By Carla Johnson.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And ironically, at 11:20 p.m., during the final moments of the legislative session on April 8, 2019, Senate President Mike Miller abruptly halted debate on HB 122/SB 209—legislation providing survivors of rape and sexual offenses with access to protective orders.
While presenting the conference committee report on the bill she co-sponsored and shepherded through conference committee negotiations, Senator Mary Washington was interrupted mid-sentence by her chamber leader, Mike Miller. Without missing a beat, Miller directed the floor’s attention to non-legislative matters, such as acknowledging pages and the “behind-the-scene efforts” of staff during the 90 day session. Shortly thereafter, at 11:30 p.m., the members of the Senate joined the House in a tribute to Speaker Michael Busch.
One advocate described the chain of events that evening and the message it sent to survivors as “Grim.”
Let me reiterate: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And ironically, in April 2019, the leader of the Senate Chamber halted discussion on a bill expanding protections to a vulnerable population—members of our community who have been sexually assaulted. Unfortunately, this “grim” situation is due to something we have witnessed before: failure of chamber leaders and committee chairs to consistently “push” and schedule bills through the entire legislative process in an expeditious manner.
The House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee had held hearings on HB 122/SB 209 – Protective Orders – Relief Eligibility – Rape and Sexual Offenses more than 2 months prior to Sine Die (the last day of the legislative session). However, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee had severely amended the bill, resulting in the need for a conference committee. Conference committee members were not assigned by leadership until the last few days of session. Even worse? The conference committee charged with ironing out differences between the House and Senate versions was not put on the schedule to meet until the waning hours of Sine Die.
NOW IS THE TIME TO “STAND UP & SPEAK OUT” ON BEHALF OF SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVORS.
1. Tell your senator and delegates that “TIME’S UP!” Sexual assault survivors deserve to have the protective order bill passed in the first 30 days of the 2020 Maryland General Assembly.
2. Ask your representatives to “COMMIT NOW” to supporting a bill which will closely match the House version, HB 122 – Protective Orders – Relief Eligibility – Rape and Sexual Offenses.
You may locate your representatives here.
Baltimore County residents who wish to speak with a counselor about sexual assault may call the 24 Hour TurnAround Hotline at: 443-279-0379.