Three bills aimed at strengthening the economic security and wellbeing of women and trans people across the state and championed by fellows in the Women’s Policy Institute—Women’s Foundation of California’s capstone public policy training program—were signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown this month.
“Public policy is a powerful means to solving social problems, and we are honored to work with a diverse group of advocates to move forward policy change that will improve the lives of all Californians,” said Surina Khan, Chief Executive Officer at the Women’s Foundation of California. “At a difficult time for our democracy, and women’s rights especially, the far-reaching results our Women’s Policy Institute fellows have achieved will increase the health, safety and economic wellbeing of communities in our state.”
The Women’s Policy Institute, the Foundation’s leadership and public policy training program, amplifies the voices of women and transgender people in policymaking and provides them with hands-on experience in navigating the complex legislative process. Beyond capacity building and leadership development, the Women’s Policy Institute also serves as a trusted ally and strategic connector across the state, helping to build coalitions and create a comprehensive policy agenda to empower and serve low-income communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color. The year-long program brings together women and transgender people of diverse backgrounds and experiences to work in teams to implement important legislative projects.
“The Women’s Policy Institute has been an invaluable partner for many of us serving our communities from Sacramento,” said Senator Holly J. Mitchell. “Women and trans people are important leaders in our state. Through the Institute, the Women’s Foundation of California has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands by harnessing and refining the power of this leadership and driving policy change that increases opportunity and security for our communities.”
Since 2003, 32 of the policy projects from Women’s Policy Institute-State fellows have been signed into law. In 2017, Women’s Policy Institute teams introduced important legislation to make possible a California where low-income communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color are economically secure and can thrive. Governor Brown signed three of these bills this year:
Assembly Bill 523: The Equity in Clean Energy Investments Act, authored by Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes, allocates 35 percent of California’s renewable energy fund to projects located in and benefitting disadvantaged and low-income communities.
Assembly Bill 273: Unlocking Opportunities for Families, authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, increases access to opportunities for families across the state by allowing parents to qualify for subsidized child care during the time they take English as a Second Language and High School Equivalency courses. This eligibility is currently being unevenly enforced throughout the state.
Senate Bill 310: Name and Dignity Act for Incarcerated Trans People, authored by Senator Toni Atkins, makes it easier for incarcerated trans people to petition for a legal name and/or gender marker change. As the first piece of legislation written by currently and formerly incarcerated transgender people, the passage of the Name and Dignity Act is a historic victory for transgender people’s rights in California.
“The Women’s Policy Institute fellowship is a brilliant and proven method for developing the necessary experience to move policy that effectively addresses the issues that bar communities in California from thriving,” said Mike Herald, director of policy advocacy at the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Women’s Policy Institute Mentor. “The significant wins coming from this group of powerful community-based leaders during and after the Institute is a testament not just to the perseverance of these advocates but also to the efficacy of the Women’s Policy Institute training model.”