Bill would study adding child-care at NH Statehouse

By Max Sullivan

Posted at 2:23 PMUpdated at 4:47 PM

HAMPTON — A bill that would study adding a child-care facility to the Statehouse is being filed this session, its sponsor hoping to make it easier for young people with families to run for office.

Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, filed a legislative service request for a bill this session that would create a study commission on the feasibility of child care at the Statehouse. He said the commission could also look at other options for accommodating families.

Lawmakers only make $100 a year for their service, and members of both parties say that has fostered a Legislature made up of primarily retired or wealthy Granite Staters. Cushing said several young people joined the Legislature this year, like Hampton Democrat Tom Loughman and Jon Morgan, a Brentwood Democrat now representing state Senate District 23.

“We have a number of new young state representatives, which I think is a good thing and more reflective of the population of New Hampshire at large,” said Cushing. “Along with that comes a reminder that it’s a lot of sacrifices.”

Cushing said the commission would look at numbers that might support or work against the idea of adding a child-care center. He said the idea has been talked about at the Statehouse and that the Statehouse’s current smoking room has been eyed for flipping it into a child-care center.

Members of both parties say the study is beneficial. State Rep. Steven Beaudoin, R-Rochester, said his sister works in the child-care center at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and that a lot of employees at the shipyard utilize that service.

“It’s getting to be more and more of a common practice for employers to provide child care, and it always for working mothers to continue working,” Beaudoin said. “It’s a great idea to look at, absolutely.”

Michael Zaino, chairman of the Hampton Republicans and whose wife Michelle ran for state representative in November, said parenthood can be an obstacle for young people running for office. He and Michelle have children, and he said Michelle’s homeschooling of their kids factored into her waiting many years to run for office in New Hampshire’s Legislature.

Zaino said it makes sense to study the benefit, but he believes knowing the demand for such a service and other factors would need to be explored before supporting spending on a child-care center.

“I don’t know how many people are out there dying to run for office but just can’t because they’ve got kids,” he said. “Maybe it’s more an idealist perspective than a realist perspective. Therefore, investing a little to study it seems like a reasonable idea.”

Andrew Gorrill