/Rep Angela Cockerham ‘My hat’s off to the women who go out every day and they’re supporting their family, they’re putting food on the table’

Rep Angela Cockerham ‘My hat’s off to the women who go out every day and they’re supporting their family, they’re putting food on the table’

Erica Hensley is the editor of Mississippi Today’s Inform[H]er newsletter. She spoke with Cockerham about these issues. You previously chaired Energy Committee. What was your surprise this year as a Judiciary B leader? And where are you looking to expand? There were some surprises when I was Energy chair. First, I was a woman chairing Energy. Many people didn’t know that I had been a lawyer in oil and gas law. I also taught Louisiana mineral law at MC Law so I knew a lot about Energy. The Speaker offered Jud B. This was especially important because of the recent criminal justice reform. I also had concerns about bail reform. Suffrage was very dear to me. What I wanted to do this year with JudB was involve the committee in the process. While I have some ideas I believe are great, I also have the benefit of having members on the committee with ideas. They were valuable to me. They were eager to give me feedback. I had to review every bill from the beginning. My philosophy, even with Energy (Committee), was that if someone takes the time and goes to LSO (legislative service) to have it drafted, then it must be something they are interested in. At the very least, let me read it. Do you find the low number women legislators worrying? It concerns me. There were many more women serving in the legislature before I started. All issues require women’s perspectives, regardless of whether they are pertaining to a man or a woman. To have balance in both chambers you need female representation. (Young women at collegiate and high schools) I encourage them to think about pursuing a career in politics. One of the page who was present this week, said that she remembered you from your class and had spoken to us. She then said that this was something she wanted to do and she could see herself serving the community. It was encouraging to know she was listening. It resonated, and hopefully it will resonate with more women, students from high school or college, and more choir members at your church. All you need is encouragement. It is possible that the seed will eventually grow once it has been planted. This year, you introduced the Sexual Assault Response Act. According to estimates, less than half of all sexual assaults are reported. Even fewer are prosecuted and even fewer end in convictions. This act is important because it addresses the needs of victims of sexual abuse at universities. I’ve started to hear from parents with a few issues or problems, but no resolution. It’s a heart-wrenching feeling when it comes down to a child. Two grad students were my mentors on this project. They were both amazing and I am grateful to God that they had the chance to share their experiences with me. The bill was not only about uniformity, but also protecting students (in coming forward). If this happens, we have to provide resources. “We are there for you, always going to be there for you. And if you decide to continue here, then I am all about the babies.” We also need to protect young men, as unfortunately, sometimes young men are sexually abused. We pray for them. We are confident that the Lord will take care of them. Therefore, we need to put in place measures so that when they do get hurt, we can be like Johnny and say, “Hey, Johnny, I’m here to help you.” Another bill that you worked on was to ensure safe and equitable workplaces. Half of the state’s children live in single-parent homes. Most of these parents are women with lower-paying jobs. This bill is a good example of how equity can be achieved for children. We all say “You have to go to work” but when they do, it is often because their child becomes ill or they need to leave time for the child. There are consequences. This bill, which was initiated by Cassandra Welchlin from Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, is so important. Everyone has a dream, and everyone has a goal. Yours may not be the same as mine, but it is possible to make it work. However, I believe that we must all work together to achieve our goals. This bill does just that. I owe my hat to all the women who go out each day to support their families, make sure they have enough food, do the homework, and ensure that their children are healthy. If they don’t, they try to get them to the doctor. It’s a lot, but you still have to work. They require this support to continue doing what they are doing. We make it seem easy, but we have to support one another. Both bills were defeated in committee. How long will it take for the Legislature to pass them? It’s hard to know. But, just because the Legislature died doesn’t mean that I will stop working. I will just work harder. I believe bills dying are God’s way to say, “You just have to try a little harder.”