Governor Ned Lamont, on Tuesday, announced that he has signed into law a bill developed based on recommendations produced by the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls that addresses barriers parents face when running for state elected office, and also promotes greater gender and racial diversity of appointments on state boards and commissions.
Created by Governor Lamont as one of his first actions upon taking office in early 2019, the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls is chaired by Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz and tasked with providing a coordinated state response to issues impacting the lives of women, girls, and their families. Among the council’s priorities has been to promote the representation of women in positions of leadership in both the public and private sector, including in government elected and appointed positions.
The group presented a legislative proposal addressing some of these issues to the Connecticut General Assembly at the beginning of the legislative session, and it gained an overwhelming amount of support in the House and Senate, ultimately arriving to the governor’s desk so he could sign it into law.
The bill contains two main provisions:
- It addresses the barrier of childcare expenses when a candidate is running for state elected office under the citizens election program – commonly known as public financing – by expressly allowing reasonable childcare costs directly related to campaign activity to be eligible program expenses. This legislative change not only opens the door for more parents to run for state office, but given the harsh reality that childcare responsibilities continue to disproportionately impact women, it also helps mitigate gender inequities that could result from use of the citizens election program in pursuing elected office.
- It creates a statutory requirement for appointing authorities to consider recommendations from organizations that represent the interest of gender and racial diversity when seeking people to serve on state boards and commissions. It also codifies a transparent process for people to express interest in serving on boards and commissions and offers more direct access to membership and other relevant information about what such public service entails.
“Women must have equal representation in state government, and we need to do everything we can to remove any barriers that create imbalances among those in leadership positions,” Governor Lamont said. “Policies in the past that have prevented campaign funding from being used to cover the costs of childcare while campaigning for state office are a perfect example of the kinds of barriers that need to be removed. I’m glad we are finally able to reverse that uneven policy through this legislation, and I am hopeful that we can continue this work and deliver on our administration’s commitment to gender equality and opportunity.”
Lt. Governor Bysiewicz noted that while women make up more than half of Connecticut’s population, there is a disproportionate representation in elected state offices. This year, women hold 27.8% of seats in the Connecticut State Senate, 35.1% of seats in the Connecticut State House of Representatives, and 33% of state constitutional offices.
“This is a historic day for women and families in Connecticut,” Lt. Governor Bysiewicz said. “Government works better when moms have a seat at the table, but for too long, structural barriers have made running for and holding public office as a young parent an impossibility for countless women in our state. I’m proud of the work done by the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls to break down historic barriers that have kept women and people of diverse backgrounds from public service. This legislation will be a gateway to greater gender equity, and I cannot wait to see the countless women and young parents who will pursue public service in the future because of it.”
“Growing up as a young woman in Connecticut, there were very few women in powerful positions in state government and there were even fewer women of color in those roles,” Melissa McCaw, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) and vice chair of the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls, said. “As the first Black woman to hold the role of OPM secretary and as a mother to young daughters, it has been particularly important to me to advance policies that will increase access and diversity to make certain we continue to strive for having equitable representation. These new laws will enable more women to run for office and promotes diversity on state boards and commissions, and those new voices to the process will include different perspectives and lived experience, which will shape the debate and the outcomes by more accurately reflecting the community. While I am excited by this in the near-term, I am also optimistic about the impact it will have on generations to come.”
The provisions of the legislation relating to childcare expenses were inspired by Caitlin Pereira, a mother and former candidate from Fairfield who ran for a seat in the Connecticut House of Representatives in 2018 and was told by the State Elections Enforcement Commission that she could not use campaign funds to cover the costs of childcare while she was campaigning. After filing a lawsuit over the matter, the Connecticut Superior Court eventually ruled in her favor.
“This has been an incredible journey, and while I’m relieved our Superior Court ruling will be codified into law, the progress must not end here,” Pereira said. “The real victory will come when we see more women running for office. The opportunity to increase the number of diverse voices around the table is long overdue, and there is no question the future for families in our state will be better for it.”
Lt. Governor Bysiewicz and Secretary McCaw said the work of the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls is ongoing, and they look forward to continuing to advance these issues.
The legislation is Public Act 21-49, An Act Concerning the Recommendations of the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls.