JACKSON – The state House voted overwhelmingly Friday to amend a bill to mandate gender pay equity.
Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson, offered a pay equity amendment to a bill dealing with placing restrictions on how municipalities could oversee labor issues within their borders. While the amendment passed 84 to 32, the overall bill is still pending on the House calendar.
Debate on the bill was stopped to give Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, time to rule on whether another gender pay equity amendment (this one to give municipal governments more authority to mandate pay equity) was proper under the legislative rules.
If the bill with the amendment in it passes next week, it will advance to the Senate.
The Clarke amendment stated “no employer may pay an employee a wage at a rate less than the rate at which an employee of the opposite sex in the same establishment is paid for equal work.” The amendment had some exceptions, such as there could be a pay disparity based on seniority.
The amendment also created “an actionable cause” allowing judiciary action against someone who violated the equal pay mandate.
“I was pleased with the support,” Clarke said. “I hope we can keep it (alive.) Everybody in here should have supported it because everybody has a mama, an aunt.”
By the end of the day Friday, most members were supporting it. The amendment originally passed by a 74-40 margin. But before adjourning for the weekend, multiple members changed their vote, making the tally before adjournment 84-32.
All of those voting against it, though, were members of the Republican majority, including the speaker. But there also is Republican support for gender pay equity as witnessed by Friday’s vote. Rep. William Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville, for instance, has sponsored gender pay equity legislation.
The amendment provided an example of how issues that die on deadline often can be revived later in the process. On Tuesday, all of the bills dealing with gender pay equity died when they were not passed out of committee on the deadline day, but Clarke was able Friday to find a bill to resurrect the issue.
According to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures, Alabama and Mississippi are the only states that do not have equal pay laws, though, some of those laws are viewed as weak and ineffective.