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Women's Legislative Caucus backs bills for working mothers and survivors of abuse

Zoe Dym

The Hawaiʻi Women’s Legislative Caucus introduced their bill package Wednesday morning, which includes efforts to combat human trafficking, domestic violence and instill better lactation services across the islands.

Caucuses are limited to support five bills per legislative session. WLC member Rep. Della Au Belatti of Oʻahu said limiting the number of bills that the bicameral and bipartisan caucus can support is a challenge.

"This represents our consensus as a group, as a diverse group," said Au Belatti.

"We don’t have the same ideas on all of the different issues. And so I think it’s really important that when we see these things rise to the level in this package it means there’s consensus in the committee — that we want funding for these things, that we want action for these matters and that we want to see something happen," Au Belatti added.

This year, the WLC will support the following measures:

SB235/HB579 - Relating to human trafficking.
Establishes a statewide prevention program overseen by the Department of the Attorney General to provide services and assistance to commercially sexually exploited children and to victims of human trafficking. Requires reports to the legislature.

SB236/HB580 - Relating to domestic violence victim-counselor privilege.
Expand victim-counselor privilege to confidential advocates at the University of Hawaiʻi. Increases the minimum number of hours of training a domestic violence victims' counselor must complete to be considered a 'victim counselor.'

SB237/HB581 - Requirements for child custody evaluators.
Requires child custody evaluators to complete a training course on the dynamics of domestic violence every three years. Their letter or certificate of completion must be submitted to family court.

SB238/HB582 - Statutes of limitations on childhood sex abuse reporting.
Increases the time period a childhood sexual abuse survivor can file a civil suit against their abuser. Victims currently have eight years after their 18th birthday to take action. The proposal would extend that to their 50th birthday. Plaintiff may require legal entities to take training on trauma-informed response.

SB239/HB583 - Child care accreditation program.
Establish an accreditation program within the state Department of Human Services. Child care providers will obtain accreditation from a national early learning accrediting organization. Funds could also be used to train licensed early learning childcare professionals.

HCR7/HR6 - Relating to lactation consultant services.
Expand access to lactation consultants to low-income mothers. Services from a provider with a lactation consultant certification are covered under some insurance programs. But they are currently not covered by the state’s Medicaid program — also known as QUEST.

To track these bills as they move through this year's legislative session, visit the state's capitol website or sign up for HPR's On The Lege newsletter.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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