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Women in Public Policy

Which veteran lawmaker is tone-deaf? Which one would pass out campaign yo-yos if she could? One even says she eats dessert first if it is available “just in case something happens” that would prevent her from enjoying it later.

The 50th Legislature, which started in January, features 31 women lawmakers, which is an increase of three over the 49th Legislature’s total of 28. While this group grapples with the most daunting budget situation ever in Arizona, we wanted to find out how much hope they have in the legislative process and what they think their co-workers might say about them.

We gave each woman lawmaker the chance to answer a four-question survey, with the caveat that each answer could only be two sentences.

Freshmen women lawmakers, defined in this survey generally as those who weren’t elected to serve in the 49th Legislature, were given questions about what law they would pass and where they’d allocate $1 million. Veteran women lawmakers were asked for their opinions on whether the legislative process works and what advice they’d give to this year’s freshmen.

Since, surprise, we do actually care about non-legislative matters, we also gave each woman lawmaker an individual question to try to take them entirely out of lawmaker mode. The responses prove that it worked — for the most part.

The answers to questions about emotional battles, favorite indulgences and dealing with late-night hotel parties, plus many more, are revealed in the following informal Arizona Capitol Times survey of freshmen and veteran women lawmakers.

Sen. Nancy Barto, R-District 7

Legislative Service: Senate since 2011; House (2006-2010)
You arrive home and your house is on fire. You have enough time to run in and grab one object. Don’t worry, your loved ones and pets have already made it out safely. What would you save and why?
Family photo albums — it’s difficult to replace old photos before digital photography.
Does the legislative process work?
It does.  It can be very difficult to change a statute because each of the 90 members look at a bill through a different lens. But we want it that way so that proposed laws do what they are intended to do without unintended consequences.
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
Ask questions and listen to all sides of an issue.
What do your co-workers say about you?
Hopefully that I am thoughtful and committed to serving the state well.

Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, D-District 16

Legislative Service: Senate since 2007; House (1999-2006)
If you could choose only one, would you rather have your dream job or soul mate for the rest of your life?
That is the easiest thing I have ever answered. My soul mate!
Does the legislative process work?
I have seen the legislative process work very well and I have also seen times where it has seemed that the process is broken.  I have had many bills throughout my tenure in the Legislature on various subjects make it successfully through the legislative process.
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
The main advice I would give to freshmen is always remember that your word is your bond and to never lose sight of whom you are representing.
What do your co-workers say about you?
Many say that I am a great advocate for the people in my district and across this state.

Sen. Linda Gray, R-District 10

Legislative Service: Senate since 2005; House (1997-2004)
How do you handle a social situation when you cannot remember the name of a person you know you’ve met before?
Folks are really gracious and understanding and almost always help out with an introduction if I cannot retrieve their name.  I do the same.  I have certainly come to appreciate nametags!
If you could create legislation that you are assured would get passed, what would it be?
Initiative Reform — including sunset reviews, back-on-the ballot provisions, real, identified sources of funding, and tied-to-revenue availability.  There are other priorities just as important, but this is a great example.
If you had $1 million to allocate anywhere, what would you do with it and why?
Prioritize and recapitalize agencies and entities whose funds have been swept, protect them from future sweeps and work to make them independent of the General Fund (fee or donations driven).  Examples would include the Agriculture Department or the Arts Commission.
What do your co-workers say about you?
You would have to ask them.  What I hope they would say is that I am honest and keep my word, that I try not to say anything bad about someone unless it is to that person, and that I work really hard on behalf of my constituents and causes.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-District 8

Legislative Service: House since 2011
Would you rather know everything right away about your mate, or be regularly surprised?
Of course you can’t know everything right away about your spouse, but after 28 years I’m really not surprised by anything.  I don’t like surprise events because I enjoy looking forward to that event or special occasion.
Does the legislative process work?
Yes, the process works, especially if you work together and know the rules and procedures.
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
Listen more than you talk.
What do your co-workers say about you?
I’m approachable and more willing to work with others to find common ground.

Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-District 16

Legislative Service: House since 2011
You decide you need some new clothes. Do you go right out and shop, or do you do research so you can find the best bargains?
I look for bargains, and once in a while, I will ignore the price tag.
If you could create legislation that you are assured would get passed, what would it be?
I would create a seamless education system with longer effective instruction time.  K-8 schools would all be effectively linked to their high school’s curriculum and vision and high schools would effectively be linked to our three Arizona colleges’ curriculum and vision.
If you had $1 million to allocate anywhere, what would you do with it and why?
I would create a premier pre-college Saturday program with a focus on SAT/ACT preparation with supplemental counseling.
What do your co-workers say about you?
I don’t focus on what people say and when I do, it is constructive advice or criticism regarding the legislative process and how to be more effective.

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-District 29

Legislative Service: Senate since 2009; House (2001-2008)
Do you live by the philosophy: “There’s always room for dessert”? Why or why not?
“There is always room for dessert!”  In fact, I take that saying one step further.  If dessert is on the table at the same time as the balance of the meal I always say “I’m eating dessert first just in case something happens that might prevent enjoying it later.”
Does the legislative process work?
The legislative process does not work.  The current process is based on power and control, which means that many Arizonans are not adequately represented in the process and the state as a whole is not well-cared for.
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
The most important piece of advice I can give freshmen legislators is to remember that they represent all of their constituents, not just those who elected them.
What do your co-workers say about you?
I suppose that what my co-workers say about me depends on who they are.  I’m sure there are those who like me and may even admire me, but I also know that what folks say directly to you and what they say when you’re not listening are often very different.

Rep. Lela Alston, D-District 15

Legislative Service: House since 2011; Senate (1977-1994)
What is your favorite guilty-pleasure snack, and how often do you indulge?
Mary Coyle’s peach ice cream.  It is only available for a short while in the summer months, but I try to indulge several times when it is available.
If you could create legislation that you are assured would get passed, what would it be?
Guaranteed funding for AHCCCS, KidsCare and the seriously mentally ill — A healthy society is a strong society.
If you had $1 million to allocate anywhere, what would you do with it and why?
I would give it to AHCCCS for a portion of the 3-1 federal match for transplants.  No one should face a death sentence due to lack of funding.
What do your co-workers say about you?
I am a passionate advocate for children and families and support a fully funded public education system that includes community colleges and universities.

Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-District 15

Legislative Service: House since 2011
What is your least favorite novel of all time?
Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” It is poorly written and way too long. She should have spared readers the story line and just written a(nother) book about her political philosophy — it would have saved a lot of trees.
If you could create legislation that you are assured would get passed, what would it be?
I would draft a bill to close tax loopholes and eliminate corporate tax credits (like Democrats have already done this year).
If you had $1 million to allocate anywhere, what would you do with it and why?
I would increase funding for family planning services for low income women.
What do your co-workers say about you?
I am funny, passionate, and have an opinion about everything, which I’m happy to share if you ask.

Rep. Anna Tovar, D-District 13

Legislative Service: House since 2009
What is the most important in a relationship: trust or love?
Both are important because I love the state of Arizona and want to see it have a strong future, but we the people have to be able to trust in a government that is on our side and working for all Arizonans.
Does the legislative process work?
Currently, the legislative process is a broken system that is not on your side: it lacks in transparency, efficiency and effectiveness, yet caters to special interests and the rich. Now more than ever, we need to hold government accountable to we the people, so that it is honest and effective, and we know how our money is spent so that we can have a better quality of life and a strong future.
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
I would encourage freshman lawmakers to stand up for what they believe in and do what’s right for Arizona — put Arizona first again by harnessing our natural strengths to build a strong 21st century economy and create good-paying jobs.
What do your co-workers say about you?
They say I am hard worker who stands up for my constituents and wants to hold state government accountable for their actions. They say I am dedicated to creating a government that is honest and effective, a government that we the people can trust.

Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-District 24

Legislative Service: House since 2007
If you don’t know the words to a song do you just improvise?
I am tone-deaf and I don’t sing out loud unless I am by myself.  I can’t tell I am off key.
Does the legislative process work?
What do you mean by work?  Does it work like you learned in school?  No.  The process works, but differently depending if you are in the majority or minority.
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
I would tell them all to listen, learn and never be afraid to ask questions.
What do your co-workers say about you?
I don’t know. I really think you should ask them.  I would like to think they say I am hard working and I care about my district and my state.

Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-District 10

Legislative Service: House since 2010
What would be the first thing you’d do if you inherited a yo-yo factory from your long-lost uncle?
I would hand out “Yes for Yee” yo-yos for my next campaign.
If you could create legislation that you are assured would get passed, what would it be?
A jobs bill. There is no better time than now to create jobs, keep businesses open, and bring back a robust economy in Arizona.
If you had $1 million to allocate anywhere, what would you do with it and why?
I would donate $1 million to advocacy programs to promote literacy and reading proficiency.  Reading is critical to a child’s academic achievement and it is so important for children to learn to read early on and well.
What do your co-workers say about you?
They would say I work hard and do my best to create good public policy.

Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-District 27

Legislative Service: Senate since 2011; (House 2003-2010)
Which is a stronger emotion: anger or love?
Love — I would give my life for my children.
Does the legislative process work?
I have tremendous respect for the legislative process. I certainly don’t agree with all the outcomes, but the process is the essence of America.
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
Leave your ego at the door.
What do your co-workers say about you?
I’m pragmatic and classy.

Rep. Doris Goodale, R-District 3

Legislative Service: House since 2009
How often do you clear your desk of stacks of stuff, and why?
I clear my desk, or make a valiant attempt to do so by the end of the week each week — Why? Because the immense pounds of mail and material we receive would soon slide off the desk and onto the floor and we would soon become archeologists — unearthing lost and buried items.
Does the legislative process work?
Yes, the legislative process works.
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
Be patient, breathe deep, leave egos at home and respect all others and the process.
What do your co-workers say about you?
I listen, I am friendly, I respect everyone and I try to employ common sense.

Sen. Michele Reagan, R-District 8

Legislative Service: Senate since 2011; (House 2003-2010)
If you had to give up one of your five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell), which would it be? Why?
Smell — I think I wouldn’t get as hungry or be as tempted if I couldn’t smell the food outside. Imagine the cute little suits I could buy then!
Does the legislative process work?
Yes, of course the process works!  Even though it feels like the system is nuts sometimes, I remind myself that this “process” has been in place since 1912 and Arizona is still here!
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
Don’t take anything personally — I know that’s easy to say and harder to do.  However, you will get so much more accomplished if you remember that debate and opinions are about the bill, not about you.
What do your co-workers say about you?
Who knows?!  I would hope they say that I am very open-minded and genuinely like working with people, even those who disagree with me.

Rep. Peggy Judd, R-District 25

Legislative Service: House since 2011
You’re asleep in a hotel room, and at 2 a.m., a party starts in the room next door. How long do you wait before you call the front desk to complain?
I just sleep right through it.  When I am out, I am out.
If you could create legislation that you are assured would get passed, what would it be?
Fence off the rest of the southern border of Arizona — double fence or triple with all-weather road — like Yuma County.
If you had $1 million to allocate anywhere, what would you do with it and why?
Give the transplants back to those who have been taken off the list.
What do your co-workers say about you?
That I am the nicest lady.

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-District 9

Legislative Service: House since 2009
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day? Why?
My husband. He is my best friend.
Does the legislative process work?
Yes. It is a great system that provides checks and balances and allows for public input.
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
Be patient, work hard, and realize that it may take several years to get important legislation through the system.
What do your co-workers say about you?
I hope they say that I am friendly, honest and hard-working.

Rep. Terri Proud, R-District 26

Legislative Service: House since 2011
What time in the morning do you first check your e-mails? How late at night?
I check my email first thing, normally around 8:30 a.m. I’ve been known to answer my emails as late as midnight.
If you could create legislation that you are assured would get passed, what would it be?
Put a cap on the amount governmental agencies — using taxpayer funds — pay for a lobbyist.
If you had $1 million to allocate anywhere, what would you do with it and why?
I would divide it in half.  One half I would allocate for a bonus to the teachers and the other half directly to teachers to spend in their classrooms.
What do your co-workers say about you?
You would have to ask them.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-District 15

Legislative Service: Senate since 2011; (House 2005-2010)
Did you ever buy your dream car? If so, what was it? If not, why not?
Yes, my Honda Insight, one of the first fuel-efficient vehicles when fuel-efficiency started to become widely available. It has not only helped lower our dependency on foreign oil, but also, it has carried me around the state to talk to my fellow Arizonans.
Does the legislative process work?
Currently the legislative process isn’t working because it is not open and transparent to the public — Arizonans aren’t even given 24 hours notice of bills being considered in committees so they can testify.
Knowing what you know about the workings of the Legislature, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to this year’s freshmen lawmakers?
In wake of the recent attack on our democracy in the Tucson shooting, I think it is important for all of us to respect one another and work together to do what’s best for Arizona.
What do your co-workers say about you?
Besides complimenting my shoes, they say that I am one of the hardest-working legislators in state government — that I walk the talk and work for Arizona’s values. They say that while we all may disagree on certain principles, I’m the one who is willing to unite and conquer, that is, find the common ground we stand on and work toward a solution.

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