Politics

Female lawmakers float package of bills seeking pay equity, child care funding

A package of proposals unveiled Thursday by female lawmakers would help women in California achieve equitable pay and expand family-leave job protections, as well as earmark more state funds for child care and for helping children on welfare.

The Democratic members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus said they hoped to build on the success of last year, when they won approval of one of the toughest equal-pay laws in the nation.

“We positioned California as a leader in the fight to improve the economic lives of women and children,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), the caucus’ chair and one of 10 female lawmakers who attended a Capitol news conference. “Yet we lag behind the rest of the world in family-friendly workplace policy,” she added. “Women and families must be part of California’s public policy priorities for this year.”

One bill would seek to reduce the disparity between pay to men and women by prohibiting employers from asking a job candidate’s past salary history and requiring them to disclose a salary range for an open job upon request.

“The idea to base a new wage on the old — possibly discriminatory — wage simply perpetuates the discrimination,” Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose) said.

Another bill would provide three months of job-protected maternity and paternity leave for most California workers. Currently, those working for small employers can take up to eight weeks of leave without fear of losing their jobs.

Lawmakers also are reviving a proposal that failed last year to require that employers give workers adequate advanced notice of their schedules.

Another bill being brought back after failing last year would repeal a cap on benefits to families on welfare when they have another child.

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Under the proposal, the additional child would increase the welfare check by $128 per month. That would cost the state $200 million annually, according to Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), the author of the measure. The cap, she said, “has been the leading driver of childhood poverty.”

The most expensive proposal made Thursday would allocate an additional $800 million to provide child care and early childhood education for tens of thousands more than receive it now.

A representative of the governor’s office declined comment.

While united on the legislative proposals, the caucus members have varying opinions on the national presidential race, in which Democrat Hillary Clinton is a contending to become the first female president.

Jackson bristled when asked about former secretary of State Madeline Albright, a Clinton supporter, who recently said: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

Responded Jackson: “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions.” She went on to say that Clinton was “well prepared to be president,” but she complained that young women do not seem to be aware that the struggle for gender equity is not over.

“I don’t think that younger women are as acutely aware of the battles that have been fought to pave the road for them to become professionals,” Jackson said.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) interupted Jackson to note that the Legislative Women’s Caucus has not endorsed in the presidential race. “We clearly are a caucus of different ideas,” Gonzalez said.

Twitter: @mcgreevy99

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