This morning, we received an inquiry about how to find the voting records of Wyoming Legislators. That's a complicated enough question in and of itself (which we'll answer below and add to our How To feature).
The author of the email--presumably mad about the likely end of Roe and seemingly unaware that Roe hasn't been relevant in Wyoming for many years now--wanted legislator voting records on bills "supporting funding for abortion, child care, pre-school, after school care, subsidized lunches, rent assistance for single mothers, pay equity, parenting classes, prenatal care, contraception access, Medicaid expansion, education for single moms."
We live here.
So there aren't really bills on these subjects.
(We responded and let the author know that most of those things didn't have bills. A couple did--shout out to everyone working on Medicaid expansion! And lots had inverse bills. As in, "Dear Author, We are sorry to report that the exact opposite of most of your bills have been passed here in the Equality State. We weren't able to defeat them all. Signed, Your friends at WWAN.)
The author also wanted to know about bills regarding "deadbeat dads and child support…and anything else you can think of that they could have voted on in the legislature that would support a woman (abandoned by a father of any child) to raise a child."
Boy howdy, does that last part get complicated.
Since women aren't considered equal in statute (btw, that's both literal and figurative), tethering women to men/baby daddy/sperm donor/partner/former partner is wildly fraught. And, for many women, deeply unsafe. Reader, the leading cause of death among pregnant women is homicide.
But, in the interest of establishing a clear baseline about where things stand, let's dig into the rest of the questions.
Want legislator voting records? Go to WyoLeg.gov and search by bill.
The good news: the site has all the information you want! Click here for the bills page. You can search by keyword, number, index, subject, or session/year. We generally start with the year or session that we're interested in, then search the list of bills for that session, find the ones related to those subjects, and then go to the digest to see the vote count.
The bad news? Outside of some anonymous sites run by, well, who knows who they're run by (but they're designed to tear down legislators), there isn't a clear compilation of voting records. You can't just click on a legislator's name or page to see all the votes they've taken.
Want to know about the bills the author asked us for? Of course you do!
(Reader, if you somehow made it this far in spite of the title but don't have the stomach for the real bad news, this is the moment to pack up tent stakes and head elsewhere, maybe you'd like a nice Quarantine Kit from Mothers' Day 2021 instead?)
There were no bills in the last five years that would provide support for childcare. The only childcare discussion we've been party to was the infamous No Childcare. Because, Livestock. debate on the House floor in 2020 around a proposed budget amendment to provide an optional reimbursement for a limited amount of childcare costs ($500) for legislators who are parents of children under 12. That amendment died quickly in dramatic fashion, as you're no doubt aware.
There were no bills in the last five years that would provide resources for prenatal care. There were, however, two bills during the 2022 Budget Session that would have created new felony statutes for pregnant people who took drugs during pregnancy. Silver lining: neither passed and both brought out great advocates for the physical and mental health of pregnant people and new moms. So much so that the #1 priority for Joint Labor, Health & Social Services in the interim is Maternal Health. (Next meeting is June 2nd and maternal health is a half day. Plus, there are some great policy solutions out there which we'll outline in an upcoming post.) Perhaps, if we're lucky, we'll see some discussion of the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act which would provide legal protections for pregnant workers.
None of the bills drafted to raise the minimum wage have been introduced in the last three years.
No gender wage gap or wage transparency bills were drafted in 2022. A bill to require wage transparency failed in committee in 2021. A similar bill failed introduction in 2020. Wage equity and bills to address the gender wage gap all failed to advance in the 2019 session in spite of an excellent 2018 report from the Department of Workforce services recommending policy solutions to close the gender wage gap.
There were no bills to expand pre-K, though there has been much discussion over the years. There is, however, a growing homeschool movement and, with it, a new effort to repeal public school funding entirely.
There has continued to be an effort to terminate the parental rights of rapists. Those efforts have failed; rapists still have parental rights.
A bill introduced three years ago to recoup the costs of Medicaid birth costs from fathers has cost the state money and been a disaster for mothers. Efforts to repeal it continue to fail. (Though Reps. Yin and Hallinan did an admirable job trying.)
One bright spot was an adjustment to the stalking statute that accounted for advances in technology.
Medicaid expansion passed the House in 2021, but the Senate did not introduce it. It was not introduced in 2022 and all attempts to get it introduced failed. (Until 2021, MedEx had failed all prior attempts at introduction and on the floor.)
Budget amendments and bills restricting access to abortion have passed in each of the last five years with a large number advancing in the most recent biennium.
Maternal mortality and morbidity in rural communities is on the rise.
Perhaps this is because diminished access to OB care is on the rise throughout the state. Two more OB departments have shuttered in the last month.
We've obviously written extensively on all of these issues over the last few years.
We want you to know that this morning's email was a wake-up call. We haven't been writing as much (a separate post is coming on that subject). But we honestly thought that our dispatches from Cheyenne and our explanation of the world-as-it-is and our partnerships and policy recs had helped to form a clear picture of what's going on out there.
Reader, this morning's email tells us that we were wrong. Some people have, apparently, been thinking that policy-wise they just live in some utopian northerly Colorado. Those people are not ready for the reality check that, actually, they live in Wyoming.
But, as Lyz Lenz writes over on Men Yell at Me in the brilliant essay In Defense of Losing:
People suggest moving, but moving is a luxury. Queer kids are born every day. Who is going to stay for them? A dear friend of mine, a queer woman in town, once told me that she stays because she can, because it’s her town too, because why should she move if she can stay and fight?
So, here's to staying and fighting. And here's to anyone--like the author--finally ready to look reality in the face and get in the fight.
Here are some others who are tracking the action and raising their voices. All. of. the. time.
Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault has probably the most comprehensive tracker for bills that cause harm to victims of gender based violence. They do an excellent job explaining why attempts to create statute that tether pregnant women and mothers to fathers is extremely dangerous for women. (We'll say it again. Look no further than the #1 cause of death for pregnant women: murder.)
Wyoming Women's Foundation has a bill tracker from the last two sessions. They also have several insightful policy briefs and a self-sufficiency calculator.
Dozens of other organizations are out there, monitoring the legislature, sharing stories, sounding alarms, providing resources, and issuing explanations of just what is at stake for all of us. Think that women's equality is only a matter for women? Check this out. Think that voting rights and election access don't disadvantage women disproportionately? Check this out. Think that bodily autonomy and voting rights aren't linked? Check this out. (Or just read the tweet below.)
All of this is a long way of saying: We stay and fight because when we make the Equality State more equal EVERYONE BENEFITS. Everyone. Every. One. Everyone benefits.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."
And your neighbor as yourself. Our job is to make it better for everyone.