Read about the outlook for state fiscal conditions, the effect of the drop in gas prices on states, the ethics of gifts, the debate over motorcycle helmets and state efforts to support home caregivers.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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I am proud to serve on the board of the Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL. Through network events at NCSL meetings I have met a diverse array of women serving in legislatures around the country. We’ve come together to talk about women in the military, financial stability, health care and leadership. I hope you will join our conversations in the future. We welcome news from your state, so please submit any items that you’d like to share in future newsletters. Submit items
I am pleased to announce a special leadership training program at the Legislative Summit in Minneapolis. Please mark your calendar for the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 19, and plan to join the network for a great schedule of workshops and conversations. More information about the program will be released in future newsletters.
Thank you for reading, and please contact us with ideas or questions.
Elsie Arntzen, State Senator, Montana
Past President, Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL
Visit the Summit website for complete information and registration. Visit the Summit website
The Women in Politics Map 2014 was released for Women’s History Month by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women. The map, which presents the latest data on women in executive government and in parliament, reveals regional trends in women´s representation worldwide. In executive government, the percentage of women in ministerial posts has reached 17.2 percent, up from 16.1 percent in 2008. The global average of women in parliament has registered a record annual increase of 1.5 percentage points, reaching 21.8 percent on
Jan. 1, 2014. See the map and complete information.
Review NCSL’s data about women in state legislatures in 2014.
The Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, the nation’s largest nonpartisan legislative commission for women, recently invited all of the state’s female legislators to comment on women and leadership. Connecticut’s female legislators are an active, vocal force in forming public policy. Their words and photos were on display in the Legislative Office Building for two weeks in February.
See the complete poster series online
The Hawaii Women Lawyers recently gave two state representatives their highest awards. Representative Sylvia Luke (far left) received the Hawaii Women Lawyers’ Distinguished Service Award and Representative Della Au Belatti (left) was named Outstanding Woman Lawyer. Luke has been vice-speaker, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and in 2013, she became the first female chair of the House Finance Committee. Hawaii Women Lawyers noted that the Honolulu Star Advertiser credited Luke, along with Senate Ways and Means Chair David Ige, for the $844 million budget surplus in 2013. Belatti, chair of the House Committee on Health, is one of the pivotal members in the Legislature helping to guide measures to reform the Hawaii Health Connector. She also serves as a member of the Housing, Human Services, Judiciary and Consumer Protection committees. Since 2013, Belatti has served as co-chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, which advocates legislation on behalf of women in Hawaii.
State Senator Mattie Hunter and the Illinois Department of Employment Security hosted a re-employment workshop for Southside Chicagoans on March 14. The event was intended to help residents increase their marketability in this tough economic climate. “The first step to ending unemployment is providing people with the necessary skills to find jobs,” said Hunter, majority caucus whip in the Illinois Senate. “It is a tough job market, but with networking, career counseling and interview preparation provided by this workshop, we’ll see a big improvement in employment within the community.” The re-employment workshop offered attendees help with job search and interview preparation, resumes and career counseling.
The Louisiana Legislature’s 2014 session convened on March 10. Louisiana’s female legislators have individually prefiled roughly 200 bills, or approximately 13 percent of all bills filed to date, addressing health care, public contracts, retirement, equal pay, budgetary controls, paternity, Medicaid, abortion, coastal resources, domestic and family violence, human trafficking, minimum wage, criminal sentencing, drug testing, education and other topics. View a list of bills filed by the women legislators
The Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus is tracking legislation of interest to women in the state, in keeping with its mission to monitor policies and issues affecting them. The group has placed approximately 400 bills on its “Bills Impacting Women List.” The caucus will meet to determine if it will take a position on any of the legislation.
Dede Feldman was the first woman elected to the New Mexico Senate from Albuquerque’s North Valley. She served in the Senate from 1997 to 2012 focusing on health insurance, campaign finance and election reform, and strove to make a difference to the lives of women, children and people struggling to make ends meet. Feldman built her foundation for change with a varied career as a journalist, high school and university teacher, and owner of a small public relations business. While in office, Feldman attended a Women’s Legislative Network workshop about keeping a written record of one’s political experiences. The late Harriett Keyserling, a former state representative from South Carolina, spoke about the process of writing her political memoir ("Against the Tide: One Woman’s Political Struggle"). The session inspired Feldman to write her legislative history, "Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots, Suits and Citizens," recently published by the University of New Mexico Press. The New Mexico Senate comes alive in the book, with stories of grit and grace, honor and disgrace. Read about and order the book
Have you written a book about your experience in the legislature, or has another woman from your state?
Tell us about it so that we can build our Women’s Legislative Network library!
In October 2013, New York Assemblymember Didi Barrett hosted the first Hudson Valley Girls Summit. The summit brought together 30 participants from more than 20 organizations and programs that advocate on behalf of girls in the Mid-Hudson Valley region. Organizations from both the urban and rural parts of four Mid-Hudson counties—Dutchess, Columbia, Ulster and Orange—participated in the meeting that covered a range of topics from media pressures on girls to transportation challenges in the region. The discussion allowed the groups to share common challenges and identify gaps in services offered to the region’s girls and young women. The forum gave them the valuable opportunity to exchange resources and information. “I have been a lifetime advocate for empowering women and girls,” said Barrett. “Because of this advocacy, a number of people have reached out over the last year to voice their concerns about issues facing girls around the region. This summit was a first step to bring together stakeholders to learn what programs and services are available to girls in the region, and to start identifying gaps, challenges, and opportunities for moving ahead.” Before running for the Assembly, Barrett was a founder of the Dutchess Girls Collaborative and the founding chair of Girls Inc. of New York City. She ran for office to remind the next generation of young people that girls can grow up to be policymakers, decision makers and elected officials. The group is working out its next steps, which may include a website and additional conferences.
The Asheville, N.C., home of the state’s first female state legislator, Lillian Exum Clement, will be permanently protected through a donation to a local historic preservation organization. Clement was elected in 1920, the same year the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote. She was 26 years old and defeated two men in the primary election before winning overwhelmingly in the general election. Clement was a lawyer and was the first woman in the state to practice law without male partners. She served one term in the House, and chose not to run again, though she was interested in re-entering politics in the future. She died of pneumonia, however, when she was just 30. Clement focused on milk safety, secret ballots, divorce law and a state girls’ school during her time in the General Assembly. Read more about Clement
March is Women’s History Month, and recently the City Council recognized several women for their outstanding contributions and roles in the history of Central Falls, R.I. I was honored to be one of those women. I was employed by the city for 40 years, working my way up to the managerial position of city clerk. I was the first woman appointed to that position. When I retired, I won a seat on the City Council, becoming only the fourth woman to sit on the body in its more than 100-year history. I then ran for the state Senate, and was the first woman representing my district, a position that I am proud to hold today. I feel that I can be a voice for those who have little or no voice in government: the poor, the homeless, and those with disabilities. One more historical event has happened in our little (1.2-square-mile) city: For the first time ever there is a female majority on the City Council. Five of seven members of the council are women, and one of their first pieces of legislation was for equal opportunity in the workplace in Central Falls.
Celinda Lake and Kellyanne Conway, two of the nation’s most notable political strategists, focused on issues facing female voters and candidates during their keynote address to more than 250 guests at the seventh annual Leap Into Leadership on Feb. 27, 2014. Lake and Conway, co-authors of the book "What Women Really Want," spoke of changing demographics, such as the rise of single mothers, and their effects on elections in America.
Hosted by the Wyoming Women’s Legislative Caucus in partnership with the Wyoming Women’s Foundation, Leap Into Leadership aims to increase women’s leadership at all levels. Leap Into Leadership alumnae currently serve on Wyoming school boards, city councils, county commissions and in the Legislature and State Auditor’s office.
In addition to national experts on women in politics, Leap Into Leadership also offered workshops, breakfast at the Wyoming State Capitol and a panel discussion of women in Wyoming politics. Featured guests included state Auditor Cynthia Cloud, 2010 gubernatorial candidate Leslie Petersen, Fremont County Commissioner Keja Whiteman, Evanston Mayor Joy Bell and former superintendent of public instruction, Judy Catchpole.
The nonpartisan Wyoming Women’s Legislative Caucus, sponsored by The Equipoise Fund, promotes women in the Wyoming Legislature through support and leadership development. Local Leap into Leadership workshops in Rawlins and Jackson in May will be sponsored by the caucus and the
Wyoming Women’s Foundation.
Last week, NCSL sent a letter supporting Texas Senator John Cornyn’s (R) recently introduced legislation to eliminate human trafficking. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S. 1738) would create a Domestic Trafficking Victims Fund that would aid state and local governments in combating trafficking. Nevada Assemblyman William Horne and Tennessee Representative Eric Watson, co-chairs of NCSL’s Committee on Law and Criminal Justice, thanked Senator Cornyn for his “leadership in establishing a mechanism that melds together federal and state priorities with a common goal of eradicating the inhumane practice of human trafficking.” State legislatures have been at the forefront combating those involved in trafficking, smuggling or transporting people under false pretenses. Over the last three years, 45 states collectively enacted 221 laws addressing human trafficking. Read more NCSL research on the topic
Legislative work can be exciting and fulfilling, but some people just push your buttons. It’s not hard to find these challenging people—the trick is knowing how to handle them. There are various approaches to dealing with difficult situations caused by co-workers and constituents. No matter how you normally respond, you can take steps to improve your skills in turning these encounters into positive learning opportunities. Read more
Please join NCSL on Friday, April 11 at 2 p.m. ET/ 1 p.m. CT/ Noon MT/ 11 a.m. PT for a FREE webinar. On June 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Miller v. Alabama, ruled that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In the wake of the decision, states with mandatory sentencing structures have had to determine how to adjust their laws to comply with Miller and also decide whether the ruling applies retroactively to current prisoners who were given mandatory life sentences as juveniles. Listen to this webinar to learn how states have taken action to address the questions left open by the Miller decision. Register here.
Nearly 3 million American children are cared for by relatives other than their parents. Child welfare agencies in many states rely on extended families, primarily grandparents, to provide homes for children who cannot safely remain with their parents. In fact, relatives care for 27 percent of children in foster care—about 107,000—according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.
Read more NCSL research on this issue
A total of 34 states have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. As of February, 32 of these voter identification laws are in force. In two states, laws providing for identification requirements are not in effect due to court challenges. Read more information and see the interactive map
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