Making the Majority Rules real
through state legislation
Supermajority Education Fund and the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) have teamed up to shine a spotlight on state legislation that embodies the five “Majority Rules.” The Majority Rules are a value based-agenda informed by conversations with thousands of women* across the United States. These rules demand that: (1) our lives are safe, (2) our bodies are respected, (3) our work is valued, (4) our families are supported, and (5) our government represents us. By implementing public policies that realize these values, we can continue to protect, secure, and extend our rights to all women, especially those who have historically been blocked from exercising their basic rights.
Perhaps unlike ever before, the essential work to advance equality, including protecting the freedom to vote, abortion access, and other women’s rights, is taking place in state legislatures. For this reason, this interactive site and our full joint report uplifts recent state legislation aligned with these Majority Rules and highlights the women legislators and activists, particularly women of color, who have championed them. If you believe in the Majority Rules and are ready for a future where gender equality is the reality, then we hope that you utilize these resources to explore state-level policy options and to learn from the women and allies leading these reforms.
*We value the liberation of all people, and this publication uses an expansive definition of women, which includes trans and cisgender women, gender nonbinary people, and anyone who has been marginalized due to their gender.
MAJORITY RULE 1Our lives are safe.
We live free of fear, intimidation and violence at home, at work and in our neighborhoods—no matter where we’re from, who we love, or how we identify.
Each year in the United States, an estimated 8.6 million women are stalked.
Case Study: Stalking Lease Release, Sen. Kim Jackson (Georgia)
Everyone is entitled to feel safe and secure in their homes. But that’s not always the case for people experiencing stalking—a prevalent problem across the United States.
People experiencing stalking should be able to pursue safer housing options without financial penalty, but that wasn’t always the case for Georgia residents. State Senator Kim Jackson of Georgia (District 41, Stone Mountain) introduced SB 75 ‑ Stalking Lease Release in February 2021 that allows stalking victims to safely terminate their lease. SB 75 became law on July 1, 2021, making Georgia the fourteenth state to enact legislation allowing stalking victims to terminate their lease without consequence. The law provides a civil pathway for people experiencing stalking without having to wait for a criminal trial, allowing people who have been victimized and harmed to get away from the people who are victimizing them.
The healthcare system takes our needs seriously, from medical treatment to making decisions about if and when to start a family.
Every year, approximately 700 women die from pregnancy or its complications.
The fight to realize the second Majority Rule may be the most salient and bold endeavor of our time. Right now, lawmakers across the country are seeking to restrict the freedom of women to access the education, resources, and care that we deem necessary for our health and wellbeing. One thing is abundantly clear—these policies are not about healthcare. They are about controlling women and people who can become pregnant.
For there to be true bodily autonomy, our healthcare system must respect the dignity and bodily autonomy of all women. The second Majority Rule also demands that we name and combat systemic inequities which prevent Black, Indigenous, and other women of color, pregnant people, and trans women from attaining equitable access to high-quality healthcare and health outcomes. Every year, approximately 700 women die from pregnancy or its complications, and the maternal mortality crisis is deadliest for women of color.
State lawmakers can protect our right to bodily autonomy by:
Click to hear from Colorado State Senator Julie Gonzales
Case Study: The Reproductive Health Equity Act, Sen. Julie Gonzales (Colorado)
Immediately after passage of Texas SB 8, Coloradans organized a rally outside the state capitol to voice their concerns over laws hindering abortion rights. Constituents after the rally approached State Senator Julie Gonzales (District 34, Denver) and asked her what she and the legislature planned to do in Colorado to uphold reproductive rights.
Sen. Gonzales, State Representative Meg Froelich (District 3, Arapahoe) and State Representative Daneya Esgar (District 46, Pueblo) then introduced the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA ‑ HB 1279) in March 2022. The bill declares that “every individual has a fundamental right to use or refuse contraception; every pregnant individual has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion; and a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state.” The bill was signed into law in April 2022.
We are paid equally for our work and get promoted equally too. The jobs primarily done by women—from teaching to caregiving—are valued and supported. All women can retire with dignity and enjoy the life they worked hard for.
Overall, women in the United States are paid only 83 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid.
Overall, women in the United States are paid only 83 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid. Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women are paid 75 cents, Black women are paid 64 cents, Indigenous women are paid 60 cents, and Latinas are paid 57 cents. Women make this nation run every single day, and there is a need for a reckoning to address the way we women are treated in the workforce. These problems existed long before the pandemic began. And the solutions are evident—if we want our society to function, we must pay all women equitable and livable wages, strengthen collective bargaining rights to narrow the racial and gender wage gap, and institute stronger protections from workforce discrimination and exploitation.
State legislators have leveled the playing field for women in the workplace by:
Case Study: Giving Home Care Workers Bargaining Power, Sen. Dina Neal (Nevada)
Healthcare workers play a pivotal role in our communities, especially home care workers who provide crucial lifelines to their elderly and disabled clients that are homebound. But in Nevada and across the country, many of them can neither access a fair wage nor do they have the ability to advocate for themselves.
In May 2021, State Senator Dina Neal (District 4, Clark County) and Senator Fabian Donate (District 10, Clark County) introduced SB 340, a bill that designates programs that provide services to elderly persons or persons with disabilities as home care programs and establishes a board to develop recommendations regarding the wages and working conditions of home care employees. The legislation was signed into law by Governor Steve Sisolak on June 9, 2021.
Case Study: The C.R.O.W.N. Act, Sen. Dina Neal (Nevada)
Hair discrimination is an undue burden that polices the identity of Black and Brown women and upholds white supremacy. With no nationwide legal protections against hair discrimination, women of color are often left to risk facing consequences at school or work for their natural hair or forced to spend money and time to conform to Eurocentric professionalism and beauty standards.
State Senator Dina Neal and State Senator Dallas Harris (District 11, Clark County) introduced SB 327, the C.R.O.W.N. (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, that amends employment discrimination protections to include protections against discrimination based on traits associated with race, including hair texture and protective styles. This law, enacted in June 2021, allows the Nevada Equal Rights Commission to accept complaints of discrimination based on race for hair discrimination in employment and in public and private schools.
We are no longer forced to make impossible and unfair choices between family and work. Providing the best care for our families, from infancy to old age, is possible and affordable for all of us.
Over the course of the pandemic, more than 3 million American women have been forced to leave the workforce.
Over the course of the pandemic, more than 3 million American women, who are both disproportionately women of color and overrepresented in the education, child care, service, and healthcare industries, have been forced to leave the workforce.
The fourth Majority Rule recognizes that no woman should have to choose between the family that they love and the paycheck that they need. When our families are supported, society benefits from women’s talent, labor, and skills.
Click to hear from Colorado State Representative Yadira Caraveo
Case Study: Sick Leave for Colorado Employees Rep. Yadira Caraveo (Colorado)
Everyone should be able to take time off to recover from an illness or to take their sick child to the doctor. During the 2020 legislative session, at the height of COVID, Colorado legislators prioritized a suite of bills responding to the pandemic, including sick paid leave.
State Representative Yadira Caraveo (District 31, Adams), along with former State Representative KC Becker (District 13, Boulder), State Senator Jeff Bridges (District 26, Arapahoe), and State Senator Stephen Fenberg (District 18, Boulder) introduced SB 205–Sick Leave For Employees that requires all employers in the state, regardless of size, to provide each of their employees paid sick leave for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic and any future public health emergency that necessitates an employee’s absence from work. The bill also allows employees to use accrued paid sick leave in cases of mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, whether for the employees themselves or a family member, as well as if the employee or their family member has been a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault or harassment and they need to be absent from work for purposes related to such crime. The bill was passed with bipartisan support and enacted in July 2020.
Click to hear from Maryland Rise Executive Director Myles Hicks
Case Study: The Time to Care Act in Maryland
No one should have to choose between caring for their family and going to work. But that’s exactly what our workforce does each and every day. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 23 percent of workers have access to paid family leave. And fewer than 40 percent of workers have paid leave for short-term disabilities.
“A lot of people are one sick family member away from not being able to pay their bills,” says Myles Hicks, Executive Director of Maryland Rise, a nonprofit that advocates for economic opportunities for all residents. Hicks served as the campaign manager for the Time to Care Coalition. The Time to Care Coalition advocated for years before Maryland legislators introduced the Time to Care Act (SB 275 and HB 8) in 2022, a measure that creates a paid family and medical leave program, guaranteeing nearly all Maryland employees—regardless of employer size, including full-time and part-time workers and private and public sector workers—the right to up to 12 weeks of paid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one, deal with their own serious health needs, or address needs in connection with military deployment. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill but the legislature voted to override Hogan on April 9, 2022. Maryland is now the tenth state to enact paid family and medical leave.
From the school board to the White House, women are represented. The right to vote is protected and promoted, all voters have access to the polls and every vote is counted.
Women are the majority of Americans yet only make up 31.2% of state legislators.
Women are the majority of Americans yet only make up 31.2% of state legislators. Women of color are a rapidly-growing share of the electorate, representing almost one-third of all voting-age women, but only a small share of state legislators; 73.3 percent of women state legislators identified as white. Because we do not have equitable representation in elected leadership, our government fails to recognize us as the force that we are. For generations, the systems that govern our society have intentionally excluded women—particularly, women of color, immigrant women, LGBTQIA+ women, and women with disabilities. These systems are operating as intended. It is time that our government represents us.
States can strengthen the political power of women, for example by:
Click to hear from Vote Mama Foundation’s chief program officer, Sarah Hague
Case Study: How We Increase Representation of Mothers and Caregivers In Public Office, Sarah Hague, Vote Mama Foundation
Only six percent of Members of Congress are mothers with school-aged children. That means the federal legislators who are deciding on issues ranging from paid leave to universal child care and keeping abortion legal, have not given birth or may not have cared for a child.
But there are many barriers that keep our mothers and caregivers from running for office and serving in office, specifically child care and dependent care. Vote Mama Foundation is on a mission to change that, working with state legislators across the country to pass legislation or ethics rulings that would allow candidates to use their campaign funds on child care in all fifty states.
We cannot ignore that an existential struggle is raging in the United States with our civil and human rights on the line. The trauma of these events is relentless and we know that it is taking a toll on women, BIPOC communities, the gender-oppressed, and our most marginalized.
But we see glimmers of hope across this country that give us the strength to keep fighting. Women are the hope. Together we must be a united front with our demands for progress and a future where all women’s lives are safe, our bodies are respected, our work is valued, our families are supported, and our government represents us.
HOW TO SUPPORT STATE POLICY REFORM
“I am not an expert on every issue. So, I look to constituents as my field of experts. If you have a specific knowledge, skill, or lived experience, share that with your legislator and offer your assistance with reviewing and drafting legislation and policy.”
— Pennsylvania State Representative, Donna Bullock
We hope that the information shared here serves as a guide for you to learn about policy options in your state. For this reason, we have developed this resource to provide ideas on what can be done right now to address the issues that resonate deeply with you and your community. The following are steps to support public policy reform at the state level. While this list is numbered, it is not a fixed sequence—all policy reform efforts are different!
1. Identify a Problem
Select a specific problem that you want to address (remember to make sure it is something that can be addressed at the state-level).
Analyze why the problem needs to be addressed and the cost of inaction.
Find research/statistics that explain the problem.
Find personal stories/anecdotes that “humanize” the problem.
2. Identify a Policy Solution
Determine a policy solution.
Determine whether this policy solution is best implemented through a bill or something else (e.g. constitutional amendment, ballot initiative, administrative rule, executive order).
Analyze how the policy solution would address the problem and who would be most affected by it.
Find additional research/statistics that support your solution.
Determine whether this policy solution has been attempted in your state in the past, and if so, investigate why it was not fully enacted or implemented.
3. Find Supporters and Allies
Identify and work with current advocates in this space.
Build relationships with or join issue allies (including adjacent advocacy groups).
Identify neutral groups who may have influence over the solution and determine tactics for moving these groups from neutral to support.
4. Work with State Policymakers
Understand the state policymaking process, including the bill process, budget process, important session dates, and relevant legislative committees and leadership for your bill topic.