I recently checked in with some of the freshmen Democratic women in the Arkansas House of Representatives to see how things were going since the legislative session began back in January. I asked about how the reality of governing compared to their expectations, important legislation they wanted more people to know about and how they spend their precious free time. Rep. Megan Godfrey (D-Springdale) is up first.

Godfrey tells me she expected to define her colleagues by how liberal or conservative they are but instead is getting to know them by their work style, including their inclination to collaborate, their professionalism and their collegiality.

“I’ve been thrilled by the willingness (and even eagerness) of many of my conservative colleagues to work across party lines using their strengths and insights. There have also been frustrating and disappointing moments, not necessarily because of politics but because of mismatched working styles and professional values.”

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Godfrey recently filed HB 1552, which allows those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status to be licensed as Arkansas nurses. After her campaign team brought the issue to her attention last year, it became a priority she was willing to fight for because it means so much to her community and is perfectly in line with her core values. Currently, individuals in the DACA program are not eligible to sit for the licensing exam in Arkansas, even after paying for and completing the coursework required to receive a nursing degree. Godfrey has been thrilled by the bi-partisan support and the support of the nursing industry and higher ed.

“This bill is a win-win: We are in desperate need for nurses, and these Dreamers — dedicated, resilient, often bilingual — are ideal candidates to serve their communities here in Arkansas. We are doing our state a huge disservice to allow them to leave Arkansas for Oklahoma or move across the country to other states who allow nursing licensure for DACA recipients. I hope we can do the right thing and keep these Arkansans here in our communities as nurses.”

HB 1552 is scheduled to be heard today in the Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee.

Godfrey, who has not been shy about her love for Jazzercise, still finds time for it in Little Rock. She also is very close with the other freshmen Democrats and reports they often get together after work or share breakfast in “the clubhouse,” their term of affection for their cubicles in the Capitol basement.

Back in January, Godfrey spoke of compassion being one of her core values. From the way she framed the debate over women’s reproductive health to her effort to help nursing students, it is clear she is a woman of her word. Arkansas is the better for it.