Good God Almighty, there is a lot to write about.
Super Tuesday. We'll get to that.
A super prepared, ultra qualified woman leaving the Presidential race. We'll get to that.
The dudes on the floor of the House talking about goats. Which is something that we'll get to in the context of #DidYouKnow: Did you know that livestock rustling has a steeper penalty (felony) in Wyoming Statute than sexual battery (misdemeanor)? We'll weigh in on post-coverture laws and women's bodies in another post and, in all likelihood, a policy brief.
So there is a lot.
But we want to make sure that you know--and know RIGHT NOW--what went down on the floor of the House yesterday. And we know that some of you don't follow us on Twitter, so we're bringing the play-by-play over here.
Seatbelts, readers. It was quite a ride. (As if you needed more punch-in-the-face misogyny this week.)
Yesterday afternoon, on the floor of the House, they moved the amendment on childcare:
"Section 14. [Legislator Childcare Expenses]. At the direction of Management Council, 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. Members of the legislature shall provide receipts to the legislative service office for reimbursable childcare expenses incurred pursuant to this section and Management Council policy. No reimbursable expense to any one (1) member under this section shall exceed five hundred dollars15 ($500.00) in any calendar quarter."
This amendment uses what legislators call "permissive" language; it uses "may" not "shall" so there is no requirement, really, to do anything.
This amendment affects exactly 7 currently serving members out of 90--only 2 of whom are women.
This amendment costs--at its maximum--$10,000 less than the amendment approved immediately after and $222,000 and $352,000 less than the amendments proposed today. Bottom line: this amendment would signal a willingness to move in a direction far more than it would have made a significant impact for individuals and their families.
Let's find out how it turned out, shall we? Here is yesterday's play-by-play:
The first response comes from a male legislator who said that he doesn’t want to be seen as an old ogre. BUT. He then goes on to complain that he has to plow roads and care for livestock. And that's just as important for reimbursement.
The second response echoes the first. Both men invoke livestock and oppose the amendment.
A (male) member has now risen to say, “Look around the room. How many young mothers or parents are in this room?” Asks for an aye vote on the amendment.
Another man (that makes 4 men) rises to say that, of course, he is in favor of diversity. BUT. He doesn’t like the process, so he is opposed to the amendment.
The first female legislator rises to speak! She is speaking about who does unpaid caregiving work and where they live--pointing out that the 2 women in the legislature with small children both share a zip code with the Capitol. In response to a snarky back and forth between male legislators about childbearing age that referenced Abraham having a child at 99, she points out that Abraham might not have needed childcare, but Sarah would have. (Think she's off base? Check out this amazing report on the value of women's unpaid caregiving and how women's unpaid labor props up economies--and, in our case, legislatures--worldwide.)
“If we’re serious about doing something about Wyoming being #50 with women serving in elected office, this is a great place to start.”
A young male legislator points out, “Man, there are like seven people with non white hair in the chambers. If you want to diversify, this is one way to do it.” Vote aye.
Another man has risen to speak. He brings us back to what he clearly believes are important points about ranchers and a citizen legislature. “We get $250/day. You can pay childcare out of that.”
Next man, “It shouldn’t be any different for one gender or the other." He adds, "If my wife and I had young children right now, I would take care of my own kids.”
A second woman! “I want you to deal in numbers. Childcare can be at least $1200/mo. In some places, even more. We’re talking $1200/mo. Please be respectful when you’re talking ‘everyone can afford it.’ Let’s have a little reality.” (In case you're interested, the Wyoming Women's Foundation can give you specific intel on what childcare costs in your community. Check out their new Self-Sufficiency Standard, updated for 2020.)
Now another man: “I'm concerned that it is turning into a discussion about young mothers. Most people in my district, both parents are working." He urges his colleagues, "Don’t get tangled up in thinking it’s this gender thing.” Vote no.
Another man. "We're bringing an amendment with $250,000 for videoconferencing. We could put them all in a room and watch them that way." His snark indicates his derision of the amendment without stating his opinion either way. Worth noting that this member has: Children under 12, a wife who stays at home with them, cast a yes vote on the childcare amendment in committee.
Another man. “As a parent of young children who are currently in the break room, this only affects seven of us.” He goes on to say that people ask him, “How do you make it work?” and says he is actually not sure how it works. And, he adds, he is certain that it doesn’t work for single parents. Vote yes.
Third woman! Pointing out that we want the legislature to look more like the state. “The amount of money is tiny, but the concept is good.”
They call for a vote. Because it is first reading and an amendment, this is a voice vote. The nos yell louder than the ayes. No division is called. The chair is not in doubt. The standing committee amendment has failed and the Wyoming Legislature says no to childcare.
So. A few points on this.
We’re going back to the audio and calling out by name the (male) Reps who spoke in support and those who called “because, livestock” and “it’s just not fair.” So stay tuned for that.
But we also want to say that this (too brief) debate highlighted several issues.
The obvious inequality of the body and the damaging and lasting effects of that. Supermajorities kill, people. They kill good ideas and then gaslight you to make you think that you’re on the wrong side of the good ideas.
The structural barriers to equal representation. This body bears little to no resemblance to our state. 15% women in a 50-50 state. Average age of 58 when the state’s average age is 37. Seven (7!) parents with kids under 12. In a state with more than 93,000 children under 12.
The absolute unwillingness to do the People’s work. Sometimes, your job—for the good of the order—is to work yourself out of a job. That’s what service above self is all about.
We understand that this job is hard. It is the hardest, in fact. The hours are brutal and the pay is low and the expectations and workload are both sky high.
But our state needs real leadership that reflects the real lives of the rest of us.
So here’s what you can do:
Thank the members of the Rules Cmte and especially Rep Connolly for bringing this amendment and advocating for structural change. (And to Rep Duncan for pointing out what childcare actually costs.)
Reach out to your Rep and tell them that you want reimbursement for legislators’ childcare to be added to the interim cmte topic list. (Deadline: Friday @ 5pm.)
Run for office! Or work on the campaigns of people who are running for office and have committed to making structural change. Without that, the “because, livestock” “it’s not fair” men will drive this bus right off a cliff.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: What is good for women is good for Wyoming.
So let’s get to work.