OWC Outlines Legislative Priorities for 2019 Session

2019 Legislative Priorities

The first year of the 57th Oklahoma Legislative Session has commenced with a record number of proposed bills filed. In preparation for the coming months, Oklahoma Women’s Coalition (OWC) has identified key policy areas aimed at improving opportunities and equity for women in Oklahoma. These areas include:

 

The expansion of Medicaid. Currently, Oklahoma has 545,000 uninsured people and by accepting federal matching dollars, 250,000 Oklahomans would have access to health insurance. Furthermore, the expansion would alleviate pressure on the state budget and rural hospitals.

 

Failure to Protect Reform. Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any other state, 80%of which are mothers serving exorbitant sentences for low-level or first-time offenses. OWC is working to amend state laws to prevent abused women from being penalized for being unable to protect their children from abusers.

 

“The proposed bills the Coalition is leading have the capacity to boost the quality of life for many women and girls of Oklahoma”, said Liz Charles, Executive Director of Oklahoma Women’s Coalition. “Together, we can ensure that women and girls in Oklahoma can have strong health and wellness, alternatives to incarceration, violence prevention and response, and economic security.”

 

Implementing sexual abuse education in Oklahoma public schools is a top priority for OWC. This would strengthen “Erin’s Law”, a prevention oriented child sexual abuse program geared towards age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse. In 2018, 4.5% of children were sexually abused in Oklahoma. The program would ensure access to needed assistance, referral or resource information to support sexually abused children and their families.

 

Pay transparency has been an important issue for the Coalition for multiple years. This year, a bill has been proposed to address wage disparity between women and men and allow employees to disclose their own wages or inquire regarding a co-worker’s wage without retaliation or punishment. Women are still paid 78% of the average man’s pay. An additional bill would also adjust for inflation fines for employers who violate Equal Pay laws.