- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2003

RICHMOND (AP) — After a decade of dormancy, the state Council on the Status of Women has met twice since September with a membership that is very different philosophically from its predecessors.

The council was targeted for termination by Republicans in the House of Delegates this year because they saw it as a remnant of the 1970s. It was preserved on the final day of the session when lawmakers could not agree on a bill that would have killed it.

The council met Nov. 17 and decided to explore the plight of women in the juvenile-justice system, according to its chairwoman, Delegate L. Karen Darner, Arlington Democrat. The council had met for the first time in a decade in September.

Miss Darner said the council can make a contribution to issues important to Virginia women, but it is important that it develop an agenda.

The council was established in the 1970s to identify ways in which women could reach their full potential and make full contributions to society as wage earners and citizens. It consists of 19 members, appointed by the governor.

Miss Darner said the council never met because Govs. George F. Allen and James S. Gilmore III, both Republicans, never appointed new members. Actually, the two governors did appoint members but never asked them to do anything.

Funding for the council had been eliminated by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat, in 1991 during a state budget crunch. Mr. Allen and Mr. Gilmore never tried to restore the funding.

The members appointed by Mr. Allen and Mr. Gilmore for the most part were pro-life activists who were not associated with the feminist movement.

Anne B. Kincaid, a political activist and longtime opponent of abortion rights, said she regarded her appointment by Mr. Allen as “perfunctory” and was not upset that she wasn’t asked to meet. She had forgotten that Mr. Gilmore had reappointed her to the council.

Gov. Mark Warner’s appointments reflect an opposite agenda. The new members include abortion-rights lobbyists, an officer of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for Women, and the director of women’s studies at Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia.

Mr. Warner, a Democrat, assigned his secretary of health and human resources as an ex-officio member of the council. Secretary Jane Woods, a former Republican state senator, has assigned staff to assist the council. She wants it to concentrate on career women, particularly those with aging parents.

Council member Leni Gonzalez of Richmond, who works for the Department of Education, said she hoped the council could act in an advisory role to Mr. Warner by identifying and studying a small group of issues.


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