Taking a look at other states

Put 250 women in a room and what do they talk about?

Try utility deregulation, gasoline pricing, managed care, Indonesian relations, global warming.

And, AIDs, telecommunications, medical privacy, economic development and infertility.

When women legislators get together, there's never a dull moment. Or, a free moment.

I just spent four days with representatives and senators, as well as governors and mayors and lieutenant governors, attending the National Order of Women Legislators national meeting. And from 6:30 each morning, when our first breakfast meeting started, until 6:30 each evening, it was nonstop information.

We heard from former Texas Governor Ann Richards, who confessed that her new, neat, slim and trim appearance is thanks to weight training. "Bet you're all saying, 'my, she looks good for her age,'" was how she started her speech.

And from Loretta Sanchez, the California Congresswoman still fighting the hotly contested election (she beat the incumbent by less than a thousand votes) to keep her seat.

From Jack Canfield, author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul." Admiral Joseph Preuher, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command. From Nebraska Lt. Gov. Kim Robak, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt, and CNN Political Analyst Bill Schneider.

From economist Wendy Gramm (as in spouse of Phil), Secretary of the Army Togo West who gave a preview of what his investigation discovered about sexual misconduct (female recruits are more worried about job equality than harassment), Guam Lt. Gov. Madeleine Bordallo, and Hawaii Governor Benjamin Cayetano, who collapsed the next day and was hospitalized. Was it something we said?

Yes, even Don Ho, who gave us a private concern for our closing reception.

But none of these were the stars. The stars were my fellow legislators who came from North Dakota to Texas, New Hampshire to California, Florida to Hawaii, to talk about what their states' main problems are, and what they are doing to solve them.

A lot of issues are shared with New England--deregulation, river cleanup, prevention of child abuse and neglect. Some are important to only a few--hog farm sludge and the Western Governor's University, for example.

But all were interesting. Establishment of a women's commission in Arkansas, internet privacy in Texas, privatization of social services in Oregon, learn fare in Iowa where parents who's kids aren't in school either are fined or, when appropriate, lose their welfare benefits.

Day care in Colorado, foster care in Florida, endangered species in Hawaii, juvenile justice in Colorado, teen pregnancy in Louisiana, Indian gaming in Missouri and New Mexico.

Graduated drivers licenses for teens in South Carolina, parental rights in New Jersey, chemical castration in Louisiana, a DNA databank in Vermont.

The Wyoming delegate went so far as to call her state a "third world state."

Now, as in all meetings, some were deadly. The professor talking about gas pricing was a good speaker, but overloaded with projections. And words. An hour and a half of gasoline made me want to gas him. One of the speakers, basically, gave a 20-minute commercial for his telephone company. And the Ambassador to Indonesia wasn't about to admit any problems with the slaughters of civilians in one corner of the world's fourth largest country.

But, overall, it was excellent.

And there were special activities, too. A mini-workshop, offering ideas on how to dress professionally. I declined the offer to let them cut my hair, explaining that I'm dryer, roller and curl impaired. And three sessions with experts in media, speeches and voice. I have to smile more.

There's was a blessing of an ancient burial ground, and explanation of old burial customs.

But the highlight was, indeed, discussion of the issues. All issues.

And I was once again reminded that there's no such thing as a woman's issue. Important issues are everyone's issue. And the most important issue of all is economic.

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