When Will Enough be Enough?

This morning our hearts are heavy. Yesterday morning, tragically, 19 children attending their last week of elementary school were gunned down along with two of their teachers in Uvalde, Texas. While we do not live in Texas and may be able to shake our heads and say at least our state has somewhat better laws the question remains:

When will enough be enough?

This past legislative session LWVMD proudly and loudly testified and worked on bills that would help protect all Marylanders against gun crimes. Some of these bills, such as the Ghost Gun bill were successful in passing, others such as how guns had to be stored with children in the home to aid in preventing youth suicide were not. We celebrate the wins and look forward to returning to the fight on the losses.

Often in this work, we are reminded of an anecdote from when one of our founders Carrie Catt Chapman was working to pass the 19th amendment - if women get the right to vote they will do such things like legally protect women and ensure child welfare.

Today, LWVMD stands recommitted more than ever to ensuring that this line, once used as a fear mongering tactic, becomes something we pickup and carry with honor - that when you tell people you’re a member of the League of Women Voters of Maryland they’ll know exactly what you stand for.

Most importantly, we want to thank you, our members. Without your tireless dedication and relentless resolve, our fight to ensure that all voices are heard, even those who can’t quite reach the ballot screen yet, would simply not be possible. The strength that comes in knowing we stand together is our greatest asset. Whether you are standing in front of the State Legislature fighting for bills to be heard or standing in the sweltering heat or blistering cold for hours ensuring that all votes are counted you are the backbone of not just the League, but of our democracy.

Empowering (future) Voters, Defending Democracy.

In League,

Nancy Soreng, President LWVMD
Nikki Tyree, Executive Director LWVMD



Maryland Congressional Maps for November 2022 Election

For Immediate Release
April 4, 2022m ANNAPOLIS, MD — We are relieved that Maryland’s Congressional map for the 2022 November election is one step closer to being finalized. The Anne Arundel Circuit Court is expected to rule soon on the new Congressional map signed by Governor Hogan today. Judge Battaglia will be considering only one additional change, not splitting Baltimore City into two districts, before making her final ruling.

The latest Congressional map scores significantly better than the original Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission’s map enacted in 2021. Both FiveThirtyEight https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-2022-maps/maryland/ and PlanScore https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/maryland/#!2020-plan-ushouse-eg, a project of the non-profit, non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, have calculated that the latest Congressional map is significantly less biased toward the Democrats.

Of course, the boards of elections still can’t finalize the ballot, since we are waiting for a ruling about the constitutionality of the Legislative map by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

As Nancy Soreng, President of the League of Women Voters of Maryland said: “All of this chaos, last-minute intense work by the legislature, their staff, the state and local boards of elections and the courts could be avoided next time by enacting an independent redistricting commission with transparently chosen multi- partisan members and adequate funding. We hope that the elected representatives of Maryland will work with us over the next ten years to achieve a smooth census and redistricting process.”


Anti-Gerrymandering Groups Call on Legislature to Hold Fair and Transparent Mapping Process after Congressional Map Struck Down by Court

Press Contacts:

Joanne Antoine, [email protected], 443-906-0442

Nikki Tyree, [email protected], 443-534-8773

Anti-Gerrymandering Groups Call on Legislature to Hold Fair and Transparent Mapping Process after Congressional Map Struck Down by Court

Today, the Anne Arundel Circuit Court of Maryland struck down the Maryland Congressional map on the grounds that the map violated the constitutional rights of Republicans.  Judge Lynne A. Battaliga entered a declaratory judgment in favor of the plaintiffs finding the 2021 Congressional Map unconstitutional, permanently enjoining the use of the plan in any future elections, and providing the Maryland General Assembly with an opportunity to develop a new Congressional Map. 

Statement from Joanne Antoine, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland

Today’s decision is a victory for Maryland voters who now have an opportunity to vote in fairer, more representative districts.  We know that our democracy works best when everyone, regardless of race or political party, has an equal opportunity to make their voice heard.

The Maryland General Assembly will now undertake the task of redrawing our congressional map to comply with the court’s order.  We strongly encourage the General Assembly to conduct this re-draw process transparently and provide meaningful opportunities for public input into the new map. 

We also continue to call on the General Assembly to swiftly pass pending legislation that will ensure local Board of Elections are prepared to handle the influx of mail-in ballots and to make adequate funding available for robust public outreach so voters know when and where to vote in the primary election.

The congressional map belongs to the voters of Maryland, not the politicians. It’s time for the General Assembly to do right by the voters and lead a fair, open, and transparent process that results in fair maps.

Statement from Nikki Tyree, Executive Director of League of Women Voters of Maryland

This is an historic moment, the first time that a Maryland Congressional district map has been found to be in violation of the Maryland Constitution. The people of Maryland deserve to have an open, transparent, and nonpartisan redistricting process that ensures the reigning party cannot play politics with their lives and their votes. We urge the General Assembly to quickly correct the issues and produce a new, fairer map by the court's March 30 deadline.


Firearms Control 2022 Issue Paper

Firearms Control in Maryland

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, “Every day, more than 110 Americans are killed with guns and more than 200 are shot and wounded”. Daily news of shootings dominates the headlines and our communities have become numb to the violence. For numerous students, businesses, and workplaces active shooter drills have become something that Americans have grown accustomed to. Unfortunately, this has become the stark reality of living in the United States. 

In 2018 in order to address the continuing violence the League of Women Voters US sent a letter to the United States Congress urging them to “adopt legislation that will close the gun show loophole, increase penalties for straw purchases of guns, ban assault weapons, place limits on high capacity ammunition magazine size, and fund research and reporting on gun violence in America”. The League holds a strong position in support of firearms control. The LWVUS position is: Protect the health and safety of citizens through limiting the accessibility and regulating the ownership of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons. In 1991, LWVMD reached concurrence and adopted a state position. Still in 2022 the League is continuing to work to end the gun violence epidemic. 

This year the League will be tracking several firearms control bills that have been introduced. The bills are as follows: 

SB338- Handgun Permit-Preliminary Approval. The League will be opposing this bill which would allow for a person to apply for preliminary approval for a handgun permit without first completing a firearms training course. Within 120 days after receipt of preliminary approval an applicant must submit proof of completion of a firearms training course. If no proof of completion of a firearms training course is received the bill states “the secretary shall revoke the preliminary approval and deny the application”. The League supports licensing procedures for gun ownership by private citizens to include a waiting period for background checks, personal identity verification, gun safety education, and annual license renewal. We also support a requirement of a proficiency test as part of the procedure for obtaining a hunting license. The purpose of the test is to assure gun owners can safely operate their firearm.  

HB425/SB387-Public Safety-Untraceable Firearms. The League will be supporting this bill which would expand the definition of what constitutes a “firearm”. It would expand the definition to the following as a “firearm” to include a “certain unfinished frame or receiver; prohibiting a person from purchasing, receiving, selling, offering to sell, or transferring an unfinished frame or receiver, or possessing a firearm on or after a certain date”. A “ghost gun” according to Everytown for Gun Safety is “a do-it-yourself, homemade gun made from easy-to-get building blocks that can be purchased with no background check and no questions asked. These guns are made by an individual, not a federally licensed manufacturer or importer”. Ghost guns are especially dangerous because they are virtually untraceable and anyone can gain access to them without going through any kind of formal process. This bill would also help to better define what a gun is and hopefully reduce the number of ghost guns in Maryland.  

HB659/SB676- Firearm Safety - Storage Requirements and Youth Suicide Prevention (Jaelynn's Law). The League will be supporting this bill which would alter certain provisions in relating to the storage of firearms and ammunition. It will also require the Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services to develop a youth suicide prevention and firearm safe storage guide, with recommendations from a stakeholder committee. LWVUS-supports gun policy measures to close major loopholes in the law: mandating background checks for all gun show purchases and child safety locks on guns. Making sure a person’s firearm is stored properly and locked away from children can help ensure the safety of everyone in the vicinity. 

The gun violence epidemic is not something that can be solved overnight, but something that will take time. The League of Women Voters Maryland is supporting HB425/SB387 and HB659/SB676 and opposes SB338. 

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Pending Legislation Could Smooth Change to New Primary Date

Common Cause Maryland, League of Women Voters of Maryland call for additional funding to support primary election outreach and passage of mail-in voting legislation

The Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation that would ensure State and local Boards of Elections are able to navigate changes being made to the primary election due to redistricting. The primary was originally scheduled for June 28, but yesterday the Maryland Court of Appeals rescheduled it for July 19, 2022. The candidate filing deadline will be April 15, 2022. 

Ongoing redistricting litigation has caused uncertainty and delays. But two pending bills – SB 163/HB 329 and HB 862 – include provisions that will help election officials manage the likely increase in eligible voters choosing to vote by mail during a time where many may choose to travel for vacation. These provisions would: provide voters a chance to “cure” any remedial issues with their voted mail-in ballot to prevent rejection; allow for the pre-processing of mail-in ballots to facilitate timely results; and direct that the first certified mail-in ballot be accepted if individuals unintentionally cast more than one ballot in the same election. 

Additional funding for public outreach is needed so that election officials will be able to notify voters of changes.

Joint Statement from Common Cause Maryland & League of Women Voters of Maryland

State and local election officials have been doing all that they can to ensure our primary elections, even with the delay, run smoothly. The General Assembly must do all they can to support their efforts as we await a decision from the court on legal challenges to the congressional and legislative maps adopted by the lawmakers.

We knew this would happen and championed redistricting reform that would have helped avoid this situation. California’s maps are drawn by a truly independent, multi-partisan citizen redistricting commission – and California is one of the few states where there are no outstanding legal challenges to the new maps, and its primary election is not at risk of delay. But Maryland lawmakers chose not to reform the redistricting process, and so they must now respect the decision of the Court delaying the primary. 

Elections officials need final district lines to begin planning polling locations, and the Court has recognized the litigation process will delay that planning. As we prepare for the now July 19th primary election which could very well be pushed back even further, we urge lawmakers to act swiftly on pending legislation that will ensure the local Boards of Elections are prepared to handle the influx of mail-in ballots.

We also urge the General Assembly and Governor Hogan to make adequate funding available for a robust public outreach campaign. Voter confusion is inevitable and we must do all that we can to ensure voters know when and where to vote. The State Board of Elections needs additional funding to communicate with voters via direct mail and all digital platforms. That funding must be allocated right away.

Partisan gerrymandering is not in the best interest of Maryland voters. We hope lawmakers see that as their own races are impacted by these maps. We urge them, again, to work on reforming the process and to put their own partisan interest aside over the next few months to work with election officials – who are already overworked and understaffed – to ensure a smooth primary. 


Losing my son to disease before his third birthday was heartbreaking, but I’m grateful I had the paid leave to care for him; many don’t

Our volunteer Advocate Lisa Barkan writes about the importance of paid leave in a Baltimore Sun op-ed.

Alex being cheeky while wearing a shirt with fish on it, which he loved. (Ed Fee)

                                 (Alex being cheeky while wearing a shirt with fish on it, which he loved.)
My beautiful boy Alex died when he was 2 and a half years old. He was gentle, sweet, headstrong, funny and quirky. He loved the color yellow, the letter F, the number 5 and fish.

Despite the tragedy of Alex’s death, I was lucky. Unlike many working Marylanders, I had a position where I accrued leave, and my fellow employees could donate leave to me when I exhausted mine. I was able to care for and be with my son throughout his illness and receive paid leave. I was able to focus all my energy on taking care of my child. I did not have the added stress of needing to maintain a job. Above all, I was able to spend more time with him and to enjoy my child during his all too brief life. For these reasons I wholeheartedly support the Time to Care Act, filed as House Bill 8 and Senate Bill 275.

Unlike me, many working people in Maryland have no access to paid time off when they or their loved ones are ill. Many people have to choose between paying their rent or buying food and taking care of their loved ones. The Time to Care Act would create a strong paid family and medical leave program. I hope that by sharing my story, the General Assembly will realize that the Time to Care Act must be passed this session.

My son was diagnosed with a rare liver disease when he was only 6 weeks old. At some point after his diagnosis, his doctor told my husband and me that Alex was too sick for both of us to work full time. At that time, I was an assistant attorney general with the state of Maryland. I requested a part-time position, and the Attorney General’s Office was able to accommodate the request. Nonetheless, it was very difficult to work. I had to rush Alex to Johns Hopkins Hospital’s emergency room frequently, and Alex was admitted to the hospital on multiple occasions.

Alex’s liver continued to deteriorate. When he was 8 and a half months old, he needed a liver transplant, and my husband donated a lobe of his liver to our son. I took a four-month leave of absence to care for Alex. After I exhausted the leave I accrued with the state, my co-workers donated time to me. I was paid for the four months.

After his transplant, Alex was fine for a year and a half. I have fond memories of him during that time. One day, my sister visited with her daughter Emily, who is two months younger than Alex. Alex and Emily were running around the house. Suddenly, Emily hit Alex. He then looked at her with his index finger pointed and said, “Emmy sit down right now.” Emily immediately sat down. Wagging his finger at her he continued, “Emmy no hit, hitting isn’t nice.” Then they started running around again. My sister said that she needed to discipline Emily. I told her that Alex already did, and we both laughed.

Unfortunately, Alex developed an aggressive cancer caused by the immunosuppressant he took so his body would not reject his liver. The doctors were shocked. When my son was hospitalized for the last time on Sept. 11, 2001, I told my supervisor that I had to stop working. I could not juggle work and a critically ill child. A CT scan revealed that Alex had a tumor the size of a volleyball in his abdomen. The next day he was connected to a ventilator and given dialysis because his lungs and kidneys failed. He died on Oct. 30. Again, after I exhausted my leave, my co-workers donated leave time to me, and I was paid until I returned to work.

I am so grateful for my co-workers who donated their leave time to me when I exhausted mine. Many working Marylanders cannot take care of their loved ones. They do not have leave or co-workers who are able to donate leave to them. No one should have to choose between having to work or taking care of their loved ones.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced how fleeting and precious our lives are. We need to pass the Time to Care Act this legislative session. It provides working Marylanders with an ability to take a breath. It allows them some paid time off to take care of themselves or a loved one without fearing that they will lose their job or be unable to pay for food, rent or their mortgage. It allows Marylanders to share the last days of their loved ones’ lives. I am grateful that I was able to take care of my son and to be with him. I cannot imagine losing any of that precious time. No one should.


Water 2022 Issue Paper

Water is crucial to life – whether directly for humans to drink or as necessary resources for plants and animals. In Maryland we need to protect the waters we will clean for human use and the waters (rivers, bays) that produce edible wildlife – with the Chesapeake Bay as our obviously largest resource. Nationwide, the LWV has studied and taken positions on water issues since the 1950s. 

The status of Chesapeake Bay restoration. Maryland has a phase III Watershed Implementation Plan aiming to achieve statewide nutrition and sediment pollution reduction goals by 2025. The state still needs to be wary of ongoing and future effects of climate change, population growth, and water pollution. Will planning and funding in this and future years be adequate in this regard? And how will the cooperation of other states with waters entering the Bay affect our goals (e.g., Pennsylvania continues to underfund in this area)?  

Two areas Maryland has particularly depended on so far are wastewater treatment facilities and agricultural practices. Governor Hogan has proposed the passage of 2022 legislation to create a public-private financing mechanism for certain conservation projects. Some environmental groups are concerned whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will provide sufficient oversight to ensure the state uses the funding it gets from the U.S. and other sources to achieve pollution reduction goals.  

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Protecting the Vote 2022 Issue Paper

PROTECTING THE VOTE: 2022 Advocacy Priorities

“Protecting the vote” is no longer simply a basic principle of the League of Women Voters — these days it’s an urgent mission. Nationwide, we’re witnessing attempts both subtle and blatant to make access to the ballot more difficult, especially for certain populations. Although voters in Maryland encounter fewer barriers than in many other states, there is still room for improvement.

Compared with last year, fewer election-related bills are expected to be introduced during the upcoming session. The Maryland General Assembly will be focusing much of its attention on legislative redistricting instead, plus they are reluctant to change election procedures during an election year. A few emergency bills will propose changes to how the 2022 elections are conducted. Most bills, though, wouldn’t take effect until 2023 at the earliest.

A number of important issues were left partially or completely unresolved at the end of the last session. The League will continue to advocate for improvements in these areas:

* ALLOWING PROCESSING OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS BEFORE ELECTION DAY. LWVMD supports the increased use of mail-in ballots, which includes those returned in official drop boxes as well as those sent via the post office. No one can predict how many people will choose to vote by mail in 2022, however it’s likely to be far more than in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to legislation passed in 2021 (https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2021RS/Chapters_noln/CH_514_hb1048e.pdf), before the June 2022 Primary Election all registered voters will be sent an application for a mail-in ballot, with the option of receiving one automatically in the future (also referred to as the permanent absentee ballot list). The League strongly supported this legislation last year. You can read our testimony here: https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/cmte_testimony/2021/wam/1NjAPvBlDeBLaAvrV2NvZP72POfhcCjUf.pdf .

The canvass of mail-in ballots entails several time-consuming preliminary steps: logging the arrival time of the ballot; verifying that no other ballots have been received from that voter; and examining the envelope for a missing signature, and if so, contacting the voter to “cure” the problem by providing a signature before the statutory deadline. Once this pre-processing is completed, the accepted ballots are opened, duplicated if necessary to ensure readability, tabulated by high-speed scanners, and stored securely until it’s time to release the results. 

Under current law, local Boards of Elections cannot begin even the preliminary processing until the Thursday after Election Day. Due to the vast increase in mail-in voting in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ballot processing was permitted to start early that year under a temporary emergency order. Without this head start, it would have been very difficult for some local Boards of Elections to finish counting the votes in time. The effort required hiring more canvassers and allocating more space, but most local Boards welcomed the extra time. 

Several bills were introduced in 2021 to make starting early a permanent option for the local Boards of Elections. We favor this policy. Unfortunately, the session ended with no agreement between the two chambers as to how far in advance of Election Day local officials should be allowed to start processing ballots, so it reverted to “zero days.” Several emergency bills to remedy this problem in 2022 are already in the works. Hopefully the General Assembly can concur on a time frame.

* EXPANDING BALLOT ACCESS FOR ELIGIBLE INCARCERATED AND RETURNING CITIZENS. The League supported legislation that in 2016 restored full voting rights to non-felons who are currently incarcerated and to felons who have served their sentences and are returning to their communities. However, no system was put in place to help these people register to vote, receive and return a ballot, and obtain election-related information and instructions. Legislation passed in 2021 to set up such a system was ultimately watered down, and some important provisions removed. (See https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2021RS/bills/hb/hb0222E.pdf, and note all the strikethroughs from the original “Value My Vote Act” wording.) LWVMD will again join with other advocates urging legislators, along with state corrections and election officials, to address these deficiencies and prevent disenfranchisement of eligible citizens.

* IMPROVING ACCESSIBILITY FOR ALL VOTERS. The League works closely with policymakers, election officials, and advocacy partners who share the goal of increasing voter participation. Last year, bills were passed to ensure more accessible siting of Early Voting centers and ballot drop boxes. This year, several legislators plan to propose a variety of additional enhancements to make voting easier and polling places more welcoming for people who have disabilities, transportation difficulties, language barriers, and other obstacles. The good news is that straightforward, relatively minor upgrades can often be implemented by modifying regulations and/or training protocols instead of passing new laws. This can be preferable to locking a rule into law — experience may show that a different procedure would be more effective, and it is easier to modify a regulation.

* URGING A FAIRER SYSTEM TO FILL LEGISLATIVE VACANCIES. The League has long had a position supporting special elections to fill vacancies in the General Assembly, thereby giving constituents a stronger voice in choosing their representatives. Currently, the Governor appoints a candidate recommended by the political party that last held the vacant seat. This creates a system wherein a very small group of political insiders decides the representation of over 40,000 residents each time a vacancy occurs. Maryland is one of 22 states that allow such vacancies to be filled by appointment rather than by the democratic process of a special election.

Maryland should end the cycle in which between a quarter and a third of all voters are represented by legislators who either weren’t elected or were given the advantage of incumbency at the time of the next election thanks to their prior appointment. This practice also disenfranchises voters who aren’t registered with either major political party, or who have no affiliation with their party’s central committee. Our neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Delaware fill legislative vacancies through special elections, and even Georgia and Texas do so.

We urge the General Assembly to pass legislation to address this issue. Because it’s difficult to hold a special election when an upcoming regular election is imminent, an appropriate cut-off date should be specified. 

Unsurprisingly, it’s challenging to get buy-in for this proposal from legislators who were themselves appointed to their seats and thus had the benefit of incumbency at the next regular election. We’ll keep up our efforts, though.

Note: Special elections also offer an opportunity to use Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), a system the city of Takoma Park has already implemented for its municipal elections. New York City has done likewise, and the entire state of Maine relies on RCV for its statewide and federal elections. Using RCV for special elections to fill a legislative vacancy would have the added benefit of going straight to a general election with no need to hold a primary.

* RESTRUCTURING THE SELECTION OF CIRCUIT COURT JUDGES. Maryland’s Circuit Courts are where jury trials are held, although some cases may be decided by a judge only. Two proposals are likely to be introduced concerning the selection of these judges. One would change the nomination of Circuit Court Judges from a partisan basis to nonpartisan, similar to Boards of Education. The other would eliminate contested elections and provide instead that they be appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the state Senate. After ten years they would be subject to a retention election, similar to the process for appellate court judges.

Nonpartisan Election of Judges — Maryland’s process for electing Circuit Court judges is unusual. Although it is desirable that judges be nonpartisan, they are nominated on party ballots and therefore only voters affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties can vote for them. All candidates appear on both parties’ ballots, and the top finishers in each party’s primary are then placed on the general election ballot. However, this process excludes the increasing number of unaffiliated voters from the key step of selecting nominees for these offices. It is also confusing to voters as the top vote-getters in one party may be different from the winners in the other party, yet no party identification appears on the general election ballot. In many counties, the incumbent judges run unopposed, so voters see the same names on both the primary and general election ballots. The proposed change would mandate that candidates for Circuit Court Judge appear on the nonpartisan section of primary ballots so all voters can participate in selecting the nominees to go on the general election ballot.

Eliminating Contested Elections of Circuit Court Judges — Under current law, a Circuit Court judge appointed by the Governor must stand for election at the next general election, and any qualified attorney may run against them. LWVMD supports a system in which candidates for judge are appointed by the Governor from names recommended by a merit selection panel and are then subject to a retention election (i.e., the ballot lists the judge’s name with the question “Should this judge be retained in office?” and voters mark Yes or No). This legislation has been introduced in prior years, but opponents have argued that contested elections are needed to ensure there is diversity and that the Governor does not appoint only members of her or his own party. 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE: Detailed information and updates on the League’s advocacy can be found at the LWVMD Action Blog (https://www.lwvmd.org/action_blog). Information on all bills, including sponsors, committee hearing dates, and more, is available at the Maryland General Assembly website (https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/). Click on “Video Tutorials” under the heading “Quick Links” at the bottom of the MGA home page for helpful guidance in navigating the website.


Paid Family Leave 2022 Issue Paper

Issue Paper - Paid Family Leave 

While COVID-19 has continued to be ever present in our lives it has shown the incredible inequity when it comes to Marylanders domestic life. COVID-19 has highlighted that legislation must change with the needs of the people. 

The past two years have shown us that with persistent shut-downs, school closings, remote work, and lingering illness Paid Family Leave is now a necessity. Not only have families across Maryland had to cope with increasing unexpected responsibilities at home, but the unexpected job loss that comes with extended absences and no recourse of protection. Ensuring substantial and adequate family leave would ensure that Marylanders, statistically most often women, who stay home to care for loved ones will be protected. 

LWVMD supports Paid Family Leave based not only on our own positions, but LWVUS positions. LWVMD supports meeting basic human needs so that no family or individual finds themselves in poverty whatever the circumstances might be. LWVMD has been committed to this since 2013. Beyond this LWVMD also holds strong positions on children’s services founded through a study in 1995. The first goal of this position is to support “making the needs of children a high priority of the government.” Without Paid Family Leave many Maryland families will find themselves in situations where the primary caregiver, while still typically mothers, but an ever growing number of fathers, are forced to leave newborn, or newly adopted children, mere weeks after bringing them home. If the primary caregiver has to take unpaid leave the burden of supporting the family could rest on the partner if the caregiver even has one. 

In 2017, LWVUS sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to pass comprehensive legislation ensuring Paid Family Leave. LWVUS believes this legislation will “provide essential support and create opportunity for all working people and families, to help ensure that people can take the time they need to address serious health issues, to promote a more level playing field for businesses of all sizes and to strengthen our national economy.” They also believe that this will address ever changing disparities across the different demographics in the workforce. 

LWVMD remains committed to partnering with other organizations in the Time to Care coalition. This coalition was formed to fix the egregious error that “in Maryland, even unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act is inaccessible for 56 percent of working people.”  They believe that passing Paid Family leave will ensure the following:

  • Not having to choose between job and family;
  • Older adults and working people of all ages can get the support they need to receive and provide critical care;
  • People – especially women – aren’t forced to leave the labor force to care for their families or health, reducing turnover for employers and boosting the economy;
  • A stronger economy, healthier families and businesses, greater equity regardless of a person’s job and more workplace equality for women.

For the fourth year in a row the Time to Care Act (HB8) has been introduced in the House by Delegate Valderrama. While it has strong support from Speaker Jones, Senate President Fergueson has already stated that he believes the bill needs more work. 

If you wish to update your email subscription preferences so that you can focus your attention on the issues most critical to you. Simply click the link in the footer of any email from LWVMD and uncheck the issue areas you’d rather not receive updates on for now. You can always re-subscribe here: https://www.lwvmd.org/action_signup 

Even if you aren’t subscribed to receive emails in a particular issue area, you can always find updates about these issues on our new Action Blog page. The Action Blog will be a home for all of the updates and Action Alerts shared by our advocates - so you can catch up any time.

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Expanding Access to Health Care 2022 Issue Paper

Expanding Access to Affordable Health Care

As we enter the third year of the Covid pandemic, it is clearer than ever that all Marylanders need accessible, affordable, and equitable health care. The League of Women Voters of Maryland supports the position that healthcare is a basic human right and every U.S. resident should have access to a basic level of care that includes the prevention of disease, health promotion and education, primary care (including prenatal and reproductive health), acute care, long-term care, and mental health care. 

After passage of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable care Act (ACA) in 2010, the percentage of uninsured Marylanders fell. Substantial gains in health care coverage were made due to enrollment in qualified health plans through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, as well as due to the expansion of Maryland Medical Assistance (Medicaid).  

Per the Maryland Legislature’s Issue Paper for the 2022 Legislative Session on Health and Health Insurance, 6% (>360,000) of Marylanders remain uninsured. The League will support key legislative efforts in the 2022 Maryland General Assembly session to reduce that number, and increase health care access, affordability, and equity. 

Legislation will be introduced to assist small businesses to offer their employees health insurance coverage by allocating federal funds to subsidize the cost of healthcare premiums.

 As noted in the  1/3/2022 Baltimore Sun Guest Commentary by Senator Katie Fry Hester, and Delegates Robbyn Lewis and Brooke Lierman:

 Only 37% of small businesses in the state provide health coverage, compared to 95% of large employers. Workers at those small businesses must either pay for coverage themselves or go without, leaving them exposed to major health costs. This is a matter of equity. Maryland has the highest per capita rate of small businesses owned by people of color in the nation.

Legislation is being drafted that would allow certain undocumented Maryland residents, including pregnant women and children who have aged out of foster care, to apply for health coverage through the Maryland Health Exchange, CHIP, and Medicaid. A large percentage of the >360,000 Maryland residents without health insurance coverage are non-citizen immigrants. Being prohibited from health care coverage through both the Health Benefit Exchange and Medicaid, these patients must obtain medical care and medications at clinics with limited capacity and funds to assist them. Thus, these patients are also often forced to come to hospital Emergency Departments for non-emergency care: the most expensive option for them, for hospitals, and for the State of Maryland. 

Additionally, with the stress and isolation caused by the pandemic, both adults and children are more at risk for mental health problems, and thus more in need of behavioral health services. Per a 10/29/2021 Baltimore Sun article, the CDC reported that “Maryland and the United States saw record-breaking numbers of fatal overdoses [in 2020]…. Maryland suffered its worst year on record as 2,773 people died of drug and alcohol overdoses in 2020, the highest number ever recorded.” 

The League supports legislative efforts being introduced this year which seek to address these behavioral health challenges. Some of that legislation includes:  

HB56: Commission on Behavioral Health and Mental Health Treatment would establish a Commission on Student Behavioral Health and Mental Health Treatment to study, evaluate, update and revise guidelines for student behavioral health and mental health treatment and practices.

The Covid pandemic has proven that we are all in this together. We must work to ensure everyone’s physical and mental health and safety if we are to stay safe and healthy ourselves. Increasing the number of Marylanders with access to affordable, equitable healthcare keeps more of us safe, ensures the best health outcomes, decreases the burden on our overwhelmed hospital Emergency systems, and keeps down the cost of healthcare in our State by reducing the costs of uncompensated care. 

HB6/ SB150: Maryland Medical Assistance Program Dental Coverage for Adults proposes expansion of Medicaid coverage to include dental care. Lack of  adequate dental care can contribute to broader, untreated infections that further stress resources in already crowded Emergency Departments. Expanding access to dental coverage provides access to preventive services that can improve the health of Marylanders while reducing unnecessary, high cost emergency treatment.