When the chips are down, you can generally count on your legislators, in the apparent belief that they represent a composite embodiment of a modern day Solomon, to make the absurd proposal to split the baby when it comes to doing the right thing.
While politics is still the art of compromise, they take it to the extreme and then never seem to understand why their action, instead of pleasing constituents, should only serve to generate pervasive anger as the appropriate response.
Case in point: Senate Bill 153 by Sen. Ed Murray of New Orleans. His bill would have helped close the gender pay gap for both public and private workers.
That certainly seems fair. If a computer is repaired, does it matter who fixed it? If a story appears in the paper, does it make any difference if it’s written by a man or woman? If a female bricklayer lays the same number of bricks in an hour as the man beside her, shouldn’t she receive the same pay considerations? The same should apply to truck drivers, sales personnel, engineers, architects, and attorneys. A woman who performs the same job as a man certainly should receive the same pay, after all. Who could argue with that?
Apparently Sen. Patrick “Page” Cortez (R-Lafayette). For some unknown reason, Cortez decided to split the baby by offering an amendment to make Murray’s bill apply only to the public sector and not the private.
Why? What possible reason could there be for the legislature to sanction discrimination against private sector female employees?
Why is such blatant discrimination against women in the private sector allowed by our legislature? All hell should’ve broken loose on behalf of private sector female employees as it almost certainly would have—and justifiably so—if Cortez’s amendment had, for example, made the equal pay bill applicable only to whites to the exclusion of African Americans.
Gov. Bobby Jindal loves to travel across the country with his message of how wonderful things are in Louisiana since he became governor. But you never hear a peep out of him about how Louisiana is tied for the second widest disparity in pay between men and women, according to figures released by the National Women’s Law Center.
Wyoming is the worst in the nation. There, women make 67 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts. Louisiana is not far behind. We are tied with Utah for the second widest disparity, with female employees making 69 cents for every dollar a man makes. If you are Sen. Gomez, you’d say she makes only 31 percent less than the male but if you’re a woman, he makes 44.9 percent more.
Even Mississippi and Alabama, where women are paid 74 cents per dollar made by men, rank ahead of Louisiana. South Carolina? Seventy-six cents. Arkansas and Texas? Eighty-two cents—18.8 percent higher than Louisiana.
While the disparity is worse in Wyoming, Louisiana and Utah, the difference is evident throughout the country. In California, for example, Women are paid roughly 85 percent of a man’s salary for the same job. The difference is the same for Nevada and Arizona.
The District of Columbia has the narrowest gap, with women making 90.4 cents per each dollar made by men in the same job.
Murray’s bill failed to get the necessary 20 votes the first time around on May 15 but it passed on May 22 after five senators—Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), Cortez, A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell), Elbert Guillory (D-turned R, Opelousas), and Neil Riser (R-Columbia)—changed their votes from the previous week after Cortez’s amendment passed, 24-11.
Four of the five voted no on May 15. Guillory, the lone exception, was absent on the first vote.
Understandably, some senators like Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb (D-Baton Rouge), Troy Brown (D-Napoleonville), Norbért Chabert (R-Houma), Eric Lafleur (D-Ville Platte), and Sherri Smith Buffington (R-Keithville) voted in favor of Cortez’s amendment because it was the only way to get even the gutted version of the bill passed. Each of those voted in favor of the original bill, the subsequent amendment and for final passage.
Senators who displayed their disdain for women in general and private sector women in particular by voting against final passage included:
• Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego);
• Robert Adley (R-Benton);
• R.L. “Bret” Allain (R-Franklin);
• Conrad Appel (R-Metairie);
• Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville);
• Dale Erdy (R-Livingston);
• Ronny John (R-Lake Charles);
• Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches);
• Dan Morrish (R-Jennings);
• Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City);
• Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan);
• Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe);
• Mack “Bodi” White (R-Central).
Those who took a hike and did not vote were:
• Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie);
• Gary Smith (D-Norco);
• John Smith (R-Leesville).
House members voting against the bill included:
• Richard Burford (R-Stonewall);
• Gordon Dove (R-Houma);
• Lance Harris (R-Alexandria);
• Joe Harrison (R-Gray);
• Paul Hollis (R-Covington);
• John “Jay” Morris (R-Monroe);
• James “Jim” Morris (R-Oil City);
• Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula);
• Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport);
• Scott Simon (R-Abita Springs);
• Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge);
• Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City).
Staying home and not voting were:
• Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans);
• Greg Cromer (R-Slidell);
• Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro);
• Kenny Havard (R-Jackson);
• Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville);
• Valerie Hodges (R-Denham Springs);
• Walt Leger (D-New Orleans).
So much for the campaign rhetoric that these good and noble public servants want nothing more than to represent all the people of their districts.