By: Tram Nguyen, April, 2019
The 191st legislative session of the Massachusetts General Court is well underway on Beacon Hill with a record number of women represented in the first-year class.
The House of Representatives welcomes 12 women among its 23 new legislators. In the Senate, 3 of the 5 newly-elected Senators are women. The Senate is led by its third female President, Senator Karen E. Spilka, and Representative Patricia A. Haddad resumes the role of Speaker Pro-Tempore in the House, a position she has held since 2011. Female legislators now comprise 28.5 percent of the Massachusetts legislature. The previous high point reached last in 2009 (as well as 2003, 2000, and 1999) was 52 women or 26 percent of the legislature.
“I am proud to be part of an incoming class that is fifty percent women. Women are running for office and winning, which means better representation and allows for more innovative solutions. I am committed to working toward a more equitable, inclusive, and prosperous Massachusetts that works for all,” said Representative Tram Nguyen, who is the first Asian American to join the Caucus’s Board of Directors.
The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, a bicameral and bipartisan group of legislators, is chaired this session by Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Representative Liz Malia (D-Boston). The Caucus’ Board of Directors also includes: Vice-Chairs Representative Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen) and Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston) as Treasurer, former House Chair Representative Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury), Representative Tram Nguyen (D-Andover), Representative Chynah Tyler (D-Boston), Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), and Representative Carole Fiola (D-Fall River).
The Caucus also convenes four taskforces to examine the following issues: Sexual Assault, co-chaired by Representatives Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) and Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield); Pre-term Birth and Maternal Health, headed by Speaker Pro-Tempore Haddad (D-Somerset); Justice Involved Women, led by Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton) and Representative Christine Barber (D-Somerville), the latter spearheads the Caucus Bylaw Review as well. Leaders of the taskforces are also members of the Caucus’ Board of Directors.
In January, prior to the technical beginning of the new session, the Caucus saw the passage of a long-time priority, An Act providing for equitable coverage in disability policies, championed by Representative Ruth Balser (D-Newton). This law prohibits gender discrimination in disability insurance policies. Following that strong start, the Caucus named seven priorities for the new session.
The Caucus continues to prioritize combatting sexual assault on college campuses and express strong support for H.1208/S.736, An Act requiring sexual misconduct climate surveys at institutions of higher education, The Joint Committee on Higher Education will publicly hear the bill on Tuesday, April 9th.
Other Caucus priorities include: An Act amending the statute of limitations regarding criminal prosecutions of the crimes of sexual assault and rape of child, An Act to end child marriage in Massachusetts (the Senate file of this bill will be heard on March 26th), An Act relative to the penalties for the crime of female genital mutilation, An Act supporting parents running for public office, An Act relative to Medicaid coverage for doula services, and An Act requiring one fair wage. ◊