Hannah-Beth Jackson spent eight years serving as the state senator for California’s 19th District, championing gender equality, workplace diversity and the environment. Now, the termed-out senator reflects on her time in office with pride and gratitude.
“It has been truly an honor and a privilege to have served in the California legislature and having been entrusted with those responsibilities by the people of this community,” Jackson told Noozhawk. “I have given it my best, and I am very proud of the work I have done. It’s been time well-spent.”
In 2015, Jackson authored Senate Bill 358, landmark legislation that strengthened California’s equal pay laws. The bill, known as the California Fair Pay Act, is the strongest equal pay bill in the country and was passed almost unanimously in 2015, according to Jackson.
The bill is now being used by 43 states as a model for fair pay, Jackson said.
“I call this my 35-year overnight success,” she said. “This bill gives more opportunity not only for women here in California but around the country. It definitely broke that impasse that has been in existence for decades, at least in terms of the law.”
Jackson also authored Senate Bill 826, “first-in-the-nation” legislation requiring more women on corporate boards.
“Women are 70% of the consumers in this country, but when you don’t have women on these corporate boards, you don’t get that perspective,” Jackson said.
Since the bill’s approval in 2018, agencies outside of California have found value in the legislation. Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs announced that it would not fund any more startup efforts to companies that don’t have greater diversity on the board, according to Jackson.
Just this past week, NASDAQ filed a proposal with the Securities and Exchange Commission requiring all companies on its exchange to disclose the breakdowns of their boards in regards to race, gender, and sexual orientation. If approved, each company would be required to have at least two board directors with diverse backgrounds, or explain why it can’t meet those mandates.
“My bill was a catalyst for this,” Jackson said. “The most gratifying part is that Wall Street and various companies are seeing the value of this.”
Jackson’s last piece of legislation approved before her time in office came to an end was a bill to extend job security protections so that California workers can take time off to care for a family member without fear of losing their jobs.
“People are afraid to take the leave they are entitled to because they don’t have job protection when they get back,” Jackson said.
Senate Bill 1383 requires that companies with five or more employees ensure that an employee’s job will still be there if they have to take time off to care for a child, spouse, sibling, grandparent or in-law.
On top of advocating for workplace rights and gender equality in the workplace, Jackson’s voice was critical in protecting the 100 miles of coastline within the 19th District, from Santa Maria to Camarillo.
Jackson passed legislation and received funding to cap abandoned oil wells that have been polluting the coastline, particularly in Summerland and Santa Barbara, and blocked the building of infrastructure that would be needed to transport oil from federal waters onshore.
“We’ve been stuck with this pollution ravaging our coastlines,” Jackson said. “We are now cleaning up our ocean and creating greater protection.”
During her years in office, Jackson also was an advocate for veteran rights, rights to privacy and strengthening emergency management.
Jackson served as the chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, past chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, and as a member of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, the Senate Human Services Committee, the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and the Senate Public Safety Committee.
She has received Legislator of the Year awards from a wide range of organizations, including the Consumer Federation of California, the Junior Leagues of California and the National Organization for Women, among others. She is a recipient of the prestigious California Women Lawyer’s Fay Stender Award, which is given out annually to an attorney committed to effecting positive change.
Before she was elected to the state Senate in 2012, Jackson represented California’s 35th State Assembly District from 1998 to 2004. She also served as an adjunct professor at Antioch University, co-founded two nonprofit organizations, and is a managing partner for the Law Offices of Eskin and Jackson.
After leaving office, Jackson said she hopes to write a memoir about her experience in public office and make observations about women in leadership. She said she is interested in continuing, in some capacity, to stay engaged in the issues that have been important to her.
“Having 14 years of experience under my belt, I have wisdom and experience I can offer,” Jackson said. “But of course, I am looking forward to taking some nice long walks on the beach with my husband as well.”