May 2013 e-Newsletter
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The National Women’s Political Caucus is excited to announce that it will hold its 21st Biennial National Convention from August 9, 2013, through August 11, 2013, at the Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown/Convention Center in Austin, Texas! A key portion of this conference is the election of NWPC’s officers. The deadline to announce a run for National office is June 25th. Please reach out to Bettina at the National Office if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Convention Committee has been working hard to lay out a great program for the Convention, and the four tracks for breakout sessions:
The Committee has already secured state and nationally recognized experts for presenting in the breakout sessions, and main speakers will be announced as they confirm.
Members who register by June 11th will be eligible for the Super Early Bird price of $200 (a $50 savings!), July 11th is the Early Bird registration cut-off date ($225) and August 2nd is the Registration Deadline ($250) Register for your spot now!Register for your spot now!
The NWPC is celebrating its next 40 years by launching the NWPC Foundation. Donations provide long-term financial support for the next generation of women in politics. Everyone is welcome to be a Founder with a donation of $2,000, and we also appreciate donations of any size! Founders receive recognition on the growing Founders list. When the Foundation matures, earned interest will fund NWPC programs and local caucuses. Click here for more information.
Stephanie Franklin is a D.C. area native, and graduated from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland last spring. She is now a rising sophomore at Harvard University. Stephanie has not yet declared a major, but she has strong interests in both government and engineering and is very excited to be working closely on the former with the NWPC.
In high school, Stephanie was very involved in competitive debate, and she has also worked to increase female involvement in the typically male-dominated activity. At Harvard, she writes editorials for her student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, mentors high school students in debate, and experiments with various sports.
There have been some Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) developments in recent months. On May 9, 2013, U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin introduced S.J. Res. 15, which is a joint resolution removing the deadline for the ratification of the equal rights amendment and declaring it complete when three-quarters of the states ratify the ERA (thus saying that the current 35 state ratifications are viable). U.S. Senator Mark Kirk was the lead Republican sponsor of the bill, known as the “Three-state strategy” legislation. It has 22 cosponsors, and it has been referred to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. In conjunction with the Senate introduction on May 9, 2013, U.S. Congressman Robert Andrews (D-NJ) introduced the H.J.Res.43, which is the companion bill to Cardin’s bill, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The House bill has 31 cosponsors, and it has been referred to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary.
Multiple states have also been working on the ERA. ERA bills have failed to move in Arkansas and Florida. In Arkansas on April 2, 2013, SJR 19, which is a bill ratifying the ERA, did not pass out of the Arkansas Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs. In Florida in April 2013, the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee reviewed but did not vote on HCR 8001, which is also a bill to ratify the ERA. In Illinois, Representatives Lou Lang, Kelly Cassidy, and Naomi Jakobsson sponsored JCRCA0007, which would ratify the ERA. In North Carolina, an event urging support for the ERA called “Simple Justice, Long Overdue” occurred on May 15, 2013, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
On April 10, 2013, the U.S. Senate confirmed Recreation Equipment Inc. (REI) CEO Sally Jewell to be the U.S. Interior Secretary in an 87-11 vote. Republicans supplied all of the “no” votes. Two days later, Jewell was sworn in as the 51st Secretary of Interior.
On April 11, 2013, the U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works held a full committee hearing on the nomination of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy to be the EPA Administrator. Republicans have been continuing to block the nomination of McCarthy, and on May 9, 2013, Republican U.S. Senators’ boycott stalled a scheduled committee vote on the nomination of McCarthy.
Sylvia Burwell has become the new Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). On April 17th, the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the U.S. Senate Budget Committee approved this nomination. The U.S. Senate confirmed her with a 96-0 vote on April 24th.
On May 2, 2013, Barack Obama nominated Penny Pritzker as U.S. Secretary of Commerce. A Chicago businesswoman, she is founder, Chairman, and CEO of PSP Capital Partners and Pritzker Realty Group. This Stanford University trustee also co-founded Artemis Real Estate Partners. On May 23, 2013, the U.S. Senate Committee held a confirmation hearing about Pritzker’s nomination. The committee plans to vote on this nomination in June.
Mary Jo White became the new Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). After serving as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002, White led more than 200 lawyers as the Chair of the litigation department at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York. On April 8, 2013, the U.S. Senate confirmed White’s nomination by unanimous consent.
On May 1, 2013, the White House named Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Mignon Clyburn to be Acting Chair of the FCC. Clyburn became the first female to Chair the FCC, and she will Chair the SEC during the transition period at the FCC.
In March 2013, Edith Ramirez became the Chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Once Barack Obama’s colleague at the Harvard Law Review, Ramirez became the first Latina FTC Chair. Since April 2010, she had been a FTC Commissioner.
The Veteran Feminists of America plan to produce an exhibit that will document the feminist movement during the latter half of the 20th century, and are seeking donations. Examples of helpful materials are artwork, newspaper articles and other written material, photos, clothing worn at demonstrations, invitations, bumper stickers, and video or audio recordings. They ask that you respond by July 15 with photos and/or descriptions of any materials you might have, the year and place of the activity, your name and contact information, and a statement that you intend to donate these items to VFA’s Saving the Feminist Legacy. They are also looking for information about an available exhibit site, as well as a storage site with someone on premises to receive, record, and assure safe, climate-controlled temporary housing for donated items. Help the VFA preserve the legacy of the feminist movement! . Click here for more information.
Dear NWPC Members and Friends,
Many of our conversations for the past few months have been framed with some optimism around wins and advances with issues that we care deeply about. After the 2012 proclamation of another Year of the Woman (and some visible evidence that the title was valid when we saw the highest number of women ever elected to the US Senate, and other wins by women in several areas even beyond elected office) we have seen other signs that seem to say the time continues, that this is time for women to expand our efforts.
As NWPC has worked for more than forty-one years to help recruit, train, and elect qualified women to office, and when we began, fewer than 5% of members of Congress were women. After our 2012 Year of the Woman, as of January 2013, the percentage of women in Congress is 18.3%, according to the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. Progress, absolutely. Enough? No way.
We have seen the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed. That Act reinstates the rule in place prior to Ledbetter, frequently called the paycheck accrual rule, so that the 180-day time limit for filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC begins to run anew after each discriminatory paycheck is received. Thank you for supporting fair pay and nondiscrimination.
This spring we watched the news of President Obama signing reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act (finally reauthorized, again!) and felt pride that our calls and emails and other means of support to encourage this Congressional Act passage made a difference. Thank you for your efforts.
In January we marked the 40th Anniversary celebration of Roe v Wade, and while we rejoiced that it happened, we all also felt slightly uncomfortable because we know that it is not won forever, and that it can be taken away unless we remain on vigil. Thank you for staying vigilant, and continuing to speak up.
I have been impressed with NWPC state and local caucuses’ news lately in new projects and new efforts, in finding newer approaches to reaching more women who want to support others to run, or who choose to run for office themselves. You are reaching out in more partnerships and collaborations, and I applaud you for that. You are growing in number but also in method for reaching out, but we must redouble our efforts, because the progress we have made is definitely not enough. The goal of 50/50 by 2020 was adopted by one of our biennial conventions a few years ago, and recently at a large coalition of women’s organizations, someone remembered that slogan and said that it was such a good one, and why shouldn’t we all begin thinking of what kind of results we could see by 2020 if we coalesced our numbers and powers and made the earth move. 50/50 by 2020 is ours, but we will gladly ask others to adopt the NWPC goal, and join in the effort. So again, thank you for what you have been doing, and for what you are still doing, and for what you will continue as we move to the future. We can do this. We can get to 50/50 by 2020.
A book by Sheryl Sandberg, an executive with Facebook, wrote a book that is getting lots of visibility and buzz, Lean In. Local groups have been formed for discussion, online Lean In discussions seem to be growing, and the concept seems to be well received in many circles, although in others, Ms. Sandberg is getting plenty of criticism. One of her statements just jumps out to me. “Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry....”
This week a group of elected women here in Central Texas who meets quarterly to discuss issues important to women, and they discussed the Lean In concept. This group, established about five years ago by women Trustees of the Board of the community college that employs me, expands throughout our college service area, designated by the Texas Legislature to cover most of eight counties in this region. The total number of elected women, who are from local school district boards, county and city offices such as mayor or councilmember or commissioner, county clerk and other county elected offices, is 191. The area of External Affairs of the college provides staffing for these meetings, and my staff attends these quarterly meetings. What we heard in the discussion and interaction was very much what I have said earlier here—there are lots of areas where we can declare wins, and celebrate laws that are passed (or bad ones that we have helped prevent from passage), and there is a feeling that this is our time, a time for women to achieve and move into our own. This group also felt that while we are seeing momentum, and do feel some success, we should expand efforts, reach further, and they agreed to meet more often, so that all could provide better support for each other!
This August we will have our biennial Convention, and we need each of you to come, and to be prepared to speak up, to help as we define our next steps, and then to step up as we increase our efforts.
On April 16, 2013, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced S. 744, “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” This bill is known as the “Gang of Eight bill” because the bill was the result of the conversations of the Gang of Eight of U.S. Senators: Michael Bennett (D-CO), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Earlier, on March 7, 2013, president Obama signed the “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013” into law. The act contains key provisions relating to immigration, including increased protections for U visa petitioners and an extension of the application of the Prison Rape Elimination Act to include immigration detention facilities. The act also allows the children of a VAWA self-petitioner to retain eligibility for lawful permanent residence in the event that the qualifying relative passes away after an application is filed. However, VAWA fell short on some immigration issues, and left out an increase in the number of U visas allotted each year, a key provision that had been in the failed Senate VAWA renewal bill of 2012.
S.744 would take more steps toward ensuring protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence, and fix some of the problems left over after the VAWA renewal. The bill contains the U visa expansion that was left out of the VAWA renewal act. It also provides that in the event of death, divorce, or domestic violence of a spouse or a parent, dependent family members could continue their route to citizenship.
The immigration bill currently faces a tough debate in the Senate, as Republicans demand increased border security, restricted government benefits for newly-documented immigrants, and tougher citizenship requirements, provisions that might cause the bill to lose support from liberal Democrats.
Congress has yet to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. The act would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and is an effort to close loopholes in equal pay requirements mandated by the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that have allowed the wage gap to remain at its current level, with women still earning an average of 77 cents for every dollar made by men. Specifically, the Paycheck Fairness Act would prohibit employer retaliation against employees who share salary information, strengthen penalties for equal pay violations, and require certain actions by the federal government to reduce wage discrimination, among other provisions.
In 2009, and again in 2012, the bill failed to pass, and progress is now similarly stalled. On April 9, in honor of Equal Pay Day, Democrats pushed to pass the bill, and President Obama affirmed his support for the legislation in a proclamation issued by his office. On April 11, however, every House Republican present voted to block a vote on the House version of the bill, H.R. 377. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), also filed a discharge petition April 11, which would force a vote on the bill if at least 218 representatives sign the petition. The discharge petition currently has 197 signatures.
On May 7, the Defense Department released a report which estimated that 26,000 incidents of sexual assault took place in the armed forces during the 2012 fiscal year, with only 10 percent going to trial. That number also represents a 35 percent increase since the 2010 report. Many, including president Obama, have expressed outrage at the report’s findings, and female members of Congress are now spearheading efforts to reform military policy in order to better prevent and respond to sexual assault.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bill that would give military prosecutors, who are outside the chain of command, the authority to decide what cases to try. Other proposed reforms in the Senate include the prohibition of sexual contact between basic training instructors and students, providing military lawyers to alleged victims throughout the legal process, and toughening the Pentagon’s investigation standards. Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) are also sponsoring similar legislation in the House.
Some attribute current Congressional attention to the issue to an increase in the number of female members of Congress. Bloomberg News, for example, compared the current Congressional response to a lack of action in 1991, when there were only two female senators and very little was done in response to a sexual assault scandal at the Tailhook Navy aviators’ convention in Las Vegas.
On April 9, 2013, Democrat former Illinois State Representative Robin Kelly won a special general Congressional election in Illinois’ second Congressional district for the seat of former U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. with 72 percent of the vote. This mainly Democratic district includes Chicago’s South Side and some of Chicago’s southern suburbs. Kelly had won the February 26th Democratic primary election with help from gun control supporters, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. After representing the 38th House district in the General Assembly, Kelly became the first African-American Chief of Staff to a constitutional officer in the history of Illinois. On April 11, 2013, Kelly was sworn into Congress.
On May 7, 2013, scandal-plagued Republican Mark Sanford defeated Democratic businesswoman Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of Stephen Colbert, in a special Congressional election in the first Congressional district of South Carolina. This seat was vacated when Republican U.S. Congressman Tim Scott was appointed to replace U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, who had left the U.S. Senate to be the President of the Heritage Foundation. Sanford’s election might hurt Republicans’ chances with reaching out to women. Soon after Sanford was sworn into Congress in on May 15, 2013, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Emily Bittner said “Today when Mark Sanford raised his right hand, he became the newest face of a Republican Congress already struggling with women voters.”
First-term NWPC-endorsed U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen is up for reelection in 2014 in New Hampshire. She is the first female in U.S. history to be elected a Governor and a U.S. Senator. In 1996, she became the first female elected governor of New Hampshire. She also became the first woman elected to represent New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate. Shaheen has been a strong supporter of women’s rights. The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law, includes the Shaheen Amendment, which provides abortion coverage to servicewomen who had been raped. She also helped with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Shaheen might be vulnerable in the 2014 election cycle, but she is favored to win a second term in this swing state.
First-term North Carolina-native, NWPC-endorsed U.S. Senator Kay Hagan is also up for reelection in 2014 in North Carolina. When she defeated Republican incumbent U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole in 2008, she became the first woman to defeat an incumbent female U.S. Senator. Pro-choice Hagan cares about women’s rights. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which tried to end pay discrimination at work and which is now law, was the first bill that Hagan cosponsored in the U.S. Senate. Hagan is thought to be vulnerable in 2014.
Second-term Hawaii-native, NWPC-endorsed U.S. Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa is running for U.S. Senate in 2014. If Hanabusa is elected, Hawaii will be the first state with two Asian-American female U.S. Senators. Hanabusa has shown support for women’s rights by signing the Equal Rights Amendment and cosponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act, which helps to achieve pay equity for all by updating the Equal Pay Act. Hanabusa is challenging first-term appointed U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). Since Hawaii is a Democratic state, a Democrat most likely will win this U.S. Senate race.
The National Women’s Political Caucus’ and NWPC CA’s April 21, 2013, brunch honoring Sandra Fluke was a success, with over 75 people in attendance. NWPC CA will have state board meetings in July 2013 and October 2013. http://www.nwpcca.org/
On June 20, 2013, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus will host the “Women & Politics: How to Run for Office” training seminar in Salem, Massachusetts. Speakers include Helen Corbett, Joyce Ferriabough-Bolling, Meg Hogan, Kristin MacEachern, Susan Tracy, and Meredith Warren. At the event, attendees can learn about beginning a campaign, working with the media, and raising money. http://www.mwpc.org/
On April 27, 2013, at the Missouri Secretary of State Office Building, the Missouri State Women’s Political Caucus, the National Women’s Political Caucus of Metro St. Louis, the Capitol Women’s Political Caucus, Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus, and other groups participated in the Missouri Women’s March, which was sponsored by the Missouri Women United. Speakers at that event included former Rep. Deleta Williams, President of Missouri State Women’s Political Caucus Barb Womack, Michelle Trupiano, and Margot McMillen. At 7 p.m. on June 27, 2013, the Missouri State Women’s Political Caucus will hold membership meetings. http://www.mowpc.org/
NWPC-South Dakota has been busy in April and in May. It held General Caucus Meetings on April 6, 2013, and May 4, 2013. http://www.nwpcsd.org/
On April 9, 2013, the National Women’s Political Caucus of Texas held a Blue Ribbon Lobby Day and a happy hour. On that day, participants learned about issues and visited offices of members of the state legislature. http://www.nwpc-tx.org/
In May 2013, the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington made endorsements of local candidates. http://www.wpcnet.org/