohibiting the shackling of pregnant women.  Maybe the Ides of March will change the tide for women in Pennsylvania!  Yea!

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