Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Janet Denison Howell

Today Tuesday January 31, 2012 the Woman of the Day is Janet Denison Howell the Virginia State Senator representing the 32nd district in Fairfax County. She has proudly served the residents of the 32nd Senate District since 1992. Janet has used her position in the Senate to benefit the residents of Northern Virginia. She currently has several important responsibilities and is using them to champion change in Richmond.

She was born to Edward Fulton and Elsie (Lightbown) Denison. Her father was a prominent economist at the U. S. Department of Commerce and the Brookings Institution, and fellow Oberlin alumnus.
Mrs. Howell taught in the Philadelphia school district, 1968-1969, and was a legislative assistant in the Virginia State Senate from 1989 to 1991.

Janet was a community leader for more than 15 years prior to her election to the Senate. As a former PTA president and head of the Reston Council of PTAs, Janet worked hard to increase the quality of local schools and Virginia's fine colleges and universities. She was president of the Reston Community Association for three years, expanding the association's activities and accomplishments in land use, transportation and healthcare. She served five years on the State Board of Social Services, including a term as its chairman.

Janet has received numerous awards for her community service. She was named National Child Advocate of the Year by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Senator of the Year by Virginia Sheriffs Association, Distinguished Leadership Awardee by the Coalition for Mentally Disabled Citizens, Legislative Champion by the League of Conservation Voters, and Legislator of the Year by the Alzheimer's Association.

Called the "Technology Senator" because of her work in that area, Janet was presented the first Lifetime Achievement Award by the Northern Virginia Technology Council. She serves on the Joint Commission on Technology and Science.

She is the first woman to serve on the prestigious Senate Finance Committee. In this capacity she has focused on education, transportation, human services and public safety. She is a leader in streamlining and downsizing state government as well as instituting cost-reduction measures.

Janet's responsibilities on the Finance Committee have grown dramatically in recent years. She is one of six budget conferees who negotiate the final budget with House conferees. She is also chair of the Public Safety Subcommittee which oversees over $3 billion yearly in programs including State Police and local police, juvenile justice, prisons and jails. She is working with the McDonnell administration to reform prison re-entry programs so as to imrove public safety by reducing recidivism. She is also engaged in a multi-year effort to provide appropriate services for persons with mental illness who too often tragically end up in our jails and prisons.

Janet chairs the Virginia Crime Commisssion which reviews all matters dealing with crime and punishment. Over the years, she has been nationally recognized for reforming Virginia's domestic violence laws and establishing the Sex Offender Registry. Janet also was chief patron of the Omnibus Mental Health Law Reform Legislation.

As chairman of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, Janet's responsibilities include all election law and confirmation of gubernatorial appointments.

In addition to her chairmanships, Janet serves on the Education and Health Committee, Courts of Justice Committee, Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, and Joint Commission on Technology and Science.

Clearly, Janet takes seriously the trust the voters have placed in her. She works full-time to make state government responsible and responsive.

While she is obviously a very accomplished woman with a passion for service to her state and its constituents’ that is not why she is today’s Woman of the Day. She is the woman of the day because she did this:

To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

"We need some gender equity here," she told HuffPost. "The Virginia senate is about to pass a bill that will require a woman to have totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience. If we're going to do that to women, why not do that to men?"

The Republican-controlled senate narrowly rejected the amendment Monday by a vote of 21 to 19, but passed the mandatory ultrasound bill in a voice vote. A similar bill in Texas, which physicians say has caused a "bureaucratic nightmare," is currently being challenged in court.

Howell said she is not surprised her amendment failed.

"This is more of a message type of an amendment, so I was pleased to get 19 votes," she said.
She pointed out that there are only seven women in the Virginia senate, and six of them voted in favor of her amendment, along with 13 male senators. Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier County), the sponsor of the mandatory ultrasound bill, voted against it.

Keep on fighting for womens equality in these barbaric legislations Senator Howell! Kudos to you our AWU Woman of the Day!