24 April 2013

Committee action, Apr. 24: HB 341, SB 20, SB 68, SB 153

HB 341 by Rep. Tim Burns is the omnibus election bill, a version of which tweaks the election code. Mostly very marginal and uncontroversial in nature, this year’s has the intriguing change of deleting the requirement of publishing the inactive voter list in print and, after an amendment, to put it online. Representatives of the Secretary of State told the House and Governmental Affairs Committee this allowed for constant viewing of the list, that many parishes no longer even had newspapers locally to print the lists, and would reduce costs.

Opponents representing newspaper interests were present, but did not speak to criticize that part of the bill. Without objection, the bill with amendments was approved.

SB 20 by Sen. Bret Allain would require more advance notice when local governments desire to raises taxes in one form or another, with at least 30 days of notice of a meeting to do so. After minor amendments were approved, the bill was approved by the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee without objection.

SB 68 by Sen. Karen Peterson would the state adopt comparable worth standards in pay for women. She said “fair pay,” or the assertion that alleged discriminatory practices were occurring in pay practices, would improve income for women and that to tolerate these “disrespected others and wives.” She then asked for voluntary deferment.

SB 153 by Sen. Edwin Murray would do the same as SB 68. He then offered a lot of small amendments that with a bit of hesitation because of their total length senators adopted.

A number of supporters testified. They reeled off some statistics alluding to pay disparity, but these were not controlled for all factors in pay decisions such as hours worked, leave taken, and career path decisions, and advanced the comparable worth argument that pay should be according to the skills demanded by the job, not by the actual output or productivity. They claimed that this could happen unintentionally, and said a new bureaucratic system should be created outside of judicial proceedings to “put teeth” into existing law, while admitting the law already prohibited differential treatment in the workplace without bonafide occupational qualifications as justifications. One said she was discriminated against consistently in the field of political consulting because she was black and female. Some hoped senators would listen with their hearts rather than their minds. They insisted the bill would bring more women out of poverty.

Opponents pointed out that federal law already incorporated much of what the bill had, and actually the bill would exempt smaller employers with a limited time span to bring cases, observed that pay decisions were made in complex fashion, noted errors in supporters’ testimony and the simplicity of some data they cited, reiterated that performance should govern pay, not comparable worth standards, and that this would allow for workers to use the legal system to pressure inappropriately employers for higher pay as the bill insufficiently prevented frivolous actions. They also pointed out statistical data that showed no real wage discrimination existed in any systematic form.

On closing, Murray repeated some of the same statistics criticized by opponents as being too simplistic, and moved for approval. Met with objection, it failed 4-4 with all Democrats against but Republicans Chairman Sen. Jody Amedee and Sen. Bob Kostelka in favor. Murray then moved to report without recommendation, but the same vote occurred, thereby stalling the bill in committee.

I look forward to testifying on the floor of the House ….
You’re in the Senate now.

Amedee to Peterson, a former member of the House.

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