News Roundup: House Committee Considers Bills Aimed At Achieving Pay Equity For Women

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelFebruary 26, 2019 2:55 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The Texas House committee on International Relations and Economic Development considered several bills on pay equity, unpaid wages and raising the state’s minimum wage.

One piece of legislation was from State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Houston Democrat. House Bill 287 seeks to address discriminatory compensation, specifically the wage gap between men and women. And Thompson referenced a James Brown classic to drive home the point when introducing the bill Monday.

“And I know that they say – ‘this is a man’s world’ — but you know it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman. And 50 percent of the workforce in Texas happen to be women – over 42 percent happen to be woman-owned businesses,” Thompson said.

Rep. Thompson said she wants to bring state law into alignment with federal measures already in place, such as the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. That gap between state and federal law is an issue employment attorney Susan Motley raised during her testimony. She told lawmakers about three women she’s met with who make thousands less than their male colleagues.

“I had to advise all three of them of the unduly restrictive processes in place under state law that in many of their situations meant that they could not access state court and their only recourse was federal court,” Thompson said.

According to a 2017 report from the National Partnership for Women and Families,  women in Texas make 79 cents for every dollar paid to men. The group adds that among Texas women who have full-time jobs, African-American women are paid 58 cents and Latinas are paid 44 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

The State Senate Finance Committee unanimously voted to advance SB 3 yesterday, which would give Texas classroom teachers an across-the -board $5,000.

Camille Phillips with Texas Public Radio has more details on the bill that will now head to the full Senate for a vote.

During public testimony, teachers, librarians, counselors and speech pathologists requested that the scope of the bill be expanded to include more school staff.

Committee Chair Jane Nelson says the committee is looking at what it would cost to add in other categories. But she says it adds up quickly, and teachers are her priority.

“We don’t have a printing press. We only have a certain amount of money, and right now I want the money to go to the teachers that I’m talking about in the classroom,” Nelson said.

The version of SB 3 advancing to the full Senate includes amendments to insure charter school teachers also receive the raise and to prevent districts from lowering their base salaries. Nelson says the teacher raise is not dependent on the passage of property tax reform.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says Texas is getting an additional $652 million for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the funding on a conference call with reporters Monday.

Abbott explained the goal of current and upcoming federal funding is to create infrastructure that will be more resilient in future storms. Abbott was asked whether climate change will be considered when planning for disaster mitigation projects.

“We will take every factor into consideration. Our goal is to make Texas as resilient as possible and that means taking into consideration every factor,” Abbott said.

Abbott’s office says this announcement marks the third time that HUD has allocated funds for Harvey relief efforts. The Texas General Land Office breaks down how these funds will be used. For example, $236 million will be used for the Homeowner Assistance Program, which is used to repair single-family homes damaged in Hurricane Harvey. Another $200 million will be added to the Affordable Rental Program that goes toward the construction of new multifamily rental units.