The equal pay issue has made the leap from gubernatorial politics to the Texas Senate. The 12 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus on Wednesday sent a letter to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst requesting an interim charge on "the issue of pay equity at all state agencies."
Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, is trying to make this the signature issue of her campaign against GOP nominee and Attorney General Greg Abbott. The attacks have escalated after the San Antonio Express-News reported on pay disparities between men and women in the Office of the Attorney General. A subsequent look at pay disparities at state agencies conducted by the Tribune found the issue complex and nuanced enough to defy simple analysis.
In calling for study, the Senate Democrats wrote, "Texas can do better. And Texas will be even greater when we assure all people are treated equally. We believe that unequal pay for equal work is unacceptable in Texas."
The Houston Chronicle's David Saleh Rauf reported Dewhurst's response. On the one hand, Dewhurst said that he would consider asking for an interim study. But on the other hand, Dewhurst said the letter had an air of "gotcha politics" and that he agreed with Gov. Rick Perry's veto of a bill last year that would have extended the federal protections in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to the state.
On Thursday, Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business continued the pushback from conservatives on the equal pay issue, saying that his group can't support "employers being held responsible for salary decisions for years after they are made, which the federal and state versions of the Lilly Ledbetter bill include. ... The lack of a statute of limitations for filing these cases is bad for business, and this bill is bad for business, pure and simple.”
State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, countered via Twitter, saying the Ledbetter act does have a statute of limitations. A suit filed under this law can only go back two years from the date the complaint was filed for backpay, she wrote.
Meanwhile, the Senate Democratic Caucus continued on Thursday to try to drum up support for its call for an interim charge, launching an online petition.
The Legislature rang in the post-Real Player era this week, kicking off a new video streaming technology with Monday's interim hearing of House Human Services.
In addition to improving the quality of the video feeds, the new technology eliminates the limit on the number of viewers who can be accommodated at a time. Before, only 2,500 viewers at a time could stream a broadcast. The new technology will be used for committee hearings from both chambers as well as the floor feeds next session, according to a press release from House Speaker Joe Straus.
In addition, the new format will allow access from mobile devices.