Reader: If you are having a pleasant morning, read this one thing. And then stop reading.
THREE LEGISLATORS FILED A BILL BASED ON A COLUMN THAT JEN AND FORMER REP. BURLINGAME WROTE.
Crazy right? We'll happily live in this bizarro world. They read this column about the language of construction and filed a bill. A clarifying bill. A bill that says that women do, in fact, exist:
HB167 Youthful offender program access. AN ACT relating to the youthful offender program; clarifying that male and female inmates are eligible for the youthful offender program; and providing for an effective date.
Ok, stop reading, drink your coffee if you drink coffee, go about your day with joy and hope.
Still here? Well, then, here we go. But we'll (try to?) keep it brief.
Last week's legislative work was not especially enjoyable. Some days, some debates and discussions were positively soul crushing--at least for this political observer or the women on our extended team.
On Wednesday, two separate committees heard two separate bills (simultaneously, of course) that were not awesome for women or other humans in two separate ways.
Born alive infant - means of care sprang back to life this session after Governor Gordon vetoed the identical bill last year. Nick Reynolds has a great summary of how the discussion and debate went in Senate Labor on Wednesday afternoon. Reader, trust us when we tell you, the things he quoted were by far the most benign things said in that hearing. If you want to go back and hear for yourself, the discussion is here and comes at the 33:52 mark (and then goes on forever and ever and ever). Reader, you can't unhear these things.
"I don't care about theories of evolution, nobody's ever going to convince me that life comes about by accident." (Reader, this is actually not the first time that this precise language about evolution has been used this session. It also came up in the debate over the Suicide prevention that ultimately failed during a floor debate in the House.)
Though at least one doctor tried to explain how this bill actually interferes with the current statute--current statute which, btw, already outlaws abortions past viability and prescribes that doctors must care for infants born alive at thing that they all do because that's their sworn solemn duty which they take seriously--the members of the committee and some members of the public were not having it.
In case you were wondering, this is not the only anti-choice bill filed this session. There are four others:
Homicide amendments (this is a personhood bill)
Voter fraud - prevention was over in House Corporations at the same time. Voter suppression often dresses itself up as "election integrity." This bill is no exception to that maxim.
First things first: there is no voter fraud in Wyoming. Nick Reynolds (always Nick Reynolds, be sure to follow him over to WyoFile where he starts there on Monday) put it this way: Voter fraud is rarer than UFO sightings. So why are politicians trying to tighten access to the polls?
Even nationally, it happens *almost never.* Want to learn more? Brennan Center for Justice has you covered; they're tracking voting rights and voter suppression nationwide. (They'll also bring you up to speed on the pivotal voting rights case in front of SCOTUS in March.)
And ESPC hosted a panel discussion to dig into the myths, best practices, and incredible possibilities for democracy when more people can participate. (For those of you keeping score at home: Sean Morales-Doyle who is working on the SCOTUS voting rights case and Amber McReynolds who was nominated by the WH to the USPS governing board were both on the ESPC panel.)
Why does a voter fraud bill matter to women?
There are a number of groups that voter suppression bills disenfranchise: the elderly, those living in poverty, the working class, Black voters, indigenous voters, Latinx voters, rural voters. They also disproportionately impact women.
Women are more likely to change their names due to marriage or divorce. This dramatically increases the likelihood that their paperwork won't match their name on the voter rolls and they'll be denied the opportunity to cast a ballot.
Women are more likely to work minimum wage and highly regulated jobs where it is more challenging to get enough time off to drive to the polls.
For women who experience intimate partner violence, casting a vote may represent a significant danger.
For those who have experienced stalking or have left a violent situation, registering to vote in most states--including Wyoming--means making their address public (voter rolls are public information except in states that have made provisions for safety-based exclusions).
On the flip side of this is the good news. When women vote, more women get elected. When a greater diversity of people have access to the polls, the people we elect better represent the people we are. There is still time to weigh in on this bill. Let them know why you care.
Voyeurism amendments passed out of Senate Judiciary unanimously. The changes to statute--should the bill pass both chambers--will enable prosecutors to prosecute this crime that disproportionately affects women.
So what happens next?
On Monday, the Wyoming 66th is back in action. Committee hearings start at 8am, floor sessions start at 10am. You can get the whole schedule here and follow along with the proceedings on the WyoLeg YouTube channel right here (or via our twitter feed).
Other things you might be excited to know about:
The Wyoming Women's Foundation, Equality State Policy Center, and (maybe? maybe not?) Wyoming Council for Women (we're still claiming them--until they tell us not to) released a brief on Friday about women in elected office in Wyoming.
Check that out here! Download it here:
ESPC's next People's Review: Live! will dig into the subject of women in elected roles in Wyoming. The PR Live is free and virtual and March's event features State Auditor Kristi Racines, Casper City Councilor Amber Pollack, and Cynthia Richie Terrell, CEO of RepresentWomen. They'll be joined by a couple of additional women in elected office. Register right here.
And we'll be back in action Monday tracking everything you need to know about legislative affairs. We're on the lookout for action around the bills that will benefit women: minimum wage, wage transparency, inclusive ballot language, repeal of the Medicaid birth cost recovery program, Medicaid expansion.