2022 MCASA Legislative Agenda

Jan 14th, 2022

2022 Legislative Priorities & Other Bills of Interest

The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) is a non-profit membership organization that includes all of the State’s seventeen rape crisis centers, law enforcement, mental health and health care providers, attorneys, educators, survivors of sexual violence and other concerned individuals.  MCASA includes the Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI), a statewide legal services provider for survivors of sexual assault.  MCASA represents the unified voice and combined energy of all of its members working to eliminate sexual violence in the State of Maryland.

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.  MCASA responds to policy questions and legislative initiatives throughout Maryland's legislative session (January-April).

MCASA’s 2022 Legislative Priorities are:

Rape Crisis Center Funding – Fix the Dip

MCASA supports full funding of rape crisis center services and monitors the budget process and individual funding bills.  We are deeply concerned that the Hogan administration maintain full funding for current programs and avoid pitting victim services groups against one another as the COVID crisis continues.  Sexual assault survivors report their trauma is amplified by quarantines, economic pressures, and fears for the future.  Programs are stretched ever thinner as they try to do more and more and are faced with increasing bureaucracy that diminish resources.  It is critical that we maintain support for the core services that sexual assault survivors need.

The funding concerns stemming from COVID are further exacerbated by the temporary reduction in federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding.  It is important to understand that the VOCA funding reduction is not structural.  This is a temporary reduction in federal support.  In summer 2021, Congress passed the VOCA Fix bill with bi-partisan support and President Biden signed it into law.  This will replenish the pool of federal funding that has long supported vital victim services.  But this will take an estimated 2-3 years.  MCASA is concerned that Maryland step up to the plate and fill in this dip in funding.

Marriage Should Not Be a Defense to Sex Crimes – Love is No Defense Act – HB153/SB33
Maryland allows marriage to be a defense to some sex crimes.  It is time to remove this archaic law from the books.  Discussion surrounding this bill last session were a bleak reminder that there is still much work to be done.  We will be back to fight for this important legal principle in 2022. Lead Sponsors: Delegate Charlotte Crutchfield and Senator Susan Lee.

Body Cameras and Victim Privacy – SB31
Body-worn digital recordings can include images of survivors following some of the most traumatic and difficult times in their lives and care should be taken to ensure the justice system does not add to the trauma by publically disclosing body camera footage. At the same time, recordings can provide important information about how victims are treated.  This bill balances these concerns and addresses a gap in the current public information act law. Lead Sponsor: Senator Charles Sydnor.

Abortion Access
Expanding availability of abortion by permitting advanced practice health care practitioners to perform procedures, increasing training, codifying and strengthening support for women without insurance or financial means.  Five percent of reproductive age women who are raped become pregnant as a result and it is critical that these survivors have access to reproductive care.  It is equally critical that women are not required to disclose how they became pregnant in order to access care. Lead Sponsors: Delegate Ariana Kelly and Chair Delores Kelley. 

Sexual Harassment – Definition
This bill clarifies the definition of harassment and sexual harassment in employment discrimination cases to eliminate the requirement that conduct be severe or pervasive and to require that courts consider the totality of the circumstances when determining whether something is harassment. Lead Sponsor: Chair Will Smith.

Sexting Education – HB194
A bill to require age appropriate education regarding the risks of sexting. This bill will build on last year’s successful efforts to address the tension between the need to prosecute child pornography and the reality that teenagers engage in consensual sexting and are not sex offenders. Lead Sponsor: Delegate Emily Shetty.

Preventing HIV for Rape Survivors – Sunset – HB245
A bill to lift the sunset provisions that would end the program to provide rape survivors with medication to prevent HIV (nPEP). Lead Sponsors: Senator Nancy King and Delegate Kirill Reznick.

Stalking – Electronic Communication and Tracking – HB148
A bill to improve Maryland’s stalking law by adding tracking with out consent (for instance via stalkware on a phone) and other electronic communication to the stalking statute.  Modifying the stalking statute will also permit peace and protective orders to be issued based on this conduct. Lead Sponsors: Delegate Sandy Bartlett and Vice Chair Jeff Waldstreicher.

Person in Position of Authority – HB223/SB49
A bill to help close the remaining loophole in Maryland’s laws regarding persons in authority who sexually exploit children they have authority over.  Statutory rape provisions protect younger children, child sexual abuse laws protect children during the time a child is actually in an adult’s care or supervision, certain school employees are always prohibited from having sex with their students, and new laws on sextortion provide the ability to prosecute those using threats of emotional distress to coerce sexual activity.  However, the law still has gaps that fail to protect teenagers from sexual exploitation by extra-curricular activity instructors, scout masters, school volunteers, and other adults in authority.  This bill closes these remaining gaps, so that all teens are protected. Lead Sponsors:  Delegate Sara Love and Senator Chris West.

Survivors Seeking Criminal Justice – Explanation of Decision Not to Prosecute – HB225
Few sexual assault survivors seek help through the criminal justice system.  When they do, State’s Attorneys Offices do not always prosecute. This bill requires that, at the request of the victim, the prosecutor provide an explanation of this decision. Lead Sponsors: Delegate Karen Lewis Young and Senator Michael Hough.

For a PDF version of MCASA's 2022 Legislative Priorities, click here

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