Better Wyoming conducted a series of interviews on important state issues throughout 2016. Below is an interview with Sen. Floyd Esquibel (Senate District 8).
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?
Of course I’m opposed to that. Public lands are for the public. In addition, public lands are also kind of like the glue that keeps the states together, because people from other states can visit our public lands. It’s kind of a thread of our country.
I’m certainly not in favor of transferring public lands within the state of Wyoming. I’m very concerned about the fiscal impact that would have in our state.
Some 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’m really disappointed that we have a gender wage gap, with women earning so much less than men doing the same job. That’s just outrageous, especially when you consider that so many women are single moms who have a big responsibility raising a family, and they have to suffer and put up with not being paid as much as men. It’s just heart-wrenching.
Lucy Marsh, a professor at the law school of the University of Denver, recently filed a wage discrimination lawsuit against the university. She’d been at the university for a number of years and she found out she was making $20,000 less a year than her male colleagues. Most people know what the law is, or they should. To know that it’s happening at the upper echelons of the education level of the legal profession is very disturbing.
As a Legislature we can continue to bring this discussion more out in the open and perhaps get the faith community behind it, in terms of doing what’s right. Hopefully employers will get the message — there’s already a law against wage discrimination, but we need to emphasize the protections of the law and support women’s right [to fair pay]. This is the “Equality State,” except for wages for women.
Rep. [Mary] Throne has been trying to get a wage transparency bill passed, and I certainly support that. People should be able to share what they make if they so choose. It may cause some people to be upset, but they should be upset.
Are there other laws that need to be on the books to protect victims of domestic violence?
We need to keep funding the programs that are involved with providing safety to victims of domestic violence. Just about a week ago I took part in the Safe House’s “Walk in My Shoes” event, where men walk in high heels around the Cheyenne train depot to help raise awareness about domestic violence. So many things are interdependent — a woman is making so much less than her male counterpart, and if she’s in an abusive relationship, it limits her ability to move out of her home because she may be largely dependent on her male partner. I think raising the wages of women could help reduce the incidents of domestic violence.
Many Republicans oppose spending state funds on early childhood education. What needs to be done so programs are fully funded?
Some [legislators] may think it’s the responsibility of the family to provide early education, and that certainly plays a big part in it. But we have so many families that are headed by single parents, or if the wife and husband have a good relationship they’re probably both working. I’m sure they do their part by giving their children primers and reading to them, but they’re both working and when they get home they have to make supper, etc. There’s very little time for [education].
Programs like Head Start literally give children a “head start” that will certainly help them in the future. I think graduation rates would improve, our remedial classes at the university would be less needed. The more time that’s spent on education, physical exercise, things of that nature, the better off the child will be. The earlier they get into education, there’s less of a chance for them to get into trouble that might eventually lead them to jail or prison time. One state that is planning for its prison contruction needs in the future are looking at grade achievement levels of students in the third grade, beause it’s indicative of how they might end up economically and socially. I think early education would increase their future income and lessen the chances of ending up a ward of the state, and they won’t get involved in drug abuse, alcohol abuse, texting while driving. Their education should help them make the right decisions. So I’m very much in favor of early education.
The Legislature hasn’t passed many 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.
I think abortion is so unnecessary. There again, it’s going back to education and the empowerment of women. There’s less chance they might have an unintended pregnancy. Education teaches them appropriate birth control methods.
I can’t imagine the trauma, mentally, physically and spiritually, that a female goes through when faced with thinking about abortion as an option. But when a woman finds herself in that situation I hope she [can consult with] her significant other, her doctor and her spiritual adviser. The males are often left out if the female doesn’t want to tell them that they’re pregnant, or the male is unavailable. I really sympathize with women who choose abortion, and I’d hate to make it more difficult for them. But I hope [one option they consider] is adoption. That’s certainly the direction I’d hope they would go. Of course the best choice is to not get pregnant at all.