Report to the District Board by Diane S. Lindsley, District 6 Advocacy Chair
National Issues: According to www.govtrack.us, the 113th Congress passed the fewest bills in any first year of a Congress since 1973. Out of 5,913 bills introduced, 72 bills were passed. The highlight for women was the passage of S.47: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act 0f 2013.
Coming up for discussion in Washington is the 5th Anniversary of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The proposed Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced on Jan. 23, 2013 by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is still in the Senate Health, Education, labor and Pensions Committee. This bill has 207 co-sponsors in the House and 50 in the Senate and would, according to Lily Ledbetter, “help create stronger incentives for employers to pay workers fairly, empower women to negotiate for equal pay and prohibit retaliation against employees who share salary information.” Continuing on in her Jan. 17th OpEd in The Washington Post, “As AAUW has recommended, the president could start by issuing an executive order that would ban federal contractors from retaliating against workers who ask about wage practices or share salary information. This is a critical element of the stalled Paycheck Fairness Act. And the president doesn’t need to wait for Congress; he has the power to put it in place with another history-making stroke of his pen. Even better, this action would help dismantle what was my largest barrier all those years ago — not knowing that I was being paid unfairly and having no way to find out.”
A second national concern is sexual assault in the military and at the military academies. Although Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 19th which changes the way the military handles sexual assaults, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013, a bill that would remove responsibility for prosecuting sex crimes out of the military’s chain of command.
A third national concern is widespread sexual assaults on college campuses. According to The White House Council on Women and Girls’ report “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” issues January, 2014, 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted in college but only 12 percent of student victims report the assault. On Jan. 22nd, President Obama announced the creation of a task force to recommend measures for colleges to prevent sexual violence, raise public awareness of campus policies and hold schools accountable if they do not address sexual violence problems; they have a 90 day deadline.
Several Human Trafficking bills and resolutions have been introduced.: H.R. 3530 & S. 1738: Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2013, S.Con.Res. 29: A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of the Congress that children trafficked in the United States be treated as victims of crime, and not as perpetrators., H.R. 3344: Fraudulent Overseas Recruitment and Trafficking Elimination Act of 2013, S. 1878: Protecting Youth At-Risk for Sex Trafficking Act, S. 1733 & H.R. 3610: Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2013, S. 1823: Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Human Trafficking Act of 2013, and H.Res. 387: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding sexually exploited and trafficked girls in the United States.
There is always the challenge of ratification and implementation of CEDAW. At the 58th Session (March 10-21, 2014 at UN Headquarters in NYC) of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women which will address the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, there will be a special session entitled “Cities for CEDAW”. According to the concept paper of Dec. 11, 2013, “The audience will be composed of senior government officials from UN member states and leaders of international NGOs working on gender issues. The purpose of the campaign is to “make the global local”—by promoting the adoption of CEDAW as a municipal ordinance in cities large and small. Multiple stakeholders will be engaged, including the media, business, youth, NGOs, local and state Commissions on the Status of Women, faith communities and women leaders. The campaign will initially focus on a few major cities. Mayors from New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, along with San Francisco, are invited to launch the Cities for CEDAW Campaign at a UN CSW58 Forum in March 2014. A US grass-roots campaign organizing committee will engage other US mayors.” Zonta International’s Advocacy Chair Kay Meyer is planning to attend this session.
Secondly, “A Western Regional Summit is scheduled for August 23, 2014 for Women’s Equality Day in San Francisco as a CALL TO ACTION in preparation for Beijing + 20. Western states will bring their Plans for Action to the Summit, including best local practices on CEDAW. We expect other US regions to also mobilize for a collective US Women’s Plan of Action. The Cities for CEDAW Campaign will serve as the framework for defining a US Women’s Agenda in the post-Millennium Development Goals era and will culminate at the 83rd National Conference of Mayors to be held in San Francisco in June 2015 with a statement urging local actions in support of municipal CEDAW ordinances and implementation.”
Last, but certainly not least, are the Congressional anti-abortion bills. House Republicans are currently advancing the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act,” or HR 7, a measure that would impose sweeping restrictions on abortion coverage that could make the procedure less affordable for Americans across the country. It not only prevents low-income women from using their Medicaid coverage to access abortion, it eliminates medical-expense deductions for abortion care, essentially raising taxes on the women who opt to have an abortion. Although this provision includes an exemption for victims of rape and incest, as well as women who encounter life-threatening complications from their pregnancies, in order to enforce those exceptions, the IRS would have to verify that the women who are claiming a medical-expense deduction for an abortion fall into one of those three categories, to ensure they’re not committing tax fraud. There is a similar bill introduced in the Senate last May – S. 946 – still in the Senate Finance Committee.
State Issues: For those Zontians wishing to search for bills addressing certain issues in their state, they can easily use www.billtrack50.com. Registration is free and the search function lists all pertinent bills for which one can bring up details and status.
On January 20th, Cindy Felsten sent out a 6 page summary of legislation relating to women’s issues introduced at the 2014 Indiana General Assembly. She also forwarded event information from the Indiana Commission for Women’s 2nd Annual Women’s Day at the Statehouse on January 29th. Attendees will receive updates on the five priorities (Health-related issues, Work-based issues, Leadership, Care Giving and Violence against Women) identified during ICW’s Hoosier Women Speak listening sessions. Presenters from partner organizations, including NAWBO-Indianapolis, will discuss future activities and opportunities for collaboration.
In November, 2013, JoAnn Gruber-Hagen sent out a report by the Center for American Progress on the State of Women in America. States were graded on economics, leadership and health. Wisconsin received a C- in economics and leadership and a D+ in health. Indiana received an F in economics and health and a C+ in leadership. Illinois received an A in leadership, a B in economics and a B- in health. The report can be viewed at: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/news/2013/09/25/75188/mapping-the-state-of-women-in-america/
She also forwarded a link to the GoldieBlox commercial inspiring girls to become engineers. That can be viewed at: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/11/19/goldieblox_commercial_rewrites_the_beastie_boys_urges_young_girls_to_pursue.html
Lastly, she has kept me and the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee appraised of pending human trafficking legislation (5 bills) in Wisconsin as well as Domestic Violence legislation (7 bills).
Unfortunately, Zonta clubs in Illinois have no advocacy liaison and I have no clue what legislation has been proposed or passed.
Zonta Says No Campaign: The Campaign was embraced enthusiastically by those attending Fall Conference last October. Results of Zontian efforts in District 6 are still being compiled and communicated. From the club newsletters I’ve received, I’ve noted the following:
Alton-Wood River: Mayors of five communities issued Zonta Says No proclamations.
Beloit: The Beloit Daily News featured an article and WGEZ aired morning radio messages through De. 10th; their Facebook page also featured the Campaign.
Lebanon: Their Z Club produced an outstanding Campaign video for students & the public; it will be featured in the next ZI Advocacy Newsletter.
Madison: p. 4 of their January newsletter has a detailed listing of the personal accomplishments of members.
Milwaukee: Their December newsletter has a similar list of member and club efforts; Messages were posted on the club Facebook pages.
Mascoutah: Their December newsletter noted that members used the Campaign materials during ladies Night Out in Nov, used the poster & ribbons at their fashion show, and got the Mayor of Mascoutah to sign a Campaign proclamation.
Stevens Point: Put together a display board and their newsletter featured a list of Campaign ideas for members
International Women’s Day 2014: Clubs in Area 2 have planned an IWD event in the Wisconsin State Capitol for March 4th. Indiana clubs as stated above had an Annual Women’s Day at the Statehouse. I have not heard from other areas or clubs.