BOSTON (SHNS) – The caucus of 62 House and Senate women legislators endorsed 17 pieces of legislation on Wednesday and identified its top four priorities for this session, including whatever comes from the ongoing review of the state’s early education and care system and a bill that would allow candidates to use campaign funds to pay for child care.

The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, which is a bipartisan and bicameral group, finalized its priorities for the 192nd General Court four months into the new two-year session. The caucus co-chaired by Sen. Joan Lovely of Salem and Rep. Patricia Haddad of Somerset also identified as strategic goals addressing the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on women, reducing racial disparities in access to health care for women, and empowering women in government.

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light many issues that have disproportionately impacted women for decades, and we are committed to working on these issues through legislation and a variety of other means,” Lovely said.

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the state’s child care system, and experts have said the cost and availability of child care has put a strain on families and forced many women to leave the workforce. The caucus pointed to the expected recommendations from a special commission led by Rep. Alice Peisch and Sen. Jason Lewis studying ways to expand access to child care as one of its top priorities.

The members of the caucus also said they would work to pass three bills filed already this session, including one (H 769/S 475) to legalize the use of campaign funds for child care to promote greater participation of women in the legislative process. The policy passed the Senate in 2018, but has not yet gained the traction it needs in the House.

The other priorities bills would create a women’s rights history trail (H 3379/S 2249) and require schools, prisons, and homeless shelters to provide free access to menstrual products (H 2354/S 1445). Established in 1975, the caucus is as large as it’s ever been with 62 members representing 31 percent of the Legislature.