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Passing on the Chance to Change Headlines

Sue Lincoln

Thursday, the Capitol was still buzzing over the battle of the sexes played out in the House the day before. Even Governor John Bel Edwards weighed in on the controversy.

“It was in bad taste, and it wasn’t funny,” Edwards said, adding the lady legislators were right.

“I think the comments they made about it were appropriate. But it would also be appropriate to be upset about the fact that in Louisiana we don’t pay our women the same as we pay men. In fact, the pay gap is the largest – in our state – in the entire country.”

At the same time, downstairs in the House Labor Committee, Senator Ronnie Johns was giving House members the chance to start fixing Louisiana’s wage gap which – women to men -- is 65 cents on the dollar.

“This is a piece of legislation that we have debated many, many times, in many different shapes and forms,” Sen. Johns told the committee. “It’s about equal pay for equal work for both genders.”

The Equal Pay Act is supported by the governor, and was already approved by the Senate. But it generated objections from business groups, like LABI and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

“Data can be manipulated, and the statistics that we have show the wage gap is somewhere closer to 84 cents on the dollar,” the NFIB’s Dawn Starns testified.

Rep. Jack McFarland said he doesn’t believe the wage gap is due to women being paid less.

“Statistics can be manipulated. It’s been my experience that women tend to miss work more,” the Jonesboro Republican stated.

Natchitoches Rep. Kenny Cox, who said he’s served side-by-side in the military with women, saw the issue differently.

“We as Americans owe women the right to equal pay,” Cox declared.

New Orleans Rep. Helena Moreno put the issue into context with recent events.

“We all know about the embarrassing situation and the offensive situation that happened,” Moreno said. “It’s actually made the national headlines. I think you really have an opportunity today to change the headline.”

Yet along party lines, the committee voted 10 to 5 to kill the bill.