Equal Pay Is Dead, Long Live Equal Pay

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The news is everywhere in Rhode Island media that the Rhode Island Senate will not consider the House version of the “equal pay” legislation:

The day began with a pronouncement by the Senate that the “pay equity” bill — which tied the House in knots before a 64-to-9 vote of approval the previous night — was dead on arrival in the Senate, which had passed a much further-reaching bill earlier in the year.

“The Senate prioritized pay equity this session,″ said Senate spokesman Greg Pare. “On April 10, national ‘Equal Pay Day,’ the Senate passed strong legislation to address wage gaps in the workplace. The legislation the House passed last night does not reflect the Senate’s commitment to ensuring equal pay for comparable work and meaningful change for women’s economic security.

“The Senate will not be considering the House bill.”

So, even though the two versions of the bill have substantial overlap, if one chamber doesn’t pass the other chamber’s version, that’s that.  A cynic (which can, with only mild cynicism, be defined as “somebody who has observed the Rhode Island General Assembly for a while”) might wonder how choreographed this performance was.

Prioritizing the issue was an early and somewhat surprising point of emphasis for Senate President Dominick Ruggerio.  This outcome gives him progressive cover, while giving House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello pro-business creds for his first election after nearly being unseated by a conservative challenger, all in the muddy mix of a legislative process that makes it difficult to blame anybody in particular.

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Rhode Islanders should welcome the results, though.  The Senate legislation was a radical nightmare that was arguably only in part about reducing a wage gap between men and women, and the notion that discrimination is creating an unfair differential in pay is a myth.  In other words, forcing its mandates on the economy would create a regulatory environment that would be unfair to businesses and to employees whose work would be devalued in order to adjust pay rates that are not based on discrimination as it is.

The inability of the General Assembly’s two chambers to come up with common legislation will now move the issue past the November election, which may very well take some of the hot air out of the narrative’s sails, one way or another.



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