Bill on equal pay study delayed
Legislative session shed light on women’s issues
March 14, 2017
Lawmakers feel a bill on equal pay that made waves after a Letter to the Editor regarding it was printed in the Park Record needs more work before it can be made law.
If passed, Senate Bill 210 would have required Utah's Department of Workforce Services "to conduct a study on whether there is a difference in pay between men and women."
The bill received local and national attention when James Green wrote a Letter to the Editor — printed in the Park Record and the Wasatch Wave — saying men are traditionally the primary breadwinners for families and need to make more money than their female counterparts.
Sen. Jacob Anderegg, a Republican from Lehi and the bill's sponsor, said Green missed the point of his proposal, which was to see if a wage gap between men and women does in fact exist.
"I have to have more than anecdotal evidence before I can do something about the wage gap," Anderegg said.
He added legislators still need to determine how to quantify the value of a person's work in order to complete such a study. Lawmakers plan to hammer out such details during the interim period between legislative sessions.
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Anderegg said one overlooked factor in studies, which often use findings from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is that two employees who work the same amount of time don't always produce equal work.
Planning to introduce the revised proposal in the 2018 legislative session, Anderegg said the most important thing his bill accomplished was starting a conversation on women's rights.
"By and large, we're moving forward," he said. "It's a slow process. It's not something that is going to change overnight.
"We are a 104-member Legislature. We each come with our experiences and background. Some of those are seated in some old, traditional mindsets, which isn't a bad thing."
Park City resident Tania Knauer — a board member of Planned Parenthood's Utah Chapter who spent time lobbying at the Capitol — said this legislative session addressed many issues that directly affect women.
While she is proud the bill on the mandatory testing for all rape kits passed, Knauer would have liked to see a proposal on a more comprehensive sex education curriculum become law. She said women and girls deserve to have more knowledge on reproductive health care.
"It's just reproductive health and making sure we're including that in our curriculum," she said.
"We're an abstinence-only state, but the best way to bring down teen pregnancy, STIs and abortion rates is to have decent reproductive health curriculum in our secondary schools, which we really don't have at this point."
Knauer is also disappointed a bill on eliminating the sales tax on feminine hygiene products and a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment didn't pass.
House Minority Leader Brian King, a Democrat from Salt Lake City who represents parts of Summit County, said he's ready to rework legislation that didn't pass, such as the sex education bill he sponsored.
"I plan on bringing back the sex ed bill and will try to address some of the concerns some of the people who objected to it had," he said.
He said a fire has been lit under the women's movement, describing Park City's Women's March on Main that attracted thousands of demonstrators and protests at the State Capitol. He added that fire has shed light on women's rights issues in the 2017 session compared to past sessions.
And while he doesn't know if a study on equal pay is the best way to close the wage gap or to address women's rights, he feels encouraged that the conversation is taking place on both sides of the aisle.
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