Read a rundown on the top public policy issues facing state lawmakers in 2015, state-private sector partnerships for infrastructure, e-cigarettes and taxes and dealing with cuts to mental health programs.
Our mission is to promote the participation, empowerment, and leadership of women legislators. Every female state legislator in the 50 states, United States territories, and the District of Columbia is a member of the Network. The Network does not advocate for or against state policies, but sponsors informational briefings, workshops, and gatherings so legislators can better understand an issue and learn from one another.
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Archive of all newsletters.
Hello to my colleagues around the country,
It is my honor to serve as president-elect of the Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL. Please join me in the network’s mission of promoting the participation, empowerment and leadership skills of women legislators. This is the second issue of our new monthly newsletter. We welcome news from your state, so please submit any items that you’d like to share with women around the country.
I have enjoyed getting to know women from other states at network events, and I hope to meet many of you in the future. I recently worked with NCSL staff to arrange for Lt. Col. Patricia Gaston (U.S. Army Ret.) to speak at the Fall Forum about a groundbreaking program for female veterans in New Mexico. More than 7,000 of the nation’s 1.8 million female veterans are homeless, four times the rate of civilian women. Furthermore, female veterans have higher rates of unemployment than their civilian counterparts. Henderson House, in Albuquerque, is working to change those statistics. Read more about it on the NCSL blog.
Thank you for reading, and please contact us with ideas for the network to consider.
Jane Powdrell-Culbert, State Representative, New Mexico
President-Elect, Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL
The third quarter of 2013 proved to be more challenging than usual as the Arkansas General Assembly held a special session to tackle soaring health insurance premiums faced by many of Arkansas’ public school teachers and staff. Legislators appropriated $43 million from surplus funds to help lower premiums, which had increased 10 percent to 50 percent over last year. We also passed legislation designed to find a permanent solution to escalating costs, creating a 14-member task force to study the insurance situation and make recommendations for cost control. Another bill lowers the number of required professional development hours from 60 to 36. The funds saved by this measure will be directed into the insurance program. An additional $16.3 million will be redirected from savings in the state’s general facilities funding into the insurance programs. In other news, I was recently selected as Best Elected Official in the local newspaper’s 2013 Readers Choice Award poll in Drew County, Arkansas.
A bill sponsored by state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson that protects domestic violence victims from losing their jobs or being discriminated against at work took effect on Jan. 1. The new law prevents employers from firing or discriminating against an employee who has been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. It also requires employers to make reasonable efforts to protect these victims from their abuser or stalker, such as changing their work telephone number, relocating their desk, or implementing a workplace safety plan. Jackson said, “Victims will no longer fear losing their livelihoods and being re-victimized in the workplace because of the actions of their abusers. They will no longer fear retribution if they talk about these issues with an employer. And we will no longer send the mistaken message to employees that silence about these issues in the workplace is the same as safety.” SB 400 was one of five priority bills of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus in the 2013 session. Senator Jackson is a vice-chair of the caucus. Read more about the bill here.
All female legislators in the Connecticut House and Senate have united in an effort to advance H.B. 5029, which addresses the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. A public hearing before the Committee on Higher Education and Employment Advancement was held on February 11. The bill would require colleges and universities to update and clarify their sexual harassment and sexual assault policies, and to have a sexual assault response team on campus and to collaborate with nearby clinics so victims have access to free medical care. The bill is a response to a Title IX complaint filed by seven University of Connecticut students who claimed that the school did not respond appropriately when they reported sexual assault crimes.
Read more about the hearing here.
Florida Senator Audrey Gibson Lauded
It was a pleasure to receive the 2013 Pacesetter Award from Women’s Action for New Directions & Women Legislators’ Lobby at the national conference in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30, 2013. WiLL/WAND pacesetters are recognized for their noteworthy legislative service, their contributions to sound, progressive policy, and their groundbreaking leadership in their respective states. Throughout my legislative career I have tried to exemplify the mission and goals of WiLL/WAND raising my voice on behalf of women, initiating and supporting progressive policy and keeping abreast of issues through the venues offered by the organization. Thank you WiLL/WAND for recognizing my efforts!
Florida Senator Arthenia Joyner Honored
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law recently honored Senator Arthenia L. Joyner with the 2013 Distinguished Civil Rights Advocate Award. The former president of the National Bar Association received the award during a reception of the NBA’s 88th Annual Convention in Miami, Fla. A private practice attorney for 44 years, longer than any other African-American woman in Florida, Joyner was the first female black attorney in Hillsborough County and will soon become the first African-American woman leader of the Florida Senate Democratic Caucus. “Senator Joyner’s outstanding life’s work has eliminated barriers to social justice and economic opportunity and she has selflessly helped to move America toward justice,” said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Barbara Arnwine. “Her breadth of accomplishments spans several decades and began when as a young woman in high school she participated in sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters at Woolworth in Tampa and joined protests to integrate the Florida Theatre in Tallahassee.” Joyner is also an advocate for international justice and human rights.
The Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus recently announced its legislative priorities for the 2014 session. “For more than 20 years, our coalition of women legislators has worked on behalf of the concerns and rights of all women in Hawaii,” said Representative Della Au Belatti. “By working collectively, we have provided women with a strong voice when it comes to passing measures that will improve women’s quality of life and protect their safety and rights.” The 11 bills and resolutions included in the package are approved by at least 75 percent of the caucus members. Bill subjects include appropriations for the breast and cervical cancer program, exempting breastfeeding mothers from jury duty, services for adolescent girls who have experienced trauma, services for human trafficking victims, and naming a new high school for the late U.S. Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink. Read more about the caucus package here.
In an historic first and in recognition of her proven track record as a consensus-building, results-oriented legislator and expert on state budget, Medicaid and disability issues, state Representative Patti Bellock was appointed Deputy House Republican Leader by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. With the appointment, Bellock becomes the first woman to serve as Deputy House Republican Leader in Illinois history. “I am honored to embrace this opportunity to help lead our caucus and our state with a clear focus on the need to restore confidence in Illinois’ future,” Bellock said. “To do this, we must bring stability to state finances to ease the burden on working families, allow for robust private-sector job creation and complete the cost-saving Medicaid reforms we have worked together to achieve.” In addition to her appointment as deputy leader, Bellock also serves as chief budget negotiator, as minority spokesperson on the Human Services Appropriations Committee and as a member of the Labor & Commerce and Mass Transit Committees. She also presently serves as the secretary of the board of directors for the national group, Women in Government.
I have submitted several bills for the 2014 session. One of my bills would allow municipalities to abate property taxes on the real estate destroyed in a June propane explosion that rocked our town, Yarmouth. Current law appears to limit abatement to situations where the destruction leaves the owner unable to pay the taxes. I think the town should have the option to reduce the assessment to its real value as a matter of fairness, not just poverty. Read more about the issue here.
Another bill would require prescriptions for over-the-counter cold medicines that contain a crucial ingredient for methamphetamine, a drug deadly to users and dangerous to law enforcement officers and the public. Meth is now being manufactured easily, without the elaborate equipment and knowledge previously required. "Breaking Bad" has been replaced by "Shake and Bake." Consequently, this is an increasing threat in Maine. The problem came to my attention through a number of channels, including an article here. Among other things, this analysis shows that making these precursor drugs available only upon showing an ID and signing one's name (as Maine law now requires) has been wholly ineffective in stemming production of meth..
I recently attended the Lobster Zone F meeting (Zone F includes my district of Yarmouth). The Lobstermen’s Association is one of only two organizations in Maine that received federal funding to serve as navigators to help people find their way through the Affordable Care Act. Given that most lobstermen are self-employed, this will allow the uniquely Maine industry to gain access to important information.
The Oregon State Legislature made services for victims of domestic and sexual violence a top priority in 2013. The legislature passed a comprehensive public safety reform package that focused on reinvesting in proven, community-based public safety and justice services. The reform package created nearly $58 million in savings, which paved the way for an unprecedented 10 percent boost in county funding for community based non-profits serving victims of domestic and sexual violence. In addition, an initiative I and other female legislators championed doubled Oregon’s investment in community-based domestic violence shelters and programs from $4 million to $8 million.
The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics has collected data on the composition of Iowa’s appointed boards and commissions as a part of its Gender Balance Project. The information gathered and analyzed by the center serves as the first benchmark in a multi-year research endeavor. The Gender Balance Project is a research initiative that began in the summer of 2012 as a partnership between the Friends of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women (ICSW) and Catt Center. The purpose of the project is to track the implementation of the state’s gender balance requirements for county and municipal boards and commissions, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2012. Iowa has required gender balance on state-level boards and commissions since 1987.
At the county level, the project examines gender balance in each of Iowa’s counties on the following seven boards and commissions: adjustment, compensation, conservation, health, planning and zoning, review, and veterans affairs. Currently, data shows that only four of the 99 counties have achieved gender balance on all of their appointed boards examined. Women hold 29 percent of county boards and commission seats, and nearly 50 percent of all reported county boards and commissions are gender balanced.
At the municipal level, the project looks at the gender balance of nine boards and commissions in each of the state’s county seats and most populous cities. The data compiled from the 203 cities that participated shows that 17 cities have achieved gender balance on the nine boards and commissions examined. Women hold 37 percent of city boards and commission seats and, of all city boards and commissions reported, nearly 50 percent are gender balanced.
To learn more, please visit the Catt Center’s research page here.
The Women's Legislative Network Alliance is a partnership program of the Women's Legislative Network of NCSL. The Network Alliance includes individuals from associations, foundations, and corporations who assist the Network by providing consultation and financial support. To learn more about the Alliance, please contact Katie Ziegler, program manager of the Women's Legislative Network of NCSL. Email Katie Ziegler
Network Alliance Chair: Kellie Duhr, Walmart
Equipment Leasing and Finance Association
State & Federal Communications
American Beverage Association
Ash Grove Cement Company
Hallmark Cards, Inc.
Mary Kay Inc.
Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation: Driving Innovation, Improving Health, Embracing Diversity
Several significant trends are shaping the increasingly complex U.S. health care landscape. The population is aging, cases of chronic disease are on the rise, consumers are more actively engaged in managing care (and selecting coverage) and new technologies are emerging. There is also the evolving role of women in health care to consider. According to a study by the American Academy of Family Physicians, women make or influence more than 90 percent of health care decisions for themselves and their families.
At Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, we recognize that women may be involved in many aspects of healthcare—as consumers, caregivers, patients, providers and employees. We are proud of the innovative medicines we have developed, many of which are particularly relevant to the female patient population, such as treatments for osteoporosis, hypertension and multiple sclerosis (which is at least two-to-three times more common in women than in men). As part of the work we do, we also think about broader solutions—and how we can positively impact health outcomes for all patients, particularly where unmet needs exist.
The role women play in health care also carries over to our workplace. As part of our commitment to a diverse and inclusive culture, we want to harness the insights of our female employees. We have made important strides in ensuring that women are well represented at leadership levels in our organization, and our efforts have been nationally recognized by DiversityInc, Working Mother and Profiles in Diversity Journal.
We believe our efforts to support women’s health care needs—and workplace success—has broad, long-term benefits. We invest here, as we do in research and development, because we believe it drives innovation—the lifeblood of our industry and the enabler of new medicines and solutions that significantly improve patient outcomes.
Please join NCSL Friday, March 14, at 2 p.m. Eastern/1 p.m. Central/Noon Mountain/11 a.m. Pacific for a FREE webinar to hear experts discuss requirements for health exchanges, summarize outreach and enrollment efforts across the country, and highlight lessons learned about effective outreach and enrollment approaches. Read more and register here.
As of Jan. 1, 2014, 21 states and D.C. have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage. In 19 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, minimum wages are $7.25, the same as the federal minimum wage. Four states and American Samoa have minimum wages below the federal minimum wage (the federal minimum thus applies). One state, New Hampshire, repealed its state minimum wage in 2011, but left the reference to the federal minimum wage. Five states have not established a state minimum wage.
Read complete information here
This database contains state legislation related to campaign finance processes and reform. Bills found here deal with campaign contribution limits, disclosure requirements, independent expenditure requirements, pay-to-play legislation and other campaign finance related issues. Access the database here
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