On Wednesday, Rep. Mike Connolly delivered his inaugural speech (formerly known as a "maiden speech") to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in support of an amendment to strengthen and accelerate the special legislative commission included in Section 13 of H.4087, advancing the concept of making childcare an allowable campaign expense for candidates for public office.
This amendment – and the underlying legislation Rep. Connolly filed with Rep. Joan Meschino of Hull to make childcare an allowable campaign expense, H.639, "An Act supporting parents running for public office" — is intended to move us closer toward a democratic process where everyone has a real shot at participation, particularly women who are parents, and including all parents of young children who might otherwise not be able to consider running for elected office. The amendment was adopted on a roll call vote. The legislation now moves to the Senate for further consideration. Video footage and Rep. Connolly's prepared remarks are posted below.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and through you to the members.
I rise in support of amendment #3, which will strengthen and accelerate the special legislative commission included in Section 13 of this bill to advance the concept of making childcare an allowable campaign expenses for candidates for public office in the Commonwealth.
This amendment – and the underlying legislation I filed with the gentlelady from Hull to make childcare an allowable campaign expense — is intended to move us closer toward a democratic process where everyone has a real shot at participation, particularly women who are parents, and including any and all parents of young children who might otherwise not be able to consider running for elected office.
But before I continue I’d like to take a brief moment to reflect upon this, my first speech from the House floor, and I want to start by thanking you Mr. Speaker, for opening your door to me and always being gracious enough to consider my input and consider the input of all of the members as we work to craft legislation in this chamber.
My commitment to this work stems from my personal background. I was raised in a public housing project in Norwood, Massachusetts — public housing that was proudly built and financed by this Commonwealth. And growing up as the child of a single-mom I faced my share of challenges — I spent time in the foster care system when my mom got sick, I depended on things like free lunch at school, fuel assistance at home, and a head-start program where I got the chance to start to learn how to read and write.
And even though I faced my share of adversity, with the support of a caring community, a loving family, coaches and other mentors — not to mention robust, fully funded government programs — I was able to go to college on a football scholarship, and from there I went on to law school, becoming an attorney, meeting and marrying the woman of my dreams, and then being elected by the people of Cambridge and Somerville to serve here in this chamber.
What I learned along the way is that when we work together and stick to our principles, anything is possible — and today I want to say thank you, especially, the people of Cambridge and Somerville who elected me to represent them in this House.
And while it's true, Mr. Speaker, that I did face my share of challenges and adversity as a young kid — it’s pretty plain to see that standing here today, I also benefit from a number of societal privileges. At six feet, eight inches tall, not only am I certified giant — I also enjoy privilege from being white, and privilege from being male, in a society that has always favored white men.
So as someone who benefits from these privileges, I believe it is incumbent upon me to take every opportunity to use this position to advance the cause of equity — and that brings me to the amendment before us today — an amendment that is intended to open up our political process and to make it more accessible to those who are raising young children, particularly all of the moms who would would like to serve their communities but may wonder if it is possible to fulfill all of the duties of being both a parent and a candidate for public office. And while the provisions of this bill would apply to parents of all genders, we know parental care is disproportionately shouldered by mothers.
This concept — of making childcare an allowable campaign expense — came to my attention from Lee Erica Palmer, a single mom and member of the Somerville School Committee, who reached out to me and to the other members of our Somerville legislative delegation after noticing that one of her male colleagues was able to rent a tuxedo for a political function using his campaign funds – while she, as a single mom, wasn’t sure if she could attend the same function because of the challenges associated with securing affordable childcare. She reflected on the inequity of that situation and reached out to ask that we work to make childcare an allowable campaign expenses.
Out of that situation, real momentum has now gathered to advance this idea. I want to thank the gentlelady from Hull for partnering with me on this topic, and I particularly want to thank my Cambridge and Somerville colleagues who have all been so supportive of bringing this idea forward.
We filed this legislation last session and were grateful to see it receive a favorable report out of committee, and I want to think the Chairman of Election Laws this session, the gentlemen from Watertown, as well as the Chair of Ways and Means, the gentleman from Boston, and the Director of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance who has worked closely with Rep. Meschino and I and our staff to continue to advance this idea. Thank you also to our coalition partners: The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters, Parenting Journey, and the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.
Finally, I’ll just add that if anyone is wondering if this concept is practical or feasible or necessary, I want to remind everyone that the Federal Election Commission ruled in May of last year to make childcare an allowable campaign expenses for candidates for federal office.
So, in a sense, what we’re asking for today Mr. Speaker is for this House to take a step in the direction of a provision that can help achieve gender-based equity and better working-class representation in a way that the federal election commission has already signed off on — so this is a simple, common sense idea that we hope to advance today, one that all of our colleagues can be proud to support.