As a community activist, State Assemblymember, and civil rights lawyer, Jo Anne Simon is a forceful advocate for Brooklyn. She has worked to give Brooklyn's communities a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, reduce gun violence, promote environmental justice, increase affordable housing, fight sexual harassment, reform election laws, improve transit and street safety, and improve access to education.
Jo Anne was elected to represent the 52nd District of the New York State Assembly in 2014. She has passed major legislation on campaign finance reform, gun violence prevention, gender equity, and education. She has championed free school meals for all children and ensured that no kids are shamed because their families don’t have enough money to pay for school meals. Jo Anne helped secure equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, and sexual harassment protections. She chairs the Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance and Co-Chairs the Legislative Ethics Commission.
She has fought against big developers on a range of land use issues, from Atlantic Yards to the Downtown Brooklyn Development Plan. She also fought against the closure of the Long Island College Hospital, and pushed for legislation to ensure community input before hospitals are closed. She has worked with the community to clean up the Gowanus Canal, and to win design-build authorization to save time and money on the BQE repairs. She was an early pioneer pushing to bury the polluting Gowanus Expressway into an environmentally-just and sustainable tunnel, and was one of the few Assemblymembers to vote against repealing the plastic bag ban in 2018.
Jo Anne has always stood up for her constituents and put principle over politics. She served as the female Democratic District Leader for the 52nd Assembly District from 2004 to 2014. She was a forceful leader in ending corrupt party boss Vito Lopez’ politics as usual in the Brooklyn Democratic Party. In 2012, she was in the forefront of the effort to force Lopez from office and adopt a series of long-overdue reforms to open up the Kings County Democratic Committee. She is also a co-founder of the NY State Democratic Committee’s Progressive Caucus.
A former teacher of the deaf, sign language interpreter and disability civil rights attorney, Jo Anne is a nationally recognized expert in her field. Jo Anne and her husband, Bill Harris, live in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Her stepson, Trevor Harris, and his wife, Paola Vita, live in Astoria with their children, Matteo and Amalia; her stepson, Bevan Harris, lives in Cold Spring, NY.