HARRISBURG UPDATES | Recent legislative elections include several firsts for women
By Rep. Anita Kulik
History is made every day at the capitol through the passage of bills or other legislative events. But sometimes out-of-the-ordinary history is made, as it has been over the past two months.
On Feb. 28, the House of Representatives elected the first female Speaker of the House. Representative Joanna McClinton was elevated to the office, not only becoming the first woman, but also the second African American person to be named speaker. Speaker McClinton, a lawyer from Philadelphia, served as leader of the democratic caucus prior to receiving the vote for speaker.
On Jan. 20, the Honorable Debra Todd, a Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, became the first woman to be elevated to Chief Justice. Chief Justice Todd is from Western Pennsylvania and served on the Superior Court before being elected to the Supreme Court.
State Senator Kim Ward also hails from Western Pennsylvania. Senator Ward currently serves as the Senate President Pro Tempore. Prior to this, she served as the Senate Majority Leader. Senator Ward is the first woman to serve in both of these offices.
These three women have made history this year. Three out of the four highest elected offices in Pennsylvania are now held by women. Pennsylvania has yet to seat a woman in the governor’s office, but I firmly believe that day will surely be coming.
In line with this, March is International Women’s Month, a time to celebrate all that women do in our societies.
When I served on the Board of Commissioners in Kennedy Township, I was the only woman on the board. When I was first elected to the House of Representatives, I was the only female member of the Allegheny County Democratic Delegation, and one of only three women in the legislature from western Pennsylvania.
In my six years with the house, those numbers have changed. The house and senate, with both Republican and Democratic caucuses include many women members in the western Pennsylvania counties. With more women from our area, we can have productive conversations from members of both sides of the aisle on issues of mutual concern to our districts.
Women make up more than half the population of our commonwealth, yet remain underrepresented in our government. However, their numbers continue to grow especially since the beginning of the year.
There are many resources available to assist women who are interested in running for public office. Too often, women feel encumbered by other things in their lives and do not think they have the time or experience to hold public office. But those thoughts are changing as more and more women seek elected offices, and as they find that their spouses or significant others and family are there to support and encourage their efforts. In the past, often the thought was that a woman’s place is in the house.
Now, more and more people are recognizing that a woman’s place is in the House and in the Senate!
Issues of interest to many women are also being given priority in Harrisburg. Public education, childcare, healthcare for all ages, fair wages, domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment matters are all big topics for the upcoming legislative agendas. Female leaders have critical, unique insights into the issues involved.
Gov. Josh Shapiro is scheduled to present his proposed budget on March 7 to a joint session of the house and senate, prior to the deadline for this article. Hopefully, more funding will be allotted to education, childcare and healthcare expansion as the administration, the House and the Senate will be starting to form the budget. I continue to lobby for a more fair and balanced manner of funding education. Many school districts, including several I represent, need additional resources to meet their obligation to educate our youth.
Now is the time to address any budgetary concerns with your state legislators. Whether it has to do with taxes, school funding, infrastructure or any state related issue, it is important that your legislators hear from you.