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It wasn't by circumstance I am learning that voters in Springdale found Megan Godfrey humble, affable and very, very smart as she finds her way in her first elected office as a State Representative.

She is one of a class of five Democrat women serving on the polished marble floors of the Arkansas Legislature's lower chamber -- the 100-member House of Representatives -- who has, by all indications, found her voice and is finding her way in the 92nd General Assembly.

This past week, she was the House sponsor of Senate Bill 161, a non-controversial, yet much-needed piece of legislation to remove the word "disabled" from license plates on cars of those with disabilities.

Such a bill might give those among the rank and file solons, with little regard to the emotions of the disabled needing those specialty license plates, a second thought.

To sign on and be an advocate, while still a young, vibrant working educational professional wife and mom of two small kids, might seem a stretch, but, clearly, you have not met the charming Rep. Godfrey.

And she is also a teller of the truth. (The bill) It was not her idea, as she quickly begins to give credit for the Senate-based bill to fellow Democrat state Senator Greg Leding of Fayetteville.

"It was Sen. Leding's bill," she said. "He (Leding) did most of the research and was brought the bill by the group Disability Rights Arkansas. I just sponsored it on the House side."

But that sponsorship and her ability to relate to her fellow House members may have shown a bright light of humility and compassion which will endear her to the House colleagues for sessions to come.

"The bill had broad support: no objection in both House and Senate committee. It passed unanimously in the Senate and with 83 votes in the House. I'm very proud to have passed it! I know it means a lot to Arkansans with disabilities and their loved ones and advocates," she said.

And last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson held a bill-signing ceremony with senator Leding, advocates from the Disability Rights Arkansas and Rep. Godfrey, who gathered for this non-controversial act.

Leding, on his social media account, in turn, gave Godfrey praise for her House leadership on the bill.

"Thanks to Representative Megan Cardwell Godfrey for being the lead House sponsor of that bill," he wrote.

To say that Godfrey and some of the other young women of the 2019 Session -- among them Fayetteville's state Rep. Nicole Clowney, also a Democrat -- have taken to the Legislative pond like, well, like ducks to water, might be an understatement.

One veteran House member, and the only House Committee chairwoman, state Rep. Charlene Fite of Van Buren, whose District 80 covers the rural western edges of both Crawford and Washington Counties, is not surprised by these young women.

On the contrary, she welcomes them into the House.

"I've noticed a lot of mutual respect among the women," Fite said.

"We may disagree on political issues, but we enjoy sharing life events and laughs with each other. The women who are new to the Legislature have the same struggles as their male counterparts: learning how to prepare and present a bill, learning the rules, learning how to answer questions in committee and on the floor of the House," Fite said.

Learning the ropes was something Godfrey also spoke about in a series of texts about her first weeks in the Legislature.

"Regardless of party, we all face the freshman challenge of having to learn as you go," Godfrey said.

"(Serving as a State Representative) is not a job you can be prepared for until you're in it, and so it was hard to find a rhythm the first few weeks."

'But now, though, we've made good relationships and have found our voice. I've been grateful for the willingness to collaborate across party lines and the collegiality and professionalism of many of my colleagues, especially in the freshman class."

Fite echoed some of Godfrey's thoughts in her own take on the new freshmen ladies of the House.

"I've noticed the younger and newer members exhibiting respect for the opinions and experience of those who have been in the Legislature for a while," Fite said. "And I've seen the older legislators enjoying the refreshing enthusiasm and views of our younger and newer representatives. Overall, I see a "get it done" mentality in the women of the House and Senate. We are willing to reach across the aisle and work together for the good of Arkansans."

So more women in the Legislature can be considered a good thing? Yes, I can see that, can't you?

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 03/06/2019

Print Headline: Rep. Megan Godfrey setting 'high marks'in 92nd General Assembly

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