Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Legislative Agenda for Women - Louisiana

Louisiana NOW has joined with a coalition of organizations, called Legislative Agenda for Women (LAW), which was created to work with state legislators, local political party representatives, and various legislative caucus chairs to push for specific legislation to improve or protect the interests of women in Louisiana. The founding coalition members are NOW, National Council of Jewish Women, Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union, American Association of University Women, and the League of Women Voters. LAW has developed an agenda for the upcoming 2013 Legislative Session which will convene in April. Three pieces of legislation have been prioritized by LAW.

The first piece is a resolution or statute to direct the Governor to reconsider his rejection of the Medicaid Expansion element of the Affordable Care Act which would expand the availability of Medicaid to families with incomes above the poverty level. As NOW noted in an earlier press release, because poverty and lack of access to healthcare disproportionately impacts women, especially African-American and Latina women, the decision to cut off expanded Medicaid access to the citizens of Louisiana not only affects women's healthcare, but costs women job opportunities in the healthcare field.

The second piece of legislation is the Pay Equity Bill to address the wage disparities between men and women in public employment. This legislation was introduced in the 2012 Session by Senator Karen Carter-Peterson (D-New Orleans), but was watered down to a study of pay equity issues. The bill requiring the study passed the legislature overwhelmingly, but was vetoed by the Governor.

The third piece of legislation is a bill to address certain aspects of the current sex education law, including the authorization for the Department of Education to survey students regarding risk behaviors.

Sen. Peterson and Representative Helena Moreno (D-New Orleans) have both agreed to work with LAW in the effort to enact these three pieces of legislation. LAW is currently seeking sponsors for these legislative efforts who would have the best chance of leading the bills to successful passage. NOW is encouraging members statewide to talk to their own legislators about these issues that affect women and girls, to encourage their legislators to join in supporting the efforts of the Legislative Agenda for Women, and ultimately to actively lobby their legislators for support and passage of the bills that are supported by the Legislative Agenda for Women coalition.

It is hoped that the focus on these pieces of legislation will highlight issues, for legislators as well as for the electorate,that impact women disproportionately and will encourage the Louisiana Legislature to specifically consider the needs of women when enacting any legislation in the future.

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