Oregon’s 77th Legislative Assembly has begun and we have some female powerhouses in the legislature. My own representative, Carolyn Tomei, served as presiding officer of the House, calling the House Chamber to order. She is also chair of the House Human Services and Housing Committee, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is serving on the joint Ways and Means Committee. The Ways and Means Committee, which allocates money, is a powerful committee. Representative Tina Kotek, Oregon’s only openly gay member of the legislature, is the Speaker of the House. My Senator, Diane Rosenbaum, is again serving as Majority Leader of the Senate and Chair of the Rules Committee. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, women make up 27.8% of the Oregon Legislature. That puts us 16th out of 50 for most women in the legislature. Ellen Rosenblum is Oregon’s 1st woman attorney general.
Ok, but not great. Ten years ago 1/3 of the legislature was made up of women. Still, I have high hopes for this group. Representative Tomei made headway in 2011 in combatting sex trafficking in Oregon, securing harsher penalties for people buying sex from underage prostitutes. 2011 HB 2235 became law, requiring the Oregon Health Authority to provide informational materials on maternal mental health. This past December, she spoke at a Women’s Health Conference, sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislature, about the successes of the Oregon Women’s Health and Wellness Alliance. With this group, Representative Tomei has championed insurance coverage for reproductive health, protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence, and pro-family policies in the workplace. She also works to recruit more women to politics. Senator Rosenbaum worked last session to pass legislation helping homeowners facing foreclosure, end discrimination against the unemployed in the workplace, and continue development of Oregon’s Coordinated Care Organizations.
Both of my legislators have also been incredibly accessible. I met numerous times with Senator Rosenbaum’s aide Brian Worley and met with Representative Tomei about interior design legislation. While certainly not on the top of Oregon’s priority list, my legislators generously gave me their attention and interest in this issue that is so important to me. I look forward to seeing how this session shapes up and how the women in power will shape Oregon’s priorities. I hope we continue to make headway in women’s health, combatting sex trafficking, family support, education, and of course, interior design legislation.