Women's Legislative Network


Hello Friends,

Network collageAs board members of the Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL, we wish you the best as summer approaches. Though some states are still in session, many of us are occupied with interim work or are looking ahead to the elections. We hope you will turn to NCSL for comprehensive information about the important issues you are addressing in your states. As you make your summer plans, consider joining the Network at NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Minneapolis this August. We will hold a special leadership training session on Tuesday, Aug. 19, which you can read about below.

The mission of the Women’s Legislative Network is to promote the participation, empowerment and leadership of women legislators. The Network is bipartisan and includes every female legislator in the states and territories. We invite you to shape the Network’s future and apply to serve on the 15-member board. Application information can be found below.

Please submit items for future issues of this newsletter, and always feel free to contact us with ideas or questions.

With best wishes,
The Women’s Legislative Network Board

NCSL Legislative Summit

NCSL Summit LogoReview the Network's schedule of events at the Summit.

Plan to attend the Women’s Legislative Network Leadership Training
Tuesday, Aug. 19
8:30 a.m.-1p.m.

Hear from female legislative leaders about their experiences moving up the ladder, participate in a workshop on strengths-based leadership, and network with other women from around the country.

Register for the workshop today!

Apply for the Women's Legislative Network Board

GavelThe Executive Board is responsible for the ongoing administration and affairs of the Network and for maintaining a close working relationship with NCSL. Eight positions are open for the 2014-2015 year. More information and application form available here.

Across the states

Update from Alaska Representative Shelley Hughes

Shelley HughesNews reports a couple years ago had me worried. What was the “drone” phenomenon all about and what would this new technology mean—and how would it impact the privacy we treasure so much here in Alaska? I decided to find out. In the process, I learned that an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) was a tool, a tool that an operator could choose to use for good or for evil. I decided that in Alaska, we need to make sure we harness UAS for good, for the benefit of Alaskans. We need to make sure, as this technology is being employed for a variety of new uses, that the privacy of individuals remains paramount.

Two of my successful bills this session relate to Unmanned Aircraft Systems. House Bill 255 clearly defines the rules for law enforcement’s use of UAS and permits the University of Alaska to develop a UAS operations training program. The bill strictly specifies that search warrants must be issued before gathering evidence for a criminal investigation using a UAS. The bill also requires law enforcement to:

  • Maintain a record of each flight and establish an available flight record system;
  • Allow operation only by trained and certified pilots and crews;
  • Obtain any authorization, permit or certificate required by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the unmanned aircraft system;
  • Notify the public of the operation of a UAS, unless notifying the public would endanger a person’s safety;
  • Provide for community involvement in the development of the policies;
  • Ensure that the flight of an unmanned aircraft system be for a public purpose; and
  • Dispose of images that are not required as part of an investigation, for prosecution or for training.

This is a very exciting opportunity for Alaska, as we become a main state for this emerging technology.     

House Concurrent Resolution 15 extends the Legislative Task Force on UAS from June 30, 2014, to June 30, 2017, coinciding with the Federal Aviation Administration’s test site period for UAS in Alaska. The task force will be a point of contact for the public and industry on any issues concerning UAS. I believe that privacy protection is paramount along the way, but I’m also excited at the prospects of future economic development related to UAS. We want to encourage the private sector and send the message that Alaska is the best place in the world to develop, test and use UAS. One UAS Alaska business owner I spoke with says he hopes to grow his company to employ 100 people. Another Alaskan, John Parker, founder of Integrated Robotics Imaging Systems, Ltd. in Kenai, recently acquired exclusive patent rights on “sense and avoid” technology in the form of collision avoidance radar that weighs in at 12.5 ounces. He is currently ramping up operations. The Task Force, with citizens’ input, will help ensure personal privacy while at the same time, work to open the door to UAS industry opportunities.

News From Arkansas Representative Sheilla Lampkin

Sheilla LampkinI was honored to receive the 2013 Legislative Champion Award by the Arkansas Citizens First Congress. I also received the Drew County NAACP #6042 2013 You Make a Difference Award for outstanding leadership in the field of Education and Community Service.       

Some of the biggest news stories in Arkansas today are:

  • The declaration that Arkansas’ ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional threw our state into turmoil. The state was gridlocked and unsure how the ban was to be applied until the Arkansas Supreme Court put a stay on its implementation so it could study the complexities of the issue. The question is still unresolved. 
  • The May 20 primary elections saw more activity on the Republican ticket than in previous decades. 
  • The race for the U.S. Senate seat and the governorship should be the “big events” in November, with both seats hotly contested between the major parties. 
  • Arkansas’ private option insurance plan already is lightening the debt burden of Arkansas’ hospitals and is viewed as essential to the financial stability of some smaller hospitals.
  • For the second straight year, a special session may be called to deal with an increase in public school teachers’ insurance rates costs (projected at 35 percent ).

Arkansas will welcome the annual Southern Legislative Council this summer.

Connecticut Representative DebraLee Hovey Honored

DebraLee HoveyRepresentative DebraLee Hovey recently received the Kay Antrim Lifetime Achievement Award from the town of Monroe, Conn. She was elected to her sixth term in November 2012 and has served as an Assistant Minority Leader for six years. She also serves on the Legislature’s Judiciary, Transportation and Public Health committees and is chairwoman of the Republican Women’s Caucus. Representative Hovey is employed as an educational consultant, balancing her practice with public office. Representative Hovey serves as a state director for Women in Government and as a state co-chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council. She is a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Council for Exceptional Children, the Association of Educational and Psychological Consultants and the Endangered Lands Coalition.

Florida Senator Audrey Gibson Announces Board Appointment

Audrey GibsonI recently had the honor of being appointed to the Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) Education Fund Board. As a WiLL/WAND member for over 10 years, I look forward to helping create new opportunities for current and future members. WAND is made up of state legislators committed to legal and ethical responsibilities to ensure the organization does the best work possible in pursuit of its goals. The mission of the Education Fund Board is to educate the public and opinion leaders about the need to reduce violence and militarism and redirect excessive military spending to unmet human and environmental needs. Education Fund Board members support activities classified as education and advocacy through events, media interviews, education materials, congressional roundtables, trainings and the biennial WiLL/WAND conference.

Georgia Representative Stacey Abrams Honored

Stacey AbramsGeorgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams recently won the EMILY’s List Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award recognizing women serving in state or local offices who show passion and dedication through advocacy and public service. “I am honored to be recognized by EMILY’s List with the help of my supporters,” said Representative Abrams. “Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords has devoted her life to public service and paved the way for female legislators, showing extraordinary courage in the face of terrible tragedy. It is both a humbling and exciting honor to represent the standards she has embodied.” Representative Abrams is the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and is the first African-American to lead in the House of Representatives.

News from Kentucky Representative Susan Westrom about Military Sexual Trauma

Westrom GroupSexual assault and harassment has become a signature of the U.S. military at a time when more women are enlisting. These women have the right to be treated as equals in the military as they serve to protect freedom for our country and throughout the world. They and their families assumed they would be protected from any type of abuse from within their ranks. The unfortunate truth is that military sexual assault, which was covered up for years, has now become a national disgrace. The VA Hospital uses the term Military Sexual Trauma (MST) for the range of symptoms associated with the aftermath of military sexual assaults. The devastation of MST profoundly changes the lives of veterans and their families. Unless these veterans are treated appropriately, immediately and intensely, their struggle upon discharge will become a lifelong battle for many.

A 2013 Pentagon survey estimated that 26,000 active duty personnel were sexually assaulted or harassed in 2012, although only 3,374 cases were reported. Upon the survey’s release, a very courageous survivor and constituent of mine called, outraged and ready to fight. Susan Moseley had been searching for 19  years for appropriate care for herself and several other MST survivors. It is time to face head on the aftermath of this once accepted crime within the military and to acknowledge the government’s obligation to make our veterans whole again.

With Susan, I am committed to finding solutions for veterans in Kentucky. We worked with Karen Tufts, a trained MST therapist who had a professional mission to give MST survivors their lives back. Karen, now deceased, introduced me to other survivors, women and men, who wanted to share their stories as they sought appropriate care. We began to meet once a month beginning in July 2013, and we adopted the name “Karen’s Survivors.” I am humbled and deeply respect the great courage it took for them to share such personal and wounding stories of rape, repeated sexual harassment and trauma, and the emotional toll of realizing their military careers were trashed, along with their reputations. In the meantime, their predators often went unpunished by the military judicial system and were free to perpetrate again.

Karen’s Survivors soon began looking beyond themselves and problem-solving. Their mission includes finding national solutions to the many complex problems they have identified as they have sought full recovery. A local goal is to turn a vacant house on the VA’s Leestown Road campus in Lexington into a transitional residence for women after they leave hospital psychiatric treatment.

We now have a powerful friend among Kentucky’s congressional delegation. Congressman Andy Barr filed the Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment Act in early January 2014, allowing portability of benefits. The act requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Defense to each operate a program that ensures that veterans and members of the armed forces may receive treatment from private providers for military sexual trauma.

I hope this information has helped you understand the realities of “Karen’s Survivors” in Kentucky, the legacy of the late Karen Tufts, and the great hope they share in changing outcomes for “victims” who struggle to become “survivors” when appropriate intervention and treatment is unavailable.

(photo: l-r at podium: Karen Tufts, Rep. Susan Westrom, Susan Moseley)

Minnesota Small Business Caucus Update from Representative Yvonne Selcer

Yvonne SelcerA bipartisan group of legislators in the Minnesota House has formed a Small Business Caucus (SBC) with the goal of creating and supporting small business growth and prosperity across the state. Our caucus has 26 members, about half of whom are women. SBC Members toured many businesses in Minnesota to hear directly from business owners. The SBC also held hearings to give businesses an opportunity to discuss opportunities and challenges and to weigh in on legislation to improve our small business climate.

As a result, we successfully authored legislation which provided targeted tax relief to small businesses and increased investment opportunities through the expansion of an Angel Investment Credit program. We also authored legislation which will provide support, mentoring and investment networking opportunities for women entering non-traditional, high revenue fields. This bill was folded into a larger Women’s Economic Security Act, which contained other provisions to facilitate women’s participation in the workforce in well-paying careers.

Most importantly, throughout this new process SBC members have had conversations across the aisle that have led us to realize that businesses in our state have many common interests, and as representatives of those communities which are home to these businesses, so do we.

News from Texas Representative Cindy Burkett

Cindy BurkettI am pleased to announce that I have been appointed by House Speaker Joe Straus to the Select Committee on Child Protection. The committee is charged with studying abuse and neglect fatalities and making recommendations to protect children. The select committee will work in concert with the public members of the Protect our Kids Commission, which the Legislature created in 2013. The commission also will recommend strategies to prevent and reduce fatalities. I look forward to working with both groups to ensure the safety of children in the State of Texas.
Speaking of safe children, the Texas Department of Public Safety is encouraging Texans to participate in Take 25, a national campaign focusing on child safety. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children public awareness program urges parents, guardians, educators and other caretakers to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about safety and ways to prevent abduction.  

May was National Mental Health Month, and the theme for 2014 is “Mind Your Health.” About one in four adults suffer from a mental illness, and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 5.4 million adults who needed mental health care in 2012 did not receive any services. The observance hopes to build public recognition about the importance of mental health to overall health and wellness. Read the Presidential Proclamation for National Mental Health Awareness Month Here.

Friends of the network

Thank You to Alliance Sponsors!

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.

Network Alliance Chair: Kellie Duhr, Walmart

Sponsor ($5,000)
Exxon Mobil

Partner ($2,500)
Equipment Leasing and Finance Association
State & Federal Communications

Contributor ($1,000)
American Beverage Association
Ash Grove Cement Company
Mary Kay Inc.

Friend ($500)

NCSL Resources

Webinar June 13: Food Safety

WebinarJoin NCSL for a FREE webinar on Friday, June 13, 1 p.m. ET/ Noon CT/11 a.m. MT/10 a.m. PT

This webinar will explore food safety: what it is, how food outbreaks and illnesses occur, and how states are at the forefront of food safety. State legislatures have adopted laws permitting the sale of raw milk, exempting cottage food industries from state regulations, and encouraging local foods. However, the recent outbreaks of Listeria from cantaloupe, salmonella from peanut products and E-coli from fresh vegetables have the health community concerned. Register for the webinar.

U.S. House Approves Human Trafficking Bills

The House approved five bills on human trafficking. NCSL strongly supports two—H.R. 3530 and H.R. 3610—because they would strengthen trafficking enforcement and provide assistance to trafficking victims. The Senate is expected to take up companion legislation in June.

Tools of the Trade from the NCSL Archives: Social Media

GlobeTo take full advantage of the power of social media, here are some lessons learned from the successes and failures of others. Full article.


Saving for College: 529 Plans

Now more than ever, people need a college degree to obtain stable, well-paying jobs. At the same time, however, college continues to become more expensive. 529 plans provide a way for families to save money for college now and be better positioned to afford higher education in the future. Full report.

Military and Veterans' Affairs Database

FlagThe database includes introduced, pending, enacted and failed legislation since 2010. Topics relate to base realignment and closure (BRAC), education, employment benefits and licensing, health, insurance and death benefits, mental health, mission sustainability, readiness, Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) benefits, taxation, and spousal employment issues. Database.