President’s Message February 2018 – Lobby Day Report

Welcome to February with Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day and our very own Galentine Day gala on February 15. Make sure to make plans to attend this meeting with guest presenters Terri Swarner and Dana Brown at the Camano Country Clubhouse. I know our program chairs, Lynda Buehring and Valerie Spagnolo, will have another great event for us as we celebrate the importance of friendship.
Monday, January 29, Leslie Gitomer, Lilija Tushinski and I attended AAUW Lobby Day in Olympia. The morning session was both interesting and well-attended. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson was especially well-received as the first speaker and, although he mentioned other areas of concern to his office, his focus today was on student debt. The amount of student debt in Washington alone is $24 billion! There are currently five bills in the legislature dealing with various aspects of this issue. AAUW is in support of all these measures because women hold 2/3 of the student debt in this country but take longer to pay it back because they are paid less. This debt impairs their ability to start families, save for homes and retirement, and accrue home equity. I was unaware of the size of the AG’s staff in Washington – 1,000 employees, and 600 attorneys; Ferguson, himself, works in the Seattle office.
The next speaker was Representative Tana Senn of the 41st District (Eastside, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Issaquah) who was a sponsor of the equal pay bill in the House. One statistic that she pointed out was that women are 80% more likely than men to live in poverty in retirement. HB1506 deals with equal pay and updates the existing equal pay act to address disparities, forbid employer discrimination and retaliation practices against workers who inquire about pay or reveal their pay to others; it has passed out of the House with no amendments. It is hoped that SB5140, its Senate counterpart, makes it through the Senate without amendment (one of these is promoted by Amazon). Senn is an impressive speaker with a strong voice for women’s issues in the legislature.
Pam Crone, AAUW’s lobbyist in Olympia, was the final speaker. She is a seasoned veteran of the legislative process and in her 18th year as a lobbyist. I was amazed at the amount of legislation proposed, 1,800 bills and counting, already in this 60-day session. Crone stated that it is difficult to keep up with all the issues but she certainly seemed to have a handle on this. Much of the new legislation impacts women; there are 3 separate reproductive right bills in the Senate right now. Perhaps 400-500 bills will actually be signed by the governor. Pam stated that she would be willing to come to branches to speak about her work in Olympia; I would love to see this happen at some future meeting.
In summary, AAUW was lobbying on Monday to support bills in three areas: equal pay, reproductive rights, and student loan rights. Certainly, this was a very informative day and one which affirms my commitment to AAUW and its mission.

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