BOSTON – Before Amanda Linehan launched her campaign for Malden City Council, she thought the Emerge Massachusetts training program she took would give her a good idea of what to expect to run for office while by being the parent of a young child.
She was wrong. Ultimately, Linehan told lawmakers on Wednesday that balancing her responsibilities as a mother and as a candidate was “one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.”
“Even this rigorous six-month program tailored to the unique concerns of women, however, could not prepare me for the challenges of campaigning professionally in a town of nearly 70,000 with a five-year-old girl and a spouse on a schedule. demanding work of their own, ”said Linehan, now in her second year as a city councilor. “Countryside is all-consuming, as most people in this room know, and finding daycare is part of the math for working parents who are considering running. “
Lawmakers are pushing again to add child care to the list of eligible campaign fundraising expenses in Massachusetts, backed by the approval of the change by a legislative committee late last year, a growing list over a dozen states that have already rolled out similar reforms, and the possibility that a new campaign finance regulator will adopt the proposal.
A bill submitted to the Electoral Laws Commission would explicitly allow candidates to use their campaign accounts to cover the costs of monitoring their children while the parent is busy running for office.
Massachusetts has no clear language in the books covering political spending on child care, child care, or similar needs, but some candidates for power – including Lee Erica Palmer of Somerville, whose The experience in 2017 prompted the bill’s sponsors to act – the Office of Political Office of Finance told them that spending the dollars raised on childcare would be inappropriate “personal use”.
“The current OCPF directive is that child care expenses cannot be paid with campaign funds,” a spokesperson for the campaign’s finance office said on Wednesday in a statement to the department. hurry. “Such expenses would be considered personal use. Of course, if the law is changed, our directions will reflect the new law. “
Reform supporters told the electoral commission on Wednesday that the current landscape leaves a barrier to candidate parents of young children, especially those from low-income backgrounds or communities of color.
“This legislation is relevant, it is timely and it is well verified,” Representative Joan Meschino, who sponsored the House version of the bill, told the committee. “If we want a more diverse body of lawmakers, we need a more diverse pool of candidates, and so we have to be intentional about investing in people, building equity in the system so that we can develop this. pool of candidates and encourage people from all walks of life. of life to run for public office.
The Senate approved the reform in its annual budget in 2019, but the measure did not survive negotiations with the House. In a campaign finance reporting reform bill later that year, lawmakers agreed to create a commission to explore authorizing campaign spending for child care.
This panel ended its work in December, concluding in a report that Bay State political hopefuls “should be allowed to use campaign funds for child care expenses that would not exist without the candidate’s campaign obligations. , as they are allowed to do with other expenses. this would not exist without the candidate’s campaign obligations.
When the group submitted its report nine months ago, its members said at least 13 other states and the Federal Election Commission allow campaign spending on child care. At Wednesday’s hearing, that estimate had risen to 17 other states.
At least three Bay State neighbors – New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut – allow the practice, either by court order or legislative approval, according to Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics.
The latest push for reform will come during the hammer-wielding House Speaker Ronald Mariano’s first full term and under a new campaign finance regulator. William Campbell was sworn in as the new director of the OCPF in April.
“We were so grateful to have a conversation with the new director of the OCPF, Bill Campbell, who understands the intent of the bill, agrees that his office can carry it out in the same way he regulates other campaign expenses, ”said Senator Patricia Jehlen. , one of the sponsors of the bill, told the committee.
While supporters say the bill could ease the pressure on all candidate parents, they said it would especially help women, who more often bear a disproportionate care load.
In a report released in May, the Vote Mama Foundation found that 51 federal candidates had used campaign funds to pay for child care since the FEC officially authorized such expenses in 2018. About 73% of those expenses were from women and 45% were people of color, the authors said.
Women remain under-represented in the Legislative Assembly, constituting more than 51% of the state’s population, but only 31% of seats in the Legislative Assembly at the start of the 2021-2022 session.
“When you run for office and you don’t have a daycare, you have to take the kids door-to-door with you, make your flyers and so on. Sometimes your constituents may not be comfortable with you and a child trying to get your attention, ”said Marydith Tuitt, commissioner for the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. “Running for office takes a lot of time to work and campaign while still being a parent. By doing this simultaneously, parents have to spend hours away from home and away from parents and children.
As he wrapped up Wednesday’s hearing, which included testimony on several other bills relating to political spending, Election Law Commission co-chair Senator Barry Finegold said he “hoped we would do some things very soon “. Committees vote on bills in executive sessions or electronic polls.