While the Montana Legislature is in session (January to April of odd years), AAUW-Montana members join with those from Business and Professional Women and the Montana Women’s Lobby for a dedicated Legislative Day. Early one Friday morning in February, we meet with the MWL lobbyist and other issues lobbyists for a workshop on current issues of interest to Montana women. Then we go to the Capitol for the rest of the day to meet with our legislators and offer testimony on our priority issues. Many years, we have timed our Legislative Day to coordinate with the State of Education address given to a joint session of representatives and senators by the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI). This has been particularly enjoyable for us lately as both the immediate past SPI, Linda McCulloch, and the current one, Denise Juneau, have been AAUW-Montana members.
On March 6 and 7, 2015, about 15 AAUW-Montana members joined Montana Women Vote (MWV) for their Legislative Lobby Day in the Capitol in Helena. Linda Gryczan, our former Montana Women’s Lobby lobbyist, gave a short legislative briefing at the Montana Historical Society, and then we walked to the Capitol for the MWV briefing and lobbying. The main focus of the day was support for HB 249, expanding Medicaid to as many as 70,000 Montanans currently ineligible for health insurance coverage under either ACA or Medicaid. After speaking with individual legislators about the issue, we sat in on the afternoon’s hearing in the House Human Services Committee. Unfortunately, despite 3 1/2 hours of supportive testimony and only 12 witnesses against, the bill was voted down in committee on strict party lines.
While at the Capitol, many of us also took the opportunity to view the two panels of the Women’s History Mural, partially funded by AAUW branches across the state.
On March 8 and 9, 2013, AAUW-Montana gathered for our biennial Legislative Weekend—with members of several other organizations—at the Capitol in Helena. Events began at 8:30 Friday morning with a Montana Women’s Lobby (MWL) issues briefing at the Montana Historical Society. At 10:00, we crossed the street to the Capitol to join with members of Montana Women Vote (MWV), Business & Professional Women (BPW), the Women’s Foundation of Montana (WFM), and the Interagency Committee for Change by Women (ICCW) for the rest of the day’s activities. March 8th was also International Women’s Day, and we celebrated that event along with pursuing our legislative activities. MWV held a mid-morning “Lobbying 101” workshop for anyone new to grassroots advocacy. WFM hosted a free lunch and press conference to announce the publication of their Report on the Status of Women in Montana. ICCW also arranged a meeting with Gov. Bullock for organizational leaders in the afternoon.
After our busy Friday at the Capitol, Saturday’s activities were dedicated completely to AAUW. Linda O’Hara, Regional Field Manager of the WAGE Project, presented an informational session about how AAUW-MT can bring $mart $tart workshops to Montana campuses. That presentation was followed by a state board meeting (to which all AAUW members were invited). Everything concluded by noon so everyone could head home in daylight.
There were also two optional evening events that members were urged to attend. Thursday, March 7, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, Planned Parenthood of Montana (PPMT) hosted a fundraiser at the Great Northern Hotel featuring a presentation by Broad Comedy (cost $50). Then Friday’s legislative events were capped off with a 4:00 to 6:00 pm reception at the Governor’s Residence celebrating International Women’s Day and the Montana Women’s Mural, a Capitol project authorized by the 2011 Legislature, which must be privately funded.
The 2011 Legislative Weekend was held in conjunction with the March 4th International Women’s Day Event sponsored by Montana Women Vote. For that event, AAUW-Montana and the Montana Women’s Lobby presented a workshop called Getting ALICE Out of Wonderland. ALICE stands for “asset limited,” “income constrained,” and “employed.” Corky Bush, Julie Cerenzia, and Diane Ehernberger used statistics to show how women are still lagging behind men financially and how the various aspects of women’s financial realities intertwine. Individual AAUW members also lobbied their legislators on bills related to AAUW issues.