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With a Single Stroke of the Pen, Women and Families in Minnesota Gain a Number of New Economic Security Protections

Across the country, policymakers are recognizing that women’s success in the workplace is absolutely crucial to enabling their families and the economy to prosper – and that given the many challenges that working women face, it is important to tackle these issues together with comprehensive actions. Yesterday Minnesota took a giant leap forward in this regard, when Governor Mark Dayton signed the state’s Women’s Economic Security Act into law.

This landmark piece of legislation implements a range of important reforms to promote equality for Minnesota’s women and provide essential support to families across the state. For example, the new law seeks to ensure that: Read more »

From New England to the Midwest, Bipartisan Support for Women’s Equal Opportunity and Economic Security Continues

In states across the country, this has been a banner year for agreement across the aisle about the importance of safeguarding women’s rights at work. First Governor Chris Christie signed a law – adopted with just a single dissenting vote in the state legislature – ensuring that pregnant workers in New Jersey with medical restrictions will have access to basic workplace accommodations that they need to continue performing their jobs and earning income for their growing families. Then similar protections for pregnant workers became law in West Virginia with unanimous support.

And now both New Hampshire and Minnesota are poised to improve protections for women in the workplace after the legislatures in both states took bipartisan actions earlier this week!

This past Wednesday the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that would strengthen equal pay protections by: Read more »

During Equal Pay Week, Minnesota House of Representatives Takes Bipartisan Action to Promote Women's Economic Security

Yesterday, in a bipartisan vote of 106-24, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Women’s Economic Security Act. This comprehensive bill includes a range of important reforms to promote workplace equality for the state’s women, and enhance economic security for them and their families, such as:

  • Enabling women to learn if they are experiencing pay discrimination without fear of retaliation;
  • Ensuring that businesses that contract with the state government comply with equal pay standards;
  • Promoting women’s access to high-wage, high-demand jobs and the development of women-owned businesses;

Listen Up: States Continue to Pave the Way on Minimum Wage Hikes

 With public polling showing remarkably strong support for increasing the minimum wage, legislators around the country are pushing to raise the wage – and they’re making it happen. We’re only nine days into April, and already, this month is one for the history books. Here are some highlights of what’s happening in the states:

  • Just last week, West Virginia’s governor signed into law a bill that will boost wages for 120,000 West Virginians. The minimum wage is now set to rise from $7.25 to $8.75 by 2016. Women make up about two-thirds [PDF] of the state’s minimum wage workers.
  • On Monday, Maryland’s legislature sent a bill to the governor to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by 2018, making the Free State only the second state to set the $10.10 figure called for in the pending federal Fair Minimum Wage Act. (Connecticut beat Maryland to become the first state with a $10.10 minimum wage last month.) Gov. Martin O’Malley has announced he’ll sign the bill, and for the state’s minimum wage workers – more than six in ten of whom are women – an increase can’t come soon enough. 

Two Minimum Wage Bills Pass in Minnesota

I’ve got to hand it to Minnesota’s legislature. In addition to last week’s House vote to legalize same-sex marriage (with the Senate expected to follow suit today), the House and Senate have now each passed a bill to raise the state minimum wage!

This is especially good news for women, who make up 70 percent of Minnesota’s minimum wage workers. Raising the minimum wage would improve economic security for thousands of women while boosting the state’s economy – and it could help narrow the gender wage gap because women are the majority of workers who would benefit. In Minnesota in 2011, the typical woman working full time, year round was paid just under 80 cents for every dollar paid to her male counterpart.

But here’s the catch: the bills passed by the two chambers are quite different from one another. The House bill would raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2015, then index it annually to keep up with inflation. (Minnesota’s current minimum wage is actually only $6.15 per hour, but because federal minimum wage law prevails, most workers are entitled to a minimum of $7.25 per hour.) The Senate bill would raise the minimum wage to just $7.75 per hour by 2015, with no inflation adjustment. Read more »

Abortion Opponents are Not Giving Up on Taking Benefits Away from Women

Oh no he didn’t! Virginia Governor McDonnell Monday night added a ban on insurance coverage of abortion to a health care bill passed by the Virginia legislature. The underlying bill was meant to bring the state into compliance with the federal health care law – in other words, to help ensure affordable and comprehensive coverage for people, not take benefits away. But that’s exactly what Governor McDonnell’s amendment would do. And he’s not the only one.

Abortion insurance coverage bans have been introduced so far this year in at least 10 states. Some of these states are already among the 21 states that have such bans. But this year abortion opponents in those states want to prohibit even more women from obtaining abortion insurance coverage. Like Alabama, where a bill has been introduced to expand their exchange ban to all private plans and to take coverage away from survivors of rape and incest. Read more »

States Taking the Lead on Higher Minimum Wages

It’s been a busy few weeks on the minimum wage front, as policymakers in a slew of states have moved to raise wages for low-paid workers. If you follow our blog, you already know that minimum wage increases are on the agenda in Maryland and New York – and you know that this is especially good news for women, who make up the majority of minimum wage workers in those states and across the country.

While a federal minimum wage increase – like the one proposed in the Fair Minimum Wage Act last year – is needed to boost pay for minimum wage and tipped workers throughout the U.S., it’s great to see momentum building at the state level. Here’s a quick run-down of recent developments:

  • California. A bill pending in the Assembly, AB-10, would increase the minimum wage from $8.00 per hour to $8.25 in 2014, $8.75 in 2015, and $9.25 in 2016, then adjust the wage annually for inflation beginning in 2017.
  • Connecticut. A bill pending in the Senate, S.B. 387, would raise the minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $9.00 in July 2013 and $9.75 in July 2014, with annual indexing beginning in July 2015. NWLC’s new fact sheet shows that over 246,000 Connecticut workers would get a raise by 2014 under this proposal – and about six in ten of those workers would be women.

Expanding Early Education in Minnesota and Missouri, Cutting Child Care in Kentucky

Minnesota and Missouri have joined Massachusetts in proposing new state investments in early childhood education and care. However, just as we were cheering those states, Kentucky announced damaging cuts to its child care assistance program, reminding us yet again that these programs and the low-income women and children they support are in a fragile position.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has proposed to provide $20 million over the 2014-2015 biennium to increase rates for child care providers serving families receiving child care assistance. He has also proposed (PDF) to provide $44 million to expand scholarships to enable low-income families to purchase high-quality early care and education for their children. Read more »

Early Learning Challenge Grantees and Child Care Assistance Policies

Last week the winners of the first round of the Early Learning Challenge grant competition were announced.

The 9 states selected to receive the grant awards (California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington) have laid out comprehensive, collaborative strategies to achieve stronger early learning systems that increase low-income children’s access to high-quality early care and education.

We hope that the states’ efforts will include steps to address continuing gaps in their child care assistance policies. Because according to our analysis of data from our recent report, many of these states are falling short in providing the help low-income families need to afford reliable, high-quality care. Be sure to check out the highlights of our analysis here! Read more »

State of Women: NWLC Hosts State Partners in Washington, DC

The National Women’s Law Center hosted a daylong seminar in Washington, DC welcoming 18 state advocates from 10 states across the country to launch a new project, State of Women. Read more »