A doyenne of the Pennsylvania legislature stepped down from office on Jan. 1.
First elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1984, Babette Josephs represented the 182nd Legislative Dist., which encompasses Center City and South Philadelphia, for 28 years.
As the senior woman legislator in the General Assembly, she served as the Democratic chairwoman of the House State Government Committee since 2001; this committee oversees elections and campaign laws, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, and procurement of supplies and services by state government.
A tireless crusader for progressive causes, Josephs at the same time crafted a reputation as a cooperative bipartisan coworker. Her patient, meticulous attention to lawmaking detail earned her the respect of all her peers.
When Josephs entered the state legislature, Pennsylvania had the reputation as a hard place for women to find a place in the rough-and-tumble “boys’ world” of politics. It still has that reputation today, to some degree. In the last legislative session, Pennsylvania ranked 46th out of 50 states in the percentage of women legislators.
But Keystone State political women have come a long way since Josephs’ freshman term – due in part to her role model and her leadership. She was the convener of the Women’s Caucus of the General Assembly.
Now, in 2013, 42 of the General Assembly’s 253 members are women, one-sixth of the whole. That’s a record for our state.
Josephs had a long-standing reputation as a lawmaker dedicated to civil rights, improving health care for all, fair taxes, and securing dedicated funding for mass transit. She worked for a vibrant, green, beautiful Philadelphia. She encouraged arts and economic development that have benefited millions of Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians. “I believe that civil liberties and a strong economy are inextricably intertwined,” she was fond of saying.
Josephs fought to make sure every child in Pennsylvania gets an adequate public education, and I believe that strong unions are essential to keeping families in the middle class. I struggled to ensure that all Pennsylvania voters have access to the polls, encourage small-business development, protect the environment, and ensure that citizens on limited incomes, including seniors, receive the help they need while being treated with dignity.
In the darkest days of the Great Recession and the draconian budget cuts that followed, Josephs sought to restore safety net services, tax Marcellus Shale gas-drilling companies, close the Delaware loophole and tax other tobacco products. I support non-discrimination and marriage for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Pennsylvanians. She is a firm supporter of legal, medically safe abortion.
Josephs is affiliated with multiple organizations and boards such as the ACLU, League of Women Voters, Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund, National Organization for Women, League of Conservation Voters, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Hadassah, Neighborhood Networks, and Center City Residents’ Association. I have brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to my district to aid neighborhood, education, crime prevention, and cultural groups.
As the only elected official in Harrisburg who did not drive a car, Josephs was an avid backer of SEPTA. “I am pleased SEPTA is moving forward with updating our current payment technology to make riding the system easier and more efficient. I worked closely with SEPTA, DVARP, DVRPC, other transit related agencies and the unions across the city to gain a better understanding of how the new payment technology system will work,” she stated.
Throughout her career, Josephs has chaired or been a member of a number of legislative committees.
Prior to her election to the legislature Josephs was active in law and political organizing.
Josephs is involved with a number of civic organizations, including the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. She is also the co-founder of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League’s Pennsylvania chapter.
Over the years, Josephs’ district became increasingly important as a center for the LGBT community. Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News and a supporter of Josephs, said, “We as a community cannot and should not turn our backs on someone who has an exemplary record of protecting us. We have fought discrimination all of our lives and have no right to discriminate against someone because of their gender or sexual orientation. Babette has done and continues to do the job exceptionally well. To vote any other way would reverse years of fighting for gender and racial equality, and will do us all more harm than good.”
Josephs regularly received endorsements from Pennsylvania’s Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge, Pennsylvania State Education Association and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. All three organizations expressed encouragement for her policy goals and cited her exemplary voting record on issues important to working Pennsylvanians.
“These are the people who we entrust to protect us, to teach our kids and to keep them safe,” Josephs said. “I am so proud to have the support of the state’s teachers and police, but we should all show our support for them. They have some of the hardest jobs imaginable, and they work every day to serve the public.”
“Pennsylvania students have endured deep, painful cuts to education under Governor Corbett,” said PSEA president Michael Crossey, calling Josephs “a reliable vote for public education, but because she routinely speaks out and calls attention to these irresponsible policies. The teachers and support professionals of Pennsylvania know that Babette is looking out for us.”
“The Fraternal Order of Police Pennsylvania State Lodge endorsed Josephs “because of her consistent support for the men and women in uniform. Josephs is a powerful and effective ally in Harrisburg and truly understands how cuts to police budgets around our Commonwealth have made us all less safe,” said Fraternal Order of Police Pennsylvania State Lodge president Les Neri.
Josephs routinely garnered endorsements from Gov. Ed Rendell as well as the political action committees representing Planned Parenthood and the Philadelphia chapter of National Organization of Women. She scored 100% on the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Scorecard issued by the state’s four top environmental groups and she was named a 2011 Legislative Hero by Keystone Progress.
Josdpehs received backing from an honor roll of oprogressive groups, among them:
She is the happy grandma of six gorgeous grandchildren and loves nothing more than spending time with her two kids and their spouses.