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On Childcare, State Legislators & The Importance of Structural Change

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

Nerds that we are, we're down in the weeds on the amendments on today's bills. And our nerdiness has been rewarded! Childcare! An amendment proposes a childcare reimbursement for legislators with young children.

We want to give you a little recap of context on the Wyoming Legislature before we dive into the childcare amendment.

Recent articles exploring the make-up of Wyoming's citizen legislature reveal that it does not reflect the diversity of Wyoming’s overall population. Unless you're new here (and, if you are, Welcome!), you know how strongly we feel about a State Legislature that better reflects the population. And especially structural changes that can help us move toward equal representation, because equal representation is the only way to achieve equitable policy.

Women comprise just over 15% of the combined House and Senate but 50% of Wyoming’s overall population.

The average age of a legislator is 58, while the average age of a Wyomingite is 37. Which is probably part of the reason why there are very few parents of young children in the State Legislature even though Wyoming has approximately 93,000 children under the age of 12, according to the Census’ 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

As Nick Reynolds reported in the Casper Star Tribune, "There’s also a lack of an incentive for younger lawmakers — especially those with children — to spend significant amounts of time away from home, particularly as demands on lawmakers have increased exponentially in recent years. Notably, only two women with young children — Burlingame and Republican Sen. Affie Ellis — currently serve in the Legislature, and both hail from Cheyenne." Though Reynolds article does not point it out, there are also two men who have children under 12. Both have four children and a wife who is primarily a stay-at-home-mom.

There are no single parents currently serving in the Legislature in spite of 1/3 of all children under 12 living in a single-parent household.

“If we want good legislators, we need to attract them,” Rep. Cathy Connolly said. “And that comes with the terms and conditions of the work. They have to be conducive to doing the job."

A new amendment would offer support to legislators with children under 12 and remove at least one structural barrier for parents.

Wyoming would become among the first states to offer a childcare stipend to legislators. Standing committee amendment 1 to SF0002 Legislative budgets reads:

Funds appropriated in this act may be expended to reimburse members of the legislature for additional childcare expenses incurred by the member for the care of the member's dependent minor children under the age of twelve (12) as a result of the member attending sessions of the legislature, attending meetings of interim committees and engaging in authorized interim work.

This is part of a shift, begun nationally, over the last two years, and we're excited to see it come to the Equality State.

In 2018, the Federal Election Commission ruled that candidates seeking federal office can use election accounts to pay for childcare while on the campaign trail.

At the state level, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, “Most states’ laws are silent on the issue of allowing campaign funds for campaign-related childcare expenses.” Wyoming is one of those states.

We're pleased to report: Several candidates running for state and local office in Wyoming have already indicated that they plan to use their campaign contributions to pay for some childcare expenses while campaigning.

Right now, the make-up of our Legislature does not match the rest of the state, especially with regard to women and parents. Adding an option to reimburse parents of children under 12 for some of their childcare expenses would go a long way toward signaling that serving in the Wyoming Legislature is an option for families.

Encourage a YES vote and keep this amendment in SF0002!


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