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Ohio bill would authorize use of campaign funds for child care

By
Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal, ohiocapitaljournal.com

A bipartisan bill in the Ohio House would allow political candidates to use their campaign funds to pay for child care while they are out campaigning.

If the bill passes, Ohio would become the 31st state to authorize the use of campaign funds for child care.

“If we want more women to get elected and represent families and communities in Ohio … and influence the conversations that are being had about what policies are necessary to take care of women and children and families in this state, we have to make it affordable for those candidates and future potential candidates,” Vote Mama Foundation Chief Program Officer Sarah Hague said.

State Reps. Latyna Humphrey, D-Columbus, and Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, introduced House Bill 114 last year. The bill passed the House 64-29 over the summer and has had two hearings so far in the Senate General Government Committee.

“Under the current Ohio law, state and local candidates are not permitted to use their campaign funds for child care and dependent care expenses while on the campaign trail,” Humphrey said in her sponsor testimony. “This causes a lack of representation and support for families.”

When the Vote Mama Foundation launched in 2020, they discovered that only seven percent of Congress were moms with children under 18 years old — disproportionate to the 86 percent of women ages 40 to 44 who are mothers, according to 2018 Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

“It’s a pretty drastic lack of representation,” Hague said.

It’s even worse at the state level — about four percent of Ohio state legislators are moms with children under 18 in 2022, according to Vote Mama Foundation.

“If you can pay for gala tickets with campaign funds in some states, you can buy a car with your campaign funds to drive you to campaign event, you should be able to use your campaign funds to pay for child care for campaign activities,” Hague said.

Sometimes women wait to run for office until their children are out of the house, Hague said.

“That means that women are achieving leadership positions much later in their careers than men are, so that has a huge impact on what conversations are happening, what policies are passing, and what bills are being voted on,” she said. “Our take is that if moms have a seat at the table, the conversations change and the policies change and the priorities change.”

HB 114 would also bring Ohio campaign finance regulations in line with federal campaign finance regulations.

The Federal Elections Commission ruled in May 2018 that a congressional candidate from New York could use campaign funds to cover her campaign-related child care expenses. 

“A U.S. House member could use their campaign funds to pay for child care on the campaign trail for Congress,” Hague said. “But if that same politician were to run for governor they couldn’t use their campaign funds to pay for child care on the campaign trail for governor in Ohio.”

That’s what sold Seitz on the bill.

“Federal law already allows this,” Seitz said. “And so why should not our campaign finance law be drawn up to parallel what the Feds already allow?

“It’s not a billion-dollar tax cut, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.”

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network. Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on X.

 

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