Eliminating sex discrimination through research, education and legal activities
A large number of advocacy groups announced Tuesday they are forming a new coalition to lobby for women and family issues in the General Assembly.
The Women’s Public Policy Network – with partners including the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, the Innovation Ohio Education Fund, and Progress Ohio – will promote bills to facilitate economic security, fairness and opportunities in the workplace, and improvements for the health and well-being of Ohio women, organizers said.
The group hopes that by making the case that these issues affect more than just women that the network’s message will resonate in a General Assembly dominated by men.
“I think it’s important as we build relations (with lawmakers) to ensure these issues are family issues, economic issues,” Innovation Ohio Development Director Erin Ryan said. “Women’s issues are not in a silo. They impact families and the economy.”
At the same time, the group rolled out a scorecard of Ohio’s legislative activity during the 131st General Assembly – grades that show “that most of the priorities of the Women’s Public Policy Network were ignored by the legislature,” Ms. Ryan said.
“In Ohio, over two-thirds of working women are the sole, primary, or co-breadwinner for their families,” Women’s Fund of Central Ohio President and CEO Nichole Dunn added. “Yet public policy fails to catch up to the changing dynamics of the workforce.”
The scorecard assigned “F” grades to three lawmakers based on votes tied to abortion or healthcare such as the bill to “defund” Planned Parenthood (HB 294) which is currently tied up in court. The card gave “D” grades to 14 legislators.
Linda Kanney, Central Ohio chapter president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, said workplace inequality and the wage gap are an even greater problem for minority women.
She rates lawmakers at a B for increasing childcare affordability. But in the areas of increasing paid family leave, ensuring pension protection, increasing the minimum wage and improving the earned income tax credit, she said legislators earned Ds across the board.
“If my child earned (such grades) she would not be going on summer vacation,” Ms. Kanney said. “We can and must do better for the citizens, women and families in Ohio.”
Progress Ohio Outreach Director Samantha Herd said a bright spot of legislation can be found in a bill (SB 301) to require employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant or breastfeeding women.
The bill – sponsored by Sen. Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) and Sen. Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard) – has received the support of all seven female senators and received a third hearing before the Senate Civil Justice Committee in May. But business interests have come out against the measure. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, May 18, 2016)
“We really commend the women in the Ohio Senate – both Republicans and Democrats – for their bipartisan support,” Ms. Herd said. “But even with bipartisan support of every woman in the Senate chamber the measure unfortunately did not receive a vote in committee and we hope that when they come back from recess that changes.”
Ohio Domestic Violence Network Executive Director Nancy Neylon praised lawmakers for legislation (HB 359) to create an address confidentiality program for victims of domestic violence, trafficking or other situations. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, June 9, 2016)
But she said the General Assembly should move forward with increasing the penalty for strangulation in domestic violence situations (HB 362). She said she’d also like to see new protections for victims who take a work absence to secure housing or other needs when fleeing violence.
“It is sort of a mixed bag for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” she said. “We certainly made some steps forward… but, again, it’s not nearly enough.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Deputy Director Jamie Miracle criticized recent abortion-related bills, saying the legislature is “failing across the board” in regard to women’s productive rights. Anti-abortion advocates, meanwhile, have praised Republican-led efforts on the topic this session.
Other groups participating in the network include the ACLU of Ohio, the American Association of University Women of Ohio, Catholics for Choice, Cleveland Jobs with Justice, Hadassah Columbus, Main Street Alliance, Majority Ohio, the Cleveland chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, Nyla’s Angels Fund, the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Ohio NOW, the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, Policy Matters Ohio, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 75, and the Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.