Legislator Panel in Palm Beach County

On Saturday, October 12, I moderated a panel of legislators invited by the Palm Beach County branch of AAUW. The panelists were Sen. Bobby Powell of District 30 of the Florida State Senate, Sen. Lori Berman of District 31, and US Congress Representative Lois Frankel. All are supportive of our issues. In hopes that this might provide a useful model and alert you to some current issues, I am posting the questions I sent out to these legislators ahead of time. The topics of AAUW’s interests were economic security, civil rights, and educational equity. You may download the document below:

We were not able to cover all the topics. If you use this document, you might want to pick and choose, and modify in the case of less friendly lawmakers. The legislators did have interesting comments. Sen. Linda Stewart has filed the Helen Gordon Davis Equal Pay Protection Act again this year as SB 90, along with Berman, Lauren Book (Dist. 32) and Janet Cruz (Dist. 18) as co-sponsors (see below). Berman unsuccessfully filed what she called a “carrot bill” last year to favor companies that demonstrated pay equity in state contracts, but the committee hearing she was promissed never occurred. She pointed out that two thirds of minimum wage employees in Florida are women, and that healthcare is a major issue in their economic security. Sen. Powell mentioned his intense interest in this issue because of his daughters. US Representative Frankel noted that the US House has already passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would cover the same ground as the Helen Gordon Davis act in Florida. It has not been considered in the Senate.

In terms of civil rights, Sen. Berman pointed out that the parental consent bill may pass in the Florida legislature (SB 404, HB 265). It would require parental consent for abortions performed on minor children. Presently, Florida simply requires notification. This will cause problems in chaotic family situations and in situations of family sexual abuse. Rep. Frankel supports the national Women’s Health Protection Act (see below), which would counteract the many state efforts to limit access to abortion and threaten providers. When I mentioned AAUW’s support for restoring voting rights to former felons, Sen. Powell mentioned that there are groups organizing in the area to address the issue of financial obligations which have been labeled a poll tax.

The legislators were asked how we can best influence legislation to support our issues. They offered several worthwhile suggestions:

  • Be authentic and bring in personal stories whenever possible. Part of being authentic is speaking for yourself and not sending canned messages. We love our Two Minute Activist, but Sen. Powell said it is possible to just filter out these messages. Write your own by going to the legislator’s website and filling out their forms. You can also tweet them on their sites.
  • Infiltrate organizations that are not as friendly to your issues!
  • Make sure the legislator knows that you are a constituent and recruit other constituents to advocate.
  • Always say thank you to legislators who do support your issues.

With reference to the above, we presented Sen. Lori Berman with a framed resolution thanking her for her continued support for equal pay legislation.

Author: Pat DeWitt

I am a retired institutional researcher, a musician and musicologist, and support AAUW as well as several environmental causes.

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