Watered-down Equal Pay bill clears state Senate

A watered-down “Equal Pay for Women” measure cleared the Louisiana Senate on Wednesday.

The state Senate voted 23-13 for the legislation after making it apply only to women who work for state government.

Senate Bill 153 originally applied to women whether they worked in the private or public sector.

“This simply takes what I call a baby step with regard to this issue because there’s been a lot of opposition from the business community,” said state Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette.

Cortez said other legal protections are still there preventing discrimination based on race, sex and religion.

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, sponsor of the equal pay bill, objected to the change.

“This will not work because in the public sector quite frankly there isn’t much disparity in terms of pay,” said Murray. That’s because the salaries are subject to public scrutiny, he said.

“In the private sector is where the most relief is needed,” Murray said. “This will not go anywhere near far enough to get the relief.”

The state Senate voted 24-11 to restrict the legislation to government employees.

A week ago, the Senate came up one vote short of passing the “equal pay” legislation for public and private employers.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Murray said Wyoming is the only state that has numbers worse than Louisiana in terms of equality of pay between men and women working in similar jobs.

“This is something we need to do as a state to make sure that women in the state make the same pay for the same work,” Murray said.

SB153 had exceptions for pay differentials based on such things as seniority and productivity.

The legislation now heads to the Louisiana House for debate.

Voting FOR Equal Pay for Women working in state government (23): State Sens Amedee, Broome, Brown, Buffington, Chabert, Claitor, Cortez, Crowe, Dorsey-Colomb, Gallot, Guillory, Heitmeier, Kostelka, LaFleur, Mills, Morrell, Murray, Nevers, Peterson, Riser, Tarver, Thompson and Ward.

Voting AGAINST SB153 (13): President Alario and state Sens Adley, Allain, Appel, Donahue, Erdey, Johns, Long, Morrish, Peacock, Perry, Walsworth and White.

NOT Voting (3): State Sens. Martiny, G. Smith and J. Smith.