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9 Major Legislative Actions Taken By Young Women in Elected Office

News & Analysis

Women are running for office in record numbers, and it's a massive win not just for women but for the entire country. Women serving on our school boards, in our state houses, and on the Hill are already improving the lives of their constituents. They’re paving the way for groundbreaking policies that remove barriers to contraception, improve access to substance abuse treatment, address sexual harassment, and more. We are proud that many of them have joined People For the American Way Foundation's Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network—a nonpartisan network of more than 1,000 elected officials in every state in the nation and in offices at all levels of government. Here are a few examples of the amazing work that the women of the YEO Network have accomplished recently.

1. Tackling Sexual Harassment in Colorado: Rep. Faith Winter and House Speaker Crisanta Duran

In a powerful moment for the #MeToo movement, two Colorado state representatives, Faith Winter and Crisanta Duran, led a historic vote to expel a serial sexual harasser from the Colorado House. Rep. Winter was one of eleven women who brought accusations of sexual harassment against Rep. Steve Lebsock. This was the first time since 1915 that a member of the Colorado House was expelled.

2. Reforming the Criminal Justice System in Portsmouth, VA: Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales

Virginia has the lowest recidivism rates for formerly incarcerated people, partly thanks to programs like Portsmouth, VA Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales's Ctrl-Alt-Del Program, which seeks to demystify reentry and post-incarceration life. She has also advocated for raising Virginia's felony larceny threshold, reforming the cash-bail system to help end mass incarceration, and making changes to Virginia's asset forfeiture law to protect the rights of citizens. Serving as an example for the country, Morales was able to hold a police officer accountable for the killing of an unarmed Black teen by obtaining a conviction.

3. Improving Access to Birth Control in Iowa: Rep. Liz Bennett

Nearly all women in the U.S. who have had sexual intercourse (90 percent) have used some form of contraception, but there are still a number of barriers that can prevent women from consistently obtaining birth control. In early February, Iowa state Rep. Liz Bennett introduced a new bill that would require insurance companies to cover a 12-month supply of contraception for recurring patients—helping to reduce barriers to women’s access. Then in March, Rep. Bennett introduced a bill to hold employers accountable for discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions.

4. Grappling with Police Brutality in Albany, NY: Council Member Dorcey Applyrs

Even as the Trump-Sessions Department of Justice tries to bury police reforms, Albany Common Council Member Dorcey Applyrs has convened community conversations with police on countering implicit bias while the POLICE are also going through their own implicit bias trainings. To help hold police accountable, she worked on and passed legislation that makes sure officers will present civilians with a business card with their information on the front and Citizen's Police Review Board contact information on the back—no matter who’s in charge of the police department or the city. She is currently working on a resolution to encourage the New York State Legislature to pass legislation to form a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct.

5. Standing Up to Discrimination in Milwaukee County, Michigan: Supervisor Marcelia Nicholson

Hate and extremist groups are on the rise, which makes the passing of an anti-discrimination resolution in Milwaukee County, led by County Board Supervisor Marcelia Nicholson last February, important both symbolically and for the real safety of all people. “It shouldn’t matter if someone’s name is Michael, Muhammad, Miguel, Marina or Marcelia," said Supervisor Nicholson, "now is the time to resist President Trump’s policies of hate and division and protect our neighbors who have and continue to make invaluable contributions to our country."

6. Taking on Gun Reform in New Jersey: Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera

As March For Our Lives events were bringing together hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country, the New Jersey legislature was gearing up to pass six gun violence prevention bills. Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera was among the cosponsors. She previously worked on legislation to restrict access to firearms for convicted domestic abusers and those subject to domestic violence restraining orders in New Jersey, which was vetoed twice by Gov. Chris Christie. An additional bill that was cosponsored by Assemblywoman Mosquera that helps improve access to small business loans for women- and minority-owned businesses was signed into law this January.

7. Addressing Substance Abuse in Colorado: Rep. Brittany Pettersen

The opioid crisis in the U.S. requires action from lawmakers at all levels. Colorado Rep. Brittany Pettersen took up the call for action this March when she sponsored a series of bills to help address substance abuse and bring down health care costs, including bills to create a committee to study the problem and offer possible legislative solutions and expand access to residential and inpatient treatment. Rep. Pettersen is the House sponsor on a Senate bill that would limit opioid prescriptions and change requirements for refills.

8. Protecting Health Care Coverage in Connecticut: Sen. Mae Flexer

On the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, Connecticut Sen. Mae Flexer joined a coalition of state lawmakers and local advocates who announced plans to introduce several bills aimed at addressing health disparities for women in the state. "We’re going to make sure that in Connecticut women will be able to maintain the health care benefits that they deserve, regardless of what the failed leadership in Washington, D.C. decides to do,” Flexer said, as reported by The Connecticut Mirror. Flexer also noted plans to tackle preventive health care and a “truth-in-advertising standard” for clinics.

9. Bringing Paid Leave to Families in Colorado: Rep. Faith Winter

At a time when paid family leave is getting little more than lip service in Washington, Colorado state Rep. Faith Winter sponsored a bill to create an employee-funded program that would allow private employees to take paid family and medical leave. On April 16, the Colorado House passed the bill and sent it to the Senate.