An Interview with Rep. Mary Throne, HD-11

Better Wyoming conducted a series of interviews on important state issues throughout 2016. Below is an interview with Rep. Mary Throne (House District 11).

What do you think about the attempt by some Republican legislators who want the federal government to turn over all of its public lands to the state to manage or own?

The proposed transfer is something that’s completely unrealistic. I don’t think it would happen. I also don’t like the fact that we’ve spent $75,000 for a study [on the impact of transferring public lands to the state] by the American Land Council.

Public lands provide recreational access for hunters and anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts, and it’s what makes Wyoming special. And we don’t want to put that at risk. The federal government’s whole NEPA process does make development difficult in Wyoming and we need to continue to advocate for a more reasonable regulatory approach. But the solution is not to transfer federal land to us. That does way more harm than good.

Some Republican legislators either don’t believe the gender wage gap is real or that if it is, state government shouldn’t do anything about it. What do you think needs to be done?

I think the gender wage gap is a real problem for Wyoming because it shows a substantial opportunity gap. If we want to attract families to Wyoming there have to be opportunities for both men and women.  I think [the gap] is a sign that we don’t have equal opportunities here. I’m sure there are other issues going on here — there’s the issue of the low minimum tipped wage, which doesn’t help the situation either. It’s been $2.13 an hour since it started.

I sponsored a wage transparency bill to prevent retaliation from employers for workers who share wage information with their co-workers. The bill failed to be introduced [by a vote of 20-3]. I will bring it back. I thought it was a way to approach the issue that would be popular in Wyoming, and that we could get a few Republicans to agree to introduction because I think they understand it is a transparency issue. You should be able to talk about how much money you make, but some Republicans don’t agree that the gender wage gap is a real thing. I think [the bill] has merits independent of that.

Are there other laws that need to be on the books to protect victims of domestic violence?

I think there’s some clean-up things that we need to do on domestic violence issues. I’ve given some thought to the topic, and I think we’ve done a lot but it’s still an uphill struggle. With some procedural things we could make it easier for a domestic violence victim to file for divorce so that they can get out of that [situation].  It’s too early to discuss, but I’m talking with some [domestic violence prevention groups] who have some issues they want me to look at.

Are there other laws that need to be on the books to protect victims of domestic violence?

Part of the lack of funding is money, but it’s more ideological than a money issue. We had an early childhood education issue in front of the Education Committee during the last session, and I am the only woman who is on the joint committee. A gentleman spoke against the bill and said the problem is women are not in the home, and I found that to be personally offensive and insulting. I work and my kids are OK.

We try to use TANF money and a paltry amount of state money on early childhood education, and I just don’t know how that will work out. It’s more ideological than money, so we have to change the politics around the issue. Then I think we can find at least a modest amount of money, because the economic and long-term benefits are demonstrated in the evidence. There’s no evidence to the contrary — early childhood education would save us money in the long run.

The Legislature hasn’t passed my bills restricting reproductive rights in recent years, but there are GOP lawmakers who have tried to introduce bills mandating ultrasounds and penalties for not reporting abortions. Are you pro-choice?

I still go back to [former Republican Rep.] Lisa Shepperson’s quote in 2011 when she was pregnant with her first child and still in the Legislature. She went to the mic and said, when I go to the doctor I want my husband there and my doctor, and I don’t want the government.  I think that pretty much sums it up.

Some Republicans are pro-choice, but I think they talk about it more privately than publicly. I think most Republicans don’t want to spend time on [abortion bills] because we have much more compelling issues in Wyoming. But they have a litmus test approach in their party which causes them problems.


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