2018 – MCASA Legislative Priorities

The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) supports legislation that promotes justice for survivors of sexual violence, accountability for offenders, and protection for the general public.  The 2018 legislative session brought continued progress for survivors of sexual assault.  


2018 Legislative Priorities

Thank you to everyone who made calls, sent emails, testified in Annapolis, and donated to MCASA to support our public policy efforts.  You make a difference for survivors.

With the support of the Legislature’s presiding officers, Speaker Mike Busch and President Mike Miller, the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act, was passed and enacted early in session.  Delegate Kathleen Dumais continued to lead this effort and never gave up.  Senator Brian Feldman took on leadership in the Senate after Jamie Raskin departed for Congress.  Early passage of this bill helped survivors immediately and also allowed MCASA to focus time and energy on other important legislation.  
Our work paid off.  After decades of advocacy, the Past Bad Acts bill passed and will allow jurors to hear about evidence of past acts of sexual assault when there is a consent defense or an assertion that a child fabricated an allegation.  Special thanks to Scott Shellenberger, State’s Attorney for Baltimore County, who was a leader and partner in these efforts for many years.  
Maryland will lead the nation with a model for providing Fair Process in College Sexual Assault cases with the passage of SB607/HB913.  This bill was sponsored by Chair Joan Carter Conway in the Senate and Delegate Aruna Miller in the House, with the help of subcommittee chair and long-time women’s rights advocate Delegate Ben Barnes.   This bill provides basic access to information for students, protects students against inquiries into their sexual histories or mental health treatment, holds the line against the roll-back of protections for victims at the federal level, limits the use of mediation to appropriate cases, and provides students with access to counsel paid for by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.   

#MeToo prompted a number of bills regarding sexual harassment.  A bill was enacted to survey employers regarding secret sexual harassment settlements and settlements against the same offender (the Harvey Weinsteins of Maryland).  Others require education for state employees; will gather information about sexual harassment complaints in the State workforce; and revise workplace harassment rules for incidents at the General Assembly.  Delegates Kris Valderrama, Ariana Kelly, and Shelly Hettleman, and Senator Craig Zucker, were among the leaders of these efforts.  Delegate Luke Clippinger assisted with a successful conference committee on the Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act of 2018.  The General Assembly’s Commission on Workplace Harassment met and will continue work in this area.  MCASA looks forward to seeing more bills about sexual harassment in the private sector next session.
Criminal laws were expanded and improved.  A bill to make sextortion a crime passed 15 minutes before the end of session.  Perpetrators are using technology for sexual exploitation and the sextortion bill, SB769, will give prosecutors more tools to respond.  A law to make it a crime for law enforcement to have sex with someone in their custody passed, HB1292.  Programs working with sex workers helped advocate for this bill to help prevent sexual exploitation.  A minor, but important, change was made to the definition of a “crime of violence” removing a requirement that sexual abuse of a child under 13 be under the clothing.  This affects penalties for these offenders and will make it easier to terminate their parental rights.  Finally, it will be a crime to violate a criminal stay-away order; this will be especially helpful for sexual assault survivors who do not have children or property with an offender because they will no longer need a protective order to increase safety.  Delegate Aruna Miller continued her passionate leadership on behalf of survivors.  Delegates Brooke Lierman and Kathleen Dumais, and Senator Bobby Zirkin all helped make this progress possible.
As always, one of MCASA’s top priorities is funding for sexual assault programs.  Last session the General Assembly enacted dedicated funding for rape crisis centers and created new position in the Attorney General’s Office to staff the Committee on Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding.  The increased rape crisis center funding was included in the Governor’s original budget and, after advocacy, the 3rd supplemental budget added funding the new position for the Attorney General’s Committee.  Also of interest, the General Assembly has asked GOCCP to report on barriers to distribution of VOCA funds, their contact with the Access to Justice office in the courts, and on how many victims of domestic violence are unrepresented in divorce and custody cases.  The Women’s Caucus, Senator Nancy King, and Delegates Michael Jackson, and Mark Chang all kept their eyes on these important funding issues. 

Partnering with our colleagues at the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, the permanent protective order bill passed.  This bill, sponsored by Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary and Senator Delores Kelley, will let survivors of some of the most serious crimes obtain long-time relief.  Special thanks to attorney Blaine Hoffmann, legal director at MCASA member program Heartly House, for bringing this issue forward.  Revenge porn was also added to the list of acts that provide the basis for a protective order.

One outstanding disappointment was the failure of the bills to provide medicine to prevent HIV for rape survivors.  Rape survivors are currently provided with emergency medical treatment after an assault free of charge as part of the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence kit process.  Health General §15-127 (commonly called “rape kits” or “SAFE kits”).  HIV n-PeP prevent HIV infection if it is administered within 72 hours of exposure to HIV.  The state of Maryland refuses to pay for HIV n-PEP for rape survivors except in limited cases.  The Maryland Department of Health does not view n-PEP as emergency treatment.  Even in the limited cases where the Department will provide nPEP, the state will not provide the full 28 days of treatment, but only a “starter pack”.  The State justifies its limited distribution of n-PEP by pointing to dated guidelines and cost.  HB639/SB731, introduced by Delegate Aruna Miller and Senator Brian Feldman, would have changed this, but the bill was killed when the Department of Health provided inflated cost estimates.  Another bill, HB247, creates a Victim Services Unit under GOCCP and will have responsibility for this issue in the future.  We are hopeful this new unit will take a fresh look at the issue and look forward to working together to prevent HIV infection for rape survivors.  
Sex trafficking bills are part of MCASA’s legislative work.  This session saw several bills almost, but not quite, make it, including the bill to vacate convictions of survivors.  We are confident that work over the interim will resolve issues and the bill will be reintroduced next year.  A complicated bill to revise the human trafficking statute also ran out of time session, but has promise for next year.  Thank you to Senator Susan Lee for sponsoring these bills and continuing to be one the General Assembly’s strongest advocates for women.  Thank you also to MCASA member agency, TurnAround, for continuing to be a leader in these efforts.
Public policy advocacy is one of MCASA’s primary responsibilities and we are grateful for the opportunity to lead efforts to improve Maryland’s laws and make them more responsive to sexual assault survivors and the programs that serve them.  We are grateful to our colleagues in the advocacy community and the Legislature for all of their efforts.   The sponsors of survivor-centered legislation are listed below with each bill; please take a moment to reach out and thank them for their efforts.  President Mike Miller helped lead efforts this session to pass the College Sexual Assault Fair Process bill and to enact the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act and we are grateful for his support.  Speaker Michael Busch deserves special acknowledgement for his consistent support and attention to issues involving women’s rights and to helping survivors of sexual and domestic violence.  There are a thousand ways to kill a bill and the Speaker helps make sure bills affecting survivors get the attention they deserve and pass.  

MCASA partners with many advocates and lobbyists.  This session we are especially appreciative of our colleagues at the Women’s Law Center of Maryland and the Maryland Hospital Association for their expertise and collaboration.  Community groups also played an important role.  Many were first time advocates and their excitement and commitment helped with the successes of the session.  Speak up, speak out, be feisty!!

The details of bills that passed and failed, including their lead sponsors, are listed below.  Thank you again to everyone who took the time to read emails, make calls, contact legislators and persuade others to become active.  Together we will continue to make progress towards our vision of a Maryland free from sexual violence.
Best regards,
Lisae C Jordan Executive Director & Counsel Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault


To view new laws passed, click here.

To view the final 2018 Legislative Priorities, click here. 

To view the final 2017 Legislative Priorities, click here

To view the final 2016 Legislative Priorities, click here.

MCASA encourages and appreciates the support of its member programs and allies in Annapolis.  Members with suggestions about MCASA’s Legislative Priorities are encouraged to contact [email protected] or call 301-328-7023

Together we can improve Maryland’s response to survivors, help bring offenders to justice, and end sexual violence.