CHEYENNE – State Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, announced Friday that she plan to run for reelection.
“In the past four years, I’ve demonstrated that I will work extremely hard to deliver results to my constituents,” said Ellis, who was first elected in 2016.
During her inaugural term, Ellis, who is the first Native American woman elected to the state Legislature, helped pass laws to mainstream computer science education, reform rape kit testing laws and create a framework for ride-sharing companies to operate in Wyoming.
“Now that I’ve had a few years to understand the legislative process better, I’m excited to tackle some of the larger issues Wyoming faces,” said Ellis, who is a Jackson native and former small business owner. She’s already filed a bill ahead of this year’s budget session, which starts Monday, that would give small business owners property tax exemptions.
If the Republican senator is reelected in November to serve Senate District 8, she said her top priorities include increasing transparency in the state’s $3.1 billion annual budget and creating a more sustainable K-12 education finance model.
Ellis launched a fundraising campaign in January and has so far raised $30,000, according to a news release.
“If an average Wyoming citizen wanted to understand how dollars come in and how they’re spent, that process is very difficult,” said Ellis, who serves on the Senate Revenue Committee.
“We’re doing an injustice to the people of Wyoming when they can’t even see how their tax dollars flow. I really want to focus on that transparency piece in the next four years going forward.”
That lack of transparency, Ellis said, affects issues like how to fund the state’s public schools, which is largely reliant on revenue from mineral taxes.
“We know that things like education will require continued steady funding, and we shouldn’t rely on one-time monies for things that are ongoing,” Ellis said.
The Joint Education Interim Committee, of which Ellis is a member, filed a bill this year that would initiate a close study of recalibrating the school funding formula. Ellis said there’s still a long way to go, but that, “If we could rely on more stable sources for education, I think we’ll be better off.”
In the realm of education, Ellis said she’d also like to bring more options to Wyoming’s students. Right now, there are four charter schools, some private schools and online education options in Wyoming.
“But I don’t think our children and families have a lot of opportunity,” she said.
Bringing school voucher legislation, which would allow parents to use public money to pay for private school tuition, to the state could be “a component of the discussion,” Ellis said, but “first and foremost, we’ve got to figure out how to sustain education funding.”
Ellis, who has three children of her own, also is focused on passing Senate File 79 this session, which would establish and review district-level school safety and security policies.
“It is my hope that whatever decisions we make in the Legislature will have a positive impact on not just my kids,” Ellis said, “but for children across Wyoming.”