The Legislative Women's Caucus is an organization of women elected to the New York State Legislature. Today, 47 women serve in both the Assembly and the Senate. These women represent urban, suburban and rural districts across New York State.
Through the Caucus, women state legislators work to:
- improve the participation of women in all areas of government,
- support issues that affect and benefit women in New York State, and
- provide a network of support for women in the State Legislature.
Since its beginning in 1983, the Caucus has worked closely with women's organizations and concerned individuals across the state, as well as with the Governor, state agencies and other legislators to advocate for programs and services that benefit women.
Caucus members determine priorities for each legislative session. Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MWBE), and the under representation of women in public office are some of the priorities this year. The state budget, specifically state appropriations to programs and services for women, and legislation that affects women are annual priorities.
During the legislative session the Caucus meets every two or three weeks. The meetings include presentations about public policy questions or initiatives that are important to the Caucus and women in New York State. The agendas also include an opportunity for members to raise and discuss issues that they identify as important. If there is a consensus among Caucus members, the Caucus will then advocate for public policies to benefit women.
In addition to the state budget, criminal justice policies, women's health care, child and dependent care and education are also important concerns. The Caucus was instrumental in facilitating the installation of state-of-the-art nursing and baby changing facilities throughout the Legislative Office Building, to make it easier for the thousands of parents who work and visit the Capitol to meet their families' needs.
Caucus members have met with the both the American Heart Association and Dr. Ferdinand Venditti, noted Cardiologist and Professor at Albany Medical Center to discuss heart disease in women; with Dr. Maureen Killackey, Gynecologic Oncologist, Physician-in-Chief and Medical Director, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) Regional Care Network, to discuss cervical cancer and the impact of clinical trials on women's health. Community health care providers from across the state met with the Caucus to talk about the reality of frontline medical care for the poor and the impact of Medicaid policy on both providers and patients, most of whom are women.
The women presidents of CUNY and SUNY have joined Caucus members to talk about issues that concern women faculty and students at public colleges and universities. Deborah Small of the Drug Policy Foundation from the Lindersmith Center in New York City discussed the effect of the Rockefeller Drug Law on women; the New York State Child Care Coordinating Council discussed the role of state regulations in quality assurance for child care; and Donna Lopiano of the Women's Sports Foundation discussed Title IX and women in sports.
The Caucus meetings also offer an opportunity to network with colleagues in the executive branch of government. Caucus members have met with Former Lieutenant Governor Mary Donohue; Former Commissioner Katherine Lapp of the Division for Criminal Justice Services; Former Commissioner Jean Somers Miller of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and Sheryl Dicker; Executive Director of the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children; and Chief Judge Judith Kaye and Judge Jonathan Lippman on the Court Restructuring Plan. Caucus members also welcomed the Honorable Syringa Marshall-Burnett, President of the Senate in Jamaica, West Indies, to the New York State Legislature.
In addition to periodic meetings, the Caucus begins each legislative session with a breakfast or luncheon and ends each session with a dinner for current and former women state legislators.
The Caucus office and staff are an information and research resource about women's issues for legislators, their staff and constituents. The Caucus staff monitors Assembly and Senate legislation that particularly affects women in New York and reports on bills that pass both houses, as well as executive policies and court decisions on a wide range of issues of interest to the Caucus and the women of New York. Each year the Caucus reports on the impact of state budget proposals on women's health, their families, jobs and businesses. They also help legislators respond to constituent inquiries including questions about domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace and entrepreneurial assistance.
At the request of the Caucus, the staff researches, analyzes and reports on specific public policy issues such as breast cancer programs, family courts and alternatives to incarceration for women drug offenders. In addition, the Caucus has issued reports about the Family Medical Leave Act, the rights of pregnant women in the workplace and the child care workforce and child support legislation. These reports are available to all state legislators and the public.
The Caucus office maintains data about women elected to office from New York State. After an election, it issues a statistical report about women candidates and those elected to office. The Caucus has also initiated several projects to record the personal and political histories of women elected to the state legislature. "In Our Own Voice" collects the oral histories of women elected to the New York State Assembly and Senate. Interviews with the state legislators are available to the public through the New York State Archives. "Lawmakers" is a Caucus publication that sketches the historical, legislative and personal perspectives of women lawmakers since 1919.
Each year the Legislative Women's Caucus celebrates National Women's History Month during the month of March with an exhibit on display in the Legislative Office Building.
In 2012 our display recognized "Women Firsts in the Legislature" we also interviewed members in "Inspired to Lead: Why We Do What We Do" - excerpts from this video are available on our website at the following link: http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/women_caucus/inspire/.
In 2010 our exhibit "Inspired to Succeed: Women Who Influenced Our Lives" gave Caucus members the opportunity to salute the women who most influenced their lives.
The Caucus re-elected Assemblywoman Michele Titus as Chair, Donna Lupardo as First-Vice Chair, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey is Second Vice-Chair, Assemblywoman Vivian Cook as Secretary; the Treasurer position is currently vacant. The delegates-at-large are: Assemblywomen Sandra Galef, Vanessa Gibson, Ellen Jaffee, Barbara Lifton, Annie Rabbitt, and Linda Rosenthal and Senators Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Catharine Young. The officers and delegates serve for two year terms.
Shirley Tranholm serves as the Executive Director of the Legislative Women's Caucus.