Closing the Power Gap

“If it’s something you really want to do,” said State Representative Penny Bacchiochi, “you’ll find a way.”

Bacchiochi was among five female members of Connecticut’s General Assembly participating in the Legislator Panel that was part of the Second Annual Women’s Policy Day on Tuesday. The goal of this event was to help participants better understand the political process on the State level.

Wedged between a General Assembly 101 session and a Mock Public Hearing, panelists advised the audience on ways they could get more directly involved in local or state politics. State Representative Linda Gentile urged participants with political aspirations to keep themselves informed.

“Be engaged in your community,” suggested Kim Fawcett, the State Representative for Fairfield and Westport. She said that women tend to find their way to the Capitol “organically,” moving along with involvement beginning in places like the PTA and school board.

Bacchiochi told the audience to “jump in.” When she initially ran for office, she had little political experience. “Don’t feel like you don’t have enough experience or don’t know enough people,” if you want to get involved, she said.

Earlier in the day, the audience — mainly, but not exclusively, women — was given a crash course in how to follow and speak out on issues at the Capitol. Policy & Legislative Director of the CT Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Natasha Pierre, prepared a guide explaining everything from how to sign up to speak at a public hearing to tracking bills to who chairs which committees.

Lobbyist Kim Harrison spoke to the power that individuals have: “You put them in. You can take them out.” Legislators pay attention, she said, to people from their districts.

Harrison suggested that instead of having twenty people sign up to read the exact same message, only have four or five touch on the same points and let the rest be in the room with some kind of visual identifier, like matching t-shirts or buttons. Statistics, she said, were fine to have, but “it’s the personal stories that change hearts and minds.”

Earlier in the day, Vicki Veltri, a healthcare advocate, provided information about how the Affordable Healthcare Act would be impacting women in Connecticut. With the Affordable Healthcare Act being so heavily politicized, details about its implementation — like that women cannot be denied coverage for having breast cancer or a c-section — tend to be overshadowed.

Women’s Policy Day was presented by the PCSW, the Connecticut Women’s Education and
Legal Fund
(CWEALF), the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS), the Connecticut
Coalition Against Domestic Violence
(CCADV), the Junior League of Hartford, and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Connecticut.

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