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Wage Equality in the Equality State

On my way to the Jonah today, REO Speedwagon came on the radio. It was like Shelley Simonton got into the car with me.

She loved REO Speedwagon. "And even though I wander/I'm keeping you in sight/You're the candle in the window/On a cold dark winter's night./And I'm getting closer than I ever thought I might..." I could see her in a dress and boots and cowboy hat up at The Bird after a wedding one night. I can't remember if she was recounting (and by recounting, I mean singing) REO Speedwagon or if it came on in the background. Or, somehow, through some feat of Shelley magic, both.

And so I knew: Shelley was going to make sure we got this done. Shelley would have been at the Capitol with us trying to make steps towards wage equality. And she was here today. We'd win this vote.

I pulled into the Jonah and took up residence in the anteroom with George again. Tara Muir from WCADVSA, whose lobbying efforts yesterday served as a master class for those of us new to the game, was there, too. We grabbed a checklist and a pile of purple slips and started to strategize.

In the meantime, we were blessed by the Chaplain of the Day. We pledged allegiance. The House Members in the back shouted, "Play ball!" Leap Into Leadership brought this year's class into the House Gallery. Representative Sue Wilson introduced them to the Legislators. There was HUZZAH-ing, as there so often is in the House.

And, just like that, we were in session.

Jessica Jaubert did an exceptional job (as she always does) explaining Wyoming's citizen legislature and encouraging all the L2L'ers in the gallery to use the purple slips to talk to the legislators--especially about HB0084. "If you care about wage equality, send in a note and talk to your Rep about it." Tara and I kept sending in our own purple slips and hoped that some of the women would join us.

We talked to members. We got yesses. We got nos. We got wind of an amendment. And then an amendment to the amendment.

Rep. Zwonitzer, the amender of the amendment, explained that he hoped to put some of the language back into the bill if the first amendment--designed to strip out the heart of the bill--was successful. We clarified with Minority Floor Leader Connolly that we should advise members to vote YES on the bill, NO on the first amendment, and YES on the second amendment if the first amendment passes. (That's a mouthful.)

The House took up other businesses. Time passed. Bills passed. Some L2L'ers came back from their visit to the Senate. They wanted to learn how to send in the purple slips, they wanted to talk to their Reps, they wanted to help move the needle on wage equality. (If this blog had high five emojis, this is where we would put them.)

So now there were four of us. We sent in slips for four Reps. But all of a sudden, HB0084 was up for third reading NEXT, so it was unlikely that anyone would leave the floor to talk with us. But the Reps love Tara and so Rep. Furphy came out. He's pro-business and he gets it: What is good for women is good for Wyoming. Closing the wage gap is about economic development. He said he'd go back in and make the case.

We retired to the gallery for the floor debate. (Check out our twitter feed for the blow-by-blow.)

Yesses stood up and gave impassioned pleas. Nos stood up and stumped for the status quo. The amendment's sponsor, Rep. Clem made lengthy final remarks. He repeated misinformation about the gender wage gap. He stated that more men than women go into high paying professions, so when you compare men's earnings to women's earnings you find a gap. (Fact check: False. That is not how the research is conducted or how the data is analyzed. The R&P report does a 1:1 comparison wherever possible and uses regression analyses elsewhere.) He stated that men work more hours than women because women prefer to be with their families. (Fact check: Mostly false. Men do often work more overtime than women. That has more to do with systemic expectations, asymmetry in the division of caregiving, and the number of single parent families headed by women.) The women in the gallery--and there were many--were not amused. They resisted the urge to boo.

The chair called the question: On amendment one. How do you vote? AYE! NO!

Who could tell? Yesterday's vote was a tie. We would have to wait for the headcount. One of those instants that feels like an entire geologic epoch. They stood for the headcount. When all the heads were counted: 28 for the amendment, 29 against, and the amendment failed. Rep Zwonitzer stood and withdrew his amendment. We took a deep breath as the chair moved the bill to third reading.

As always, third reading is a roll call vote so that everyone can hear all the yesses and the nos one by one. We clicked through the list. AYE. AYE. AYE. NO. And on until the votes were tallied: 39-18-2-0. Motion carries.

There was cheering. (Or, at least in my mind there was cheering. But I am pretty sure there was cheering.) The room felt electric. Just two days prior, it did not feel hopeful. It did not feel like Wyoming wanted to welcome businesses or welcome women or to take a step forward.

But here we are. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to take up the fight! There is more to be done, but this is a huge step forward.

Postscript: Several people suggested today that I register as a lobbyist. Too many days in the anteroom, I guess. So when I got back to the hotel for the day, I searched how to register. On the Secretary of State's site, it asks you to put in your name to make sure you are not already in the system. So I typed in SIMON. And up popped one name: Shelley Simonton.

Thanks, Shelley.

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