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To many, the term "bag lady" is never positive. But Brownley embraces the moniker and made it her mission in the state legislature to do away with plastic bags at supermarkets, saying the "urban tumbleweed" pollutes streets and waterways and is "threatening marine life."
Working with environmentalists and Hollywood stars such as Rosario Dawson and Amy Smart, she persuaded colleagues to move a bill in 2010 that called for a ban on the bags at most retailers. While the bill did not become law, local governments took notice. Los Angeles now has a ban on plastic bags at most stores.
Now Brownley plans to continue that fight, and the push for stricter recycling regulations, on a national level.
She vows to get to work quickly on her partyís broader agenda. She supports the Obama administrationís health care policies and abortion rights, and she favors expanding benefits for veterans, especially women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brownley chaired the California Legislatureís Education Committee and also served on two other education-related panels.
She favors revising the education law known as No Child Left Behind and plans to push for funding for new federal programs to enhance after-school education programs.
On foreign policy Brownley is expected to join the ranks of members who oppose the Afghan war and support cuts in defense spending.
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