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Martinez applauds signing of women’s health referendum

martinez070714Senate Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago 20th) applauded the governor’s decision today to sign legislation she sponsored to let voters weigh in on whether Illinois law should continue to protect women’s access to birth control.

“The recent Supreme Court ruling threw into question decades of progress toward safeguarding women’s health care access and freedom to make personal, medical decisions,” Martinez said. “It is now more important than ever for lawmakers to hear from the public on this issue of immediate concern.”

Martinez’s initiative places a statewide advisory public question on the ballot at the Nov. 4 general election. The referendum will ask voters whether any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides prescription drug coverage should be required to include prescription birth control as part of that coverage.

Currently, thanks to a law Martinez sponsored in 2003, any group or individual health insurance plan in Illinois that offers prescription drug coverage must cover all outpatient contraceptive services, drugs and devices with the same co-insurance, deductibles and co-payments that apply to other prescriptions.

Beginning in 2012, federal law kicked in; under the Affordable Care Act, most employers that offer health benefits must choose plans that cover contraception with no deductibles or co-pays. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that closely-held companies whose owners have religious objections to birth control cannot be required to pay for contraceptive coverage for their employees.

“I am deeply concerned that the floodgates are open to litigation that could erode the rights of women and workers,” Martinez said. “As public officials, we must be informed and prepared.”

Martinez urges governor to put women’s health referendum on ballot

Martinez070114In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could jeopardize Illinois women’s access to birth control through workplace health insurance, Senate Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago 20th) urged Gov. Pat Quinn to sign legislation she sponsored that would allow voters to weigh in on the issue this fall.

“We saw yesterday that women’s access to basic health care is under attack in this country,” Martinez said. “It is important that Illinois voters be given the opportunity to tell their elected representatives whether they support a woman’s right to make medical decisions for herself, regardless of her boss’ opinions.”

Martinez was the chief Senate sponsor of House Bill 5755, which would allow a statewide advisory public question to be submitted to the voters at the Nov. 4 general election asking whether any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides prescription drug coverage should be required to include prescription birth control as part of that coverage. The legislation passed the General Assembly and is now on Quinn’s desk awaiting action.

Currently, any group or individual health insurance plan in Illinois that offers prescription drug coverage must cover all outpatient contraceptive services, drugs and devices with the same co-insurance, deductibles and co-payments that apply to other prescriptions. Beginning in 2012, federal law kicked in; under the Affordable Care Act, most employers that offer health benefits must choose plans that cover most forms of contraception with no deductibles or co-pays. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a company whose owners sought relief from this federal mandate because they object on religious grounds to paying for coverage of certain kinds of contraceptives.

Martinez sponsored Illinois’ birth control access law in 2003.

“Illinois has made great strides in improving women’s health care and fostering economic opportunities for women,” Martinez said. “Now is the time to move forward, not allow this hard-won progress to be eroded. The women’s health referendum will be critical in determining our ability to fight for our values in the face of anti-woman, anti-worker judgments, and I urge the governor to sign this legislation as soon as possible.”

Martinez: New panel will study Latinos’ access to disability services

martinezstudylatino053014State Senator Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago 20th), concerned by the disproportionately small number of Latinos on the state government’s list of individuals eligible for developmental disabilities services, has secured approval of a task force to study the status of Latinos with disabilities in Illinois. Both the House and Senate have voted to establish the group, which will develop its recommendations over the next year and a half.

“Although Latinos make up 16 percent of the population, they account for only 6.4 percent of those on the Prioritization of Urgent Need for Services list,” Martinez said. “This suggests an information and access problem, and I believe we should study this disparity and determine how to better identify and serve everyone in need of assistance.”

The Prioritization of Urgent Need for Services (PUNS) list is maintained to help the Illinois Department of Human Services determine which individuals receive assistance first as funding becomes available. There are currently more than 22,000 people on the PUNS list. Some have never received services, and others are seeking additional or different types of services.

The task force will compile data on the number of Latinos living with disabilities in Illinois, their needs and their access to and participation in state programs. It will solicit community feedback, examine barriers to access and recommend best practices for reaching Latinos with disabilities who are not receiving screening or services. The panel’s report is due January 1, 2016.

Martinez protects unpaid interns from sexual harassment

MartinezInternsState Senator Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago 20th) has secured Senate passage of legislation extending Illinois’ anti-sexual harassment law to unpaid interns. Martinez sponsored the measure after it came to her attention that state law prohibits workplace harassment of paid employees and requires employers to act on reports of sexual harassment but that these protections do not currently apply to unpaid interns.

“Unpaid internships are a valuable and increasingly common way of gaining work experience and trying out possible career paths, and it is imperative that interns’ rights be safeguarded in the workplace,” Martinez said. “Because unpaid interns tend to be young people with little work experience and the lowest ranking in the office, they can be more vulnerable to sexual harassment than full-time, paid employees and may be more reluctant to report inappropriate behavior.”

The Illinois Human Rights Act defines and prohibits workplace sexual harassment and holds employers responsible for their employees’ harassment of other employees if they are aware of the behavior and do nothing to stop it. Federal sexual harassment law does not apply to unpaid interns, but Oregon, Washington, D.C., and New York City have included them in their laws and ordinances on the subject.

The Illinois House and Senate have both passed Martinez’s legislation, House Bill 4157, but because the Senate removed a provision in the House version that would have applied the Human Rights Act only to interns working more than 10 hours per week, the House must now approve the amended bill.

Senator Iris Y. Martinez

Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez

Assistant Majority Leader
20th District

Years served:
2003 - Present
 
Committee assignments: Commerce and Economic Development; Education; Energy and Public Utilities; Executive; Government Accountability/Pensions (Vice-Chairperson); Transportation; Subcommittee on Gov. Operations; Pension Investments Special Com. On (Co-Chairperson); Revenue (Vice-Chairperson).

Biography: Born Feb. 25, 1956, in Chicago; earned her bachelor's degree in public policy and administration from Northeastern Illinois University in 2009; elected president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. She is also the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Co-Chair; has one daughter.

Associated Representatives:
Jaime M. Andrade, Jr.
Will Guzzardi