Equal gender pay bill on its way to the Senate

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Legislation that addresses equal pay for men and women is headed to the Senate after the House approved it Tuesday morning.

Gil Ford Photography

Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson

Last week, Rep. Alyce Clarke, D- Jackson, introduced an equal pay amendment to House Bill 1241, which would prohibit local governments from establishing their own minimum wages. It passed with surprising bi-partisan support, and many Republicans later changed their vote in favor of the amendment.

The bill, which would establish a state law requiring men and women to receive equal pay for equal work, was set aside Friday because another Democrat, Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes of Gulfport, offered a separate but similar amendment which caused Rep. Mark Baker, R- Brandon, to introduce a point of order.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Philip Gunn ruled on the point of order and Baker described Williams-Barnes’ amendment as problematic. The House tabled her amendment and passed a substitute to the original equal pay amendment.

Baker assured Clarke he was “absolutely” in support of equal pay and the changes would not hurt the original intent of her amendment, just clarify the language.

“I’m not trying to pull any punches,” Baker said. He told Clarke his amendment was fair and he had no intent to kill the bill or damage the equal pay amendment, and if it was something the House wanted to pass he would support that.

Clarke asked to have her name added to the replacement as a co-author.

Baker also removed two sections of the legislation that addressed local governments and employment discrimination because they were “inconsistent with the intent of the bill.”

The bill passed 106-10, with all of the “nay” votes coming from Democrats. It now awaits action in the Senate.

See how the vote broke down:

The vote tally on a bill to which lawmakers attached an ‘equal pay’ amendment