This listing of NOW’s priority legislation for the 116th Congress provides a summary of the bills and resolutions we want to see adopted, plus an update on their status as of June 5. Nearly all of the bills that have passed have been acted upon in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives; none have been taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate. You can check at https://congress.gov/ for more details; just enter the bill title or bill number in the window on the homepage. We are also posting many of the joint letters to the Administration and to Congress from our allies that NOW has signed as well. The letters provide interesting policy discussions that will help inform NOW activists.
Stopping Violence Against Women
H.R. 1585 Violence Against Women Re-authorization Act of 2019
Rep. Karen Bass [D-CA]
Passed House on April 4, 2019
VAWA was first signed into law in 1994. Since then it has been reauthorized in 2000,
2005, and 2013. The 2013 Act added many important provisions, including extending
protections to the LGBTQ community and Native Americans. Due to the battle over the
reauthorization though, these protections were limited. This is a modest reauthorization
bill that includes narrowly focused enhancements that address gaps identified by victims
and survivors of domestic and sexual violence and the people who work on the ground
with them every day. It reauthorizes 19 VAWA grant programs and expands tribal
jurisdiction over non-native perpetrators of sexual violence on tribal lands.
H.R.36 – Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson [D-TX-30]
Passed House on July 23, 2019
58 percent of individuals in the academic workplace experience sexual harassment, and
women are more likely to experience sexual harassment than men. Most individuals also
fail to report sexual harassment out of justified fear of retaliation. This bill would call for
research on sexual harassment in the scientific, technical, engineering, and mathematics
industries. It would create a grant program under the National Science Foundation to
award and encourage universities to study this important topic. H.R. 36 passed the
House on July 23, 2019. The Senate bill, S. 1067 was introduced on April 8, 2019 by
Sen. Kamala Harris [D-CA]
H.R. 507: Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2019
Rep. Karen Bass [D-CA-37]
Passed House on February 7, 2019
This bill sets forth provisions intended to help assess the prevalence of human trafficking
in the United States and improve support for victims of trafficking and service providers.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) must work with federal entities and other stakeholders
to do the following: establish a working group to improve the collection and analysis of
data on the incidence of trafficking, report on efforts to develop methodologies to
determine the prevalence of human trafficking, and survey survivors to estimate the
prevalence of human trafficking and improve services for victims. DOJ must also report
on efforts to increase restitution to victims of trafficking. Summary by the Congressional
H.R. 2733/S.227: Savanna’s Act
Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R-AK] and Rep. Norma Torres [D-CA-35]
Senate bill passed out of Committee in January 2020
American Indian and Alaska Native women are more likely to experience violence, and
sexual violence, than any other racial or ethnic group. This is also the only group of
which the US government does not compile statistics on the number of missing and
murdered Indian women each year. Tribal police often lack the capability to do this
research. This act would clarify the role of local police, and increase communication
between tribal, federal, and state police on these cases. It would also require compiling
these statistics on missing and murdered women, and require the AG to consult with
tribes on all of these proceedings. The bill was passed unanimously in the Senate in
2018 but did not pass the House.
H.R.569/S.120 – Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act of 2019/ Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2019
Rep. Dingell, Debbie [D-MI-12] and Sen. Klobuchar, Amy [D-MN]
Introduced January 2019.
Introduced in January 2019, these bills would expand the term ‘intimate partner’ to
include a ‘dating partner.’ Currently, some domestic abusers can obtain firearms
because they were not married to or living with the abused. Half (48.6%) of women
killed by intimate partners are killed by dating partners whom they do not live with. This
law would change that and close this loophole in order to protect survivors of domestic
violence and stalking from gun violence.
H.R. 1521/ S. 575 – Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace harassment through Education and Reporting (EMPOWER) Act
Rep. Lois Frankel [D-FL], and Sen. Kamala Harris [D-CA]
Introduced in Feb/Mar 2019.
The #MeToo and Times Up movements have created a national conversation around
sexual harassment and workplace harassment. This bipartisan bill was introduced
towards the end of last Congress in the wake of this movement against sexual
harassment. The EMPOWER Act aims to protect employees from workplace harassment
and make it less dangerous for survivors to come forward. The bill would outlaw
non-disparagement and non-disclosure agreements in employee contracts, require
public companies to disclose settlements, and establish a confidential tip-line for
S.627 – SAFE Act of 2019
Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA]
Introduced February 2019.
Over 1 in 3 women experience sexual violence, and 1 in 5 women are survivors of rape.
This bill reauthorizes the National Resource Center Grants on Workplace Responses to
Assist Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence originally created in 1994 VAWA. It
also ensures that survivors who need to seek out medical attention and legal services
can take safe leave from work, and obtain unemployment insurance during this time. It
would also prevent survivors from being fired because of harassment by an abuser or
because they requested safe leave. Lastly, it would invest in a national awareness
campaign on sexual violence.
EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT
H.J.Res.38/ S.J.6: Removing the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment*
Rep. Jackie Speier [D-CA-14] and Sen. Benjamin Cardin [D-MD]
Introduced January 2019. House vote scheduled for February 2020
This joint resolution eliminates the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights
Amendment (ERA). The ERA was proposed to the states in the 92nd Congress and
agreed to in the Senate in March 1972. The amendment will be part of the Constitution
when it is ratified by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states, and there is currently only one
state left to go. However, Congress set a deadline for the ratification that has expired
and this resolution would eliminate that deadline.
CIVIL RIGHTS AND LGBTQIA+ EQUITY
H.R.5/S.788 – Equality Act*
Rep. David Cicilline [D-RI-1] and Sen. Jeff Merkley [D-OR]
Passed House on May 17, 2019
The Equality Act seeks to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and
sexual orientation. It amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual
orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or
segregation in places of public accommodation.
S. 1246: Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2019
Sen. Tim Kaine [D-VA]
Introduced April 2019.
The Fair and Equal Housing Act amends the Fair Housing Act to extend its protections to
those who face discrimination as a result of bias against their gender identity or sexual
WOMEN’S ECONOMIC JUSTICE
H.R.7/ S.270 – Paycheck Fairness Act*
Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D-CT-3] and Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA]
Passed House on March 27, 2019
On average, women are paid only 80 cents for every man’s dollar, and this gap is even
wider for women of color when broken down by race. This bill would amend the Fair
Labor Standards Act of 1938 to, “provide more effective remedies to victims of
discrimination in the payment of wages based on sex, and for other purposes.” This
would include protecting employees from retaliation when discussing salaries, prohibiting
employers from hiring based on salary history, and the creation of a negotiation skills
training program for women and girls. Read NOW’s statement on this bill here.
HR 1423: FAIR Act – Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act
Rep. Hank Johnson [D-GA-4]
Passed House on September 20, 2019
The FAIR Act would prevent companies from forcing aggrieved workers, consumers,
service members, nursing home residents, and small businesses into a secretive,
company-controlled, rigged, private arbitration systems. It would also stop corporations
from banning consumer and worker class actions. And in line with the views of the vast
majority of the American public, Republicans and Democrats alike,1 the FAIR Act would
not ban arbitration but rather stop corporations from forcing it on consumers, workers,
patients, and small businesses who do not want it.
The urgent need for this legislation becomes clearer by the day. Employment
discrimination, worker harassment, wage theft, cheating by banks and lenders,
price-fixing cartels and other types of systemic corporate misconduct are widespread
and growing problems. Forced arbitration clauses and class action bans make it nearly
impossible for harmed workers, consumers, patients, service members, and small
businesses to seek accountability utilizing the federal and state laws that were enacted
to empower and protect them. A hallmark of forced arbitration is that it is private and
confidential, ensuring that misconduct stays secret, allowing companies to cover-up and
continue discrimination, harassment, fraud and other types of illegal acts. (Summary
provided by the advocates for the bill.)
H.R. 2694: Pregnant Workers Fairness Act*
Rep. Jerrold Nadler [D-NY-10]
Passed out of committee in January 2020
This bill prohibits employment practices that discriminate against making reasonable
accommodations for job applicants or employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or
related medical conditions. Specifically, the bill declares that it is an unlawful
employment practice to (1) fail to make reasonable accommodations to known limitations
of such job applicants or employees unless the accommodation would impose an undue
hardship on an entity’s business operation; (2) deny employment opportunities based on
the need of the entity to make such reasonable accommodations to an applicant or
employee; (3) require such job applicants or employees to accept an accommodation
that they do not want, if such accommodation is unnecessary to perform the job; (4)
require such employees to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable
accommodation can be provided to their known limitations; or (5) take adverse action in
terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against an employee requesting or using
such reasonable accommodations.
The bill sets forth enforcement procedures and remedies under various statutes that
cover different types of employees in relation to such unlawful employment practices.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission must provide examples of reasonable
accommodations that shall be provided to affected job applicants or employees unless
the employer can demonstrate that doing so would impose an undue hardship.
The bill prohibits state immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution from
an action for a violation of this bill. Summary provided by the Congressional Research
H.R.2005 /S.975 – Women’s Retirement Protection Act of 2019
Rep. Lauren Underwood [D-IL-14] and Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA]
Introduced April 2019.
Women’s retirement preparedness lags significantly behind men, and women are 80
percent more likely than men to live in poverty after age 65. Women also make up 2/3 all
low-wage work (though men make up the majority of all workers) and are more often to
have part-time work without retirement benefits. All of this is further complicated by the
pay gap, which women lose around $403,440 in wages to over a 40-year career. This bill
would address some of the challenges that women face with the retirement gap, namely
by strengthening consumer protections to safeguard retirement savings, and expanding
access to retirement savings plans by changing the participation standards for part-time
workers (who are most often women). This bill would also increase access about
retirement and savings through grants to community organizations who help provide this
information to women and would support survivors of domestic abuse and the
challenges they face with retirement through additional grant programs.
H.R.2148/S.1082 – BE HEARD in the Workplace Act
Rep. Katherine Clark [D-MA-5] and Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA]
Introduced April 2019.
This bill expands federal anti-harassment protections to all working people are clarifies
that Title VII protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender
identity. This bill also calls for research on the economic impact of workplace
harassment and empowers more workers to come forward by expanding the time
allowed to report harassment to civil rights agencies and authorizing grants to support
legal assistance for workers who have low incomes. Lastly, this bill eliminates the federal
tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour, which has historically made tipped wage
workers more vulnerable to harassment in the workplace.
H.R.1185/ S.463 – FAMILY Act*
Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D-CT-3] and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D-NY]
Introduced February 2019. Hearing held January 2020.
Only 17 percent of the workforce has paid family leave through their employers, and less
than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided short-term
disability program (US Bureau of Labor). This bill would create a national family and
medical leave insurance program that would guarantee paid leave for 12 weeks to new
parents. It would enable workers to earn 66 percent of their monthly wages during that
time and would cover all individuals regardless of the workplace, job, or size of the
employer. This bill would create a new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave.
S. 2317/ H.R. 4126: Social Security Caregiver Credit Act of 2019*
Rep. Nita Lowey [D-NY-17] and Sen. Chris Murphy [D-CT]
Introduced July 2019.
This act seeks to amend Title II of the Social Security Act to credit prospective
individuals serving as caregivers of dependent relatives with deemed wages for up to
five years of such service. Many workers — mainly women – leave the paid workforce to
care for loved ones which lowers their Social Security benefits. The bill would create a
credit that can be collected as a retirement benefit. Title II, the Old Age, Survivors, and
Disability Insurance segment of the Social Security Act would be amended to determine
entitlement to and the amount of any monthly benefit, including any lump-sum death
payment, payable under OASDI on the basis of the wages and self-employment income
of any individual. The act deems such an individual to have been paid a wage (according
to a specified formula) during each month during which the individual was engaged for at
least 80 hours in providing care to a dependent relative without monetary compensation
for up to five years of service. The Social Security Caregiver Credit Act makes this act
inapplicable in the case of any monthly benefit or lump-sum death payment if a larger
benefit or payment would be payable without its application.
WOMEN’S HEALTH AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
H.R. 1692/S.758 – Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act*
Rep. Barbara Lee [D-CA-13] and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, [D-IL]
Introduced March 2019.
This bill seeks to overturn the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which put funding bans on
abortion coverage for recipients of Medicaid, Medicare, Native Americans, federal
employees, Peace Corps volunteers, etc. 35 states do not cover abortion in their state
Medicaid plans. The effects are far-reaching: Most reproductive-age women enrolled in
Medicaid who are subject to abortion coverage restrictions are women of color. The
EACH Woman Act ensures affordable abortion coverage and care for women (effectively
repealing the Hyde Amendment which prevents federal funds being used to provide
abortion care). It prohibits states from interfering with abortion care and requires public
health insurance to cover abortion.
S. 1645/H.R. 2975: Women’s Health Protection Act of 2019*
Rep. Judy Chu [D-CA-27] and Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D-CT]
Introduced May 2019.
This act counters many common TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers)
and prohibits any government from imposing them on abortion providers. The Women’s
Health Protection Act prohibits requiring that a medical professional perform specific
tests or medical procedures, or that a woman must make in-person visits to receive
counseling prior to obtaining an abortion. It also bans limitations on an abortion
providers’ ability to prescribe drugs via telemedicine and requirements regarding the
physicality of abortion locations, equipment, medical training, staffing, hospital privileges,
or status of the doctor, facility, or equipment. The act explicitly allows abortion access
when the mother’s health is at risk, whether prior to or after fetal viability. The act also
prohibits any restriction on a woman obtaining an abortion based on a woman’s reason
or perceived reason that requires her to state her reason before obtaining an abortion.
H.R.1784/ S.840 Healthy Families Act
Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D-CT-3] and Sen. Patty Murray[D-WA]
Introduced March 2019.
This bill would expand paid sick leave at all workplaces with over 15 employees, allowing
workers to use paid sick leave when they are ill, need to care for a sick family member,
obtain preventive care, or address the impacts of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual
assault. This would amount to seven days of paid sick leave per year for these
employees – workplaces with this already in effect would need to make no changes.
(Information on this bill from Senator Tim Kaine’s press release.)
H.R. 6: American Dream and Promise Act of 2019
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard [D-CA-40]
Passed House on June 4
HR 6 is a sweeping Immigration reform bill that provides provide a path to U.S.
citizenship for undocumented youth, people who have or are eligible for Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), people who had or were eligible for temporary protected
status (TPS) or people with deferred enforced departure (DED). Courts have temporality
blocked termination of these programs, but their status is still at risk.
H.R. 3525: U.S. Border Patrol Medical Screening Standards Act
Rep. Lauren Underwood [D-IL-14]
Passed House on September 26
The bill directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to (1) research and report to
Congress new approaches to improve procedures for providing medical screening of
individuals interdicted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection between ports of entry
and recommend any necessary corrective actions, and (2) establish an electronic health
record system containing the records of individuals in DHS custody that can be
accessed by all relevant DHS departments.
H.R. 3239: Humanitarian Standards Act for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody
Rep. Raul Ruiz [D-CA-36]
Passed the House on July 24, 2019
This bill imposes requirements and standards related to the care of undocumented
immigrants in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody.
CBP shall conduct an initial health screening of each immigrant in custody to identify
those with acute conditions and high-risk vulnerabilities and to provide appropriate
healthcare. CBP shall conduct the screening within 12 hours of each immigrant’’s arrival
at a CBP facility, and within 6 hours for certain priority individuals such as children,
pregnant women, and those with disabilities.
The bill imposes various requirements related to the services, personnel, and
infrastructure for providing such screenings, such as providing interpreters, chaperones,
and mental health treatment when necessary.
CBP shall ensure detainees have access to drinking water, toilets, sanitation facilities,
hygiene products, food, and shelter. The bill imposes certain standards relating to such
requirements, such as the minimum amount of drinking water for each detainee and the
acceptable temperature range of the shelters.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shall enter into memoranda of
understanding with various emergency government relief agencies to address instances
when surge capacity is necessary.
The Inspector-General of DHS shall conduct unannounced inspections of ports of entry,
border patrol stations, and detention facilities and report the results to Congress. The
Government Accountability Office shall assess CBP’s management of such facilities,
whether CBP and DHS processes are in compliance with this bill’s requirements, and the
behavior of CBP personnel in carrying out this bill.
DHS shall publicly release on its website, on a quarterly basis, aggregate data on
complaints of sexual abuse at CBP facilities.
S.648 – Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act
Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA]
Introduced March 2019.
This act would prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from detaining
pregnant women and would improve their standards of care. Migrant women report
being shackled while pregnant at ICE detention centers, sometimes around the stomach.
Several women have reported miscarrying due to poor treatment.
H.R. 4701: HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2019
Rep. Pramilla Jayapal [D-WA-7]
Introduced October 2019.
Nearly half of all immigrant women are of reproductive age, and immigrants
disproportionately lack health insurance coverage. In order to combat this challenge, the
HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2019 expands access to health care
services for immigrants by removing legal and policy barriers to health insurance
coverage. The bill particularly targets immigrant women with increased access to health
care services such as reproductive health, sexual health, and maternal health services.
The legislation accomplishes this through amending language in the ACA, CHIP, and
S. 1243/ H.R. 2415: Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2019
Sen. Cory Booker [D-NJ] and Rep. Pramilla Jayapal [D-WA-7]
Introduced April 2019.
The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2019 fights back on the Trump
Administration’s efforts to indefinitely withhold bail from immigrants seeking asylum. The
bill mandates that all immigrants seeking asylum be guaranteed a bond hearing before
an immigration judge and pushes the government to offer proof that the immigrant is a
legitimate danger to the community. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act also
advocates for more humane treatment in immigration detention facilities by banning the
use of private prisons and county jails for this purpose. It also increases oversight of
these facilities and sets standards for the humane treatment of immigrants within them.
H.R. 840: Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act.
Rep. Julia Brownley [D-CA-26]
Passed House on February 8, 2019.
The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act combats the challenges faced by veterans
seeking childcare by requiring VA medical centers to provide childcare for veterans
receiving covered healthcare. This works against the significant challenges veterans
face to receive child care, which works to dissuade many veterans from accessing
medical appointments or receiving necessary medical care. This is particularly relevant
to help the 20 veterans that commit suicide every day. This measure makes permanent
a 2011 pilot program created by Congress that has helped over 10,000 children receive
care to date. This program has since been reauthorized four times, but with expiration
H.R. 1560/S.690 – American Family Act of 2019
Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D-CT-3] and Sen. Michael Bennet [D-CO]
Introduced March 2019.
Child poverty is a problem in the United States. 21 percent of all American children live
in families with incomes below the federal poverty line. This bill would strengthen the
Child Tax Credit (CTC), and would create a Young Child Tax Credit for families with
children under 6. This would effectively provide families with $3,000 per year per child
aged six to 18. All families except the highest earners would be eligible for this tax credit. This act would also provide the credit to families without any income, as to not exclude the poorest families.
S.568 – Child Care for Working Families Act
Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA]
Introduced February 2019.
Childcare costs have increased 25% in the past decade, and in 33 states and DC, costs
of infant care exceed the average cost of in-state public college tuition. The Child Care
for Working Families Act would ensure that no family under 150% of the state median
income pays more than seven percent of their income on child care. It would create a
sliding scale payment and would create and support universal pre-school education. The
bill would also improve compensation and training for the childcare workforce.
H.R. 2574: Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act
Rep. Robert Scott [D-VA-3]
Passed out of committee May 2019.
The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act amends Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
to restore the right to individual civil actions in cases involving disparate impact. The
measure also installs staff, including an Assistant Secretary of Equity and Inclusion, to
the Department of Education in order to ensure the full compliance of Title VI.
H.R. 1980: Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act
Rep. Carolyn Maloney [D-NY-12]
Passed out of committee November 2019.
H.R. 1980 compels the Smithsonian Institute to implement a comprehensive museum
focused on celebrating women’s history. Advocates for the museum have been pressing
for legislation for about 20 years and a congressionally delegated commission a few
years ago concluded that a museum as part of the Smithsonian Institution would be
best. The House of Representatives passed funding for the museum in their version of
the defense spending bill in 2019, but this provision did not make it into the final budget
signed by the President.
H.R. 3513/ S. 1964: Patsy T. Mink and Louise M. Slaughter Gender Equity in Education Act of 2019
Rep. Doris Matsui [D-CA-6] and Sen. Maizie Hirono [D-HI]
Introduced June 2019.
In order to help schools implement Title IX requirements, Patsy Mink introduced the
Women’s Educational Equity Act (WEEA) in 1974 in order to help give schools the
resources, funding, and technical assistance they need to fully implement Title IX. Louise
Slaughter was a staunch champion for Title IX and equity in education, spearheading
these issues throughout her tenure in Congress. Despite the evidence of continuing
gender inequities in education, WEEA was never fully funded. Therefore, The Patsy T.
Mink and Louise M. Slaughter Gender Equity in Education Act (GEEA) of 2019 seeks to
address the need for more resources, training and technical assistance to educational
entities in order to ensure compliance with Title IX and prevent and reduce sex
discrimination in all areas of education. GEEA builds on the original provisions of WEEA
by providing support to schools to comply with Title IX. This bill establishes an Office for
Gender Equity in the U.S. Department of Education to coordinate activities within the
Department and among other federal agencies. Most importantly, GEEA supports the
work of Title IX coordinators by providing the annual training, resources, and technical
assistance needed to independently and effectively execute their responsibilities. This
bill also authorizes competitive grants to K-12 schools, colleges, local educational
agencies, and states to support their gender equity work. Title IX coordinators are a
linchpin in addressing gender equity in schools and must have the independence,
training, and resources to accurately and effectively execute their responsibilities.
Summary provided by advocates of the bill.
*Indicates NOW has supported this legislation in previous Congresses