The Aponte & Busam Public Affairs team. Ruth Aponte (third from right) and Julia Scanlan (second to left) represent the CWBA at the Colorado State Capitol.
While the CWBA has long sought to advance women in the practice of law through judicial appointments and mentorship, the CWBA more recently has developed a strong voice in state politics. Ruth Aponte and Julia Scanlan, of Aponte & Busam Public Affairs, are the contract lobbyist team that represent the CWBA at the Colorado Capitol.
Ruth Aponte was one of the original lobbyists for the CWBA since it entered the Colorado lawmaking scene two decades ago. As a female professional, business owner, and mother, Ruth strongly identified with the CWBA’s mission to “promote and protect the interests of women generally and in the law.” However, at the time of the interview, she struggled to feel that she was qualified for the role. Then-CWBA board member Theresa Spahn (now the Honorable Judge Spahn of Denver County Court) encouraged Ruth to fight back against the imposter syndrome she felt as the only young, female lobbying firm at the Capitol at that time, and to apply. The CWBA felt a synergistic connection with Ruth and her team, and Aponte & Busam has worked hard to promote the CWBA mission in Colorado politics ever since.
Over her years of advancing important policies on behalf of the CWBA, the 2019 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act bill stands out to Ruth as an exceptional win. This bill was written and developed by CWBA members and finally passed into law after years of legislative campaigning under the leadership of Aponte & Busam team member Sara Odendahl.
“The Equal Pay Act truly embodies the mission of the CWBA and is an example of how the legislative process is a collaborative marathon, not a sprint,” says Ruth. “CWBA members led and took ownership of that important legislation, and it is one of the many things that makes me so proud to represent the CWBA. It is an honor to work with such incredibly talented and mission-motivated women.”
Julia Scanlan began her career in state politics as a legislative aide for several state senators and representatives. She is surprised at how quickly 10 years on the Capitol scene have passed, unofficially rendering her a Capitol “lifer.” Since joining the Aponte & Busam team three years ago, working with the CWBA has expanded her knowledge of the law and the role of lawyers. Julia appreciates how CWBA members bring their professional and personal expertise into the lawmaking process, and that the CWBA mission entails such a wide variety of policy issues. Between creating a statewide paid family leave program, ensuring access to menstrual products and surrogacy/infertility healthcare, and preventing human trafficking, there is never a dull moment, let alone session! One of Julia’s proudest moments working with the CWBA was the passage of HB 21-1143, a bipartisan 2021 bill that protects survivors’ rights to rape kit evidence that promotes resolution of unsolved cases. “That legislation was a small legislative fix, but one that was so impactful to victims. It was very inspiring to work with subject matter experts from the CWBA to promote justice,” says Julia.
From left: Alison Connaughty (CWBA Public Policy co-chair); Ruth Aponte; Kim Sporrer (CWBA Executive Director); and Julia Scanlan.
This 2022 legislative session, Ruth and Julia are working hard at the Capitol (and virtually) on a handful of bills identified as top priorities by the CWBA Public Policy Committee. The Public Policy Committee voted in late 2021 to concentrate lobbying efforts on the Reproductive Health Equity Act (which would lead the country in creating affirmative statutory protections for women’s right to reproductive healthcare) and the Protecting Worker’s Opportunities and Rights Act, otherwise known as the “POWR Act” (a bill that would make the standards of proof for workplace sexual harassment and discrimination more achievable for victims). The CWBA also publicly supports many other bills at “priority two” level or “actively monitor” status, and occasionally opposes legislation that is contrary to the CWBA mission. (For a comprehensive list of bills supported and opposed in the 2021 legislative session, please see the 2021 Legislative Session Wrap-Up.) To accomplish these goals, Ruth and Julia “lobby” bills through the legislative process, often by enlisting the legal expertise of CWBA members to persuade legislators through email/calling campaigns, testifying at committee hearings, and weighing in on bill drafts and changes. To keep members in the loop of the fast-paced Capitol happenings, Julia provides a weekly legislative update and a bill matrix via the Public Policy slack channel.
To learn more about CWBA-sponsored legislation, please consider joining the Public Policy Committee! The Public Policy Committee typically meets the second Monday of each month at noon. Please reach out to committee co-chairs Alison Connaughty (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Laura Wolf (email@example.com) for more information.
Rachael Willihnganz is a second-year law student and Chancellor’s Scholar at the DU Sturm College of Law. She is a Denver local and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. Prior to attending law school, Rachael was a Legislative Aide at the Colorado General Assembly. She is currently a student attorney with the DU Civil Litigation Clinic, and ultimately aspires to become a public interest lawyer.