State Politics

This could be the year of equal pay, minimum wage

Former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy, left, is greeted by then–Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck during a reception at the Capitol in Jackson in 2000.
Former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy, left, is greeted by then–Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck during a reception at the Capitol in Jackson in 2000. AP File

House Minority Leader David Baria once again has filed bills seeking equal pay for women and an increase in the minimum wage.

And although those ideas have languished in committees in years past, Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, said Wednesday he remains optimistic they’ll pass one day.

“I’m going to try to get some help from advocacy groups that have working for an increase in a minimum wage,” he said. “But no, I haven’t gotten any indication that leadership will let them out of committee.”

Baria’s Mississippi Minimum Wage Act would set the minimum wage at $9 an hour. Mississippi is one of five states that doesn’t have a minimum wage but most of its employees are covered under the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Employees who receive more than $30 a month in tips would receive a minimum wage of $3.62 an hour.

The bill also would set overtime pay at not less than 1.5 times the regular rate for employees who make $455 or less a week. It also would require overtime pay for manual laborers and blue-collar workers and police officers, deputies and other law enforcement personnel and first responders regardless of their salaries.

Baria said he first offered the Evelyn Gandy Fair Pay Act because he was inspired by the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that went into effect in 2009.

“It would make a huge statement for Mississippi, showing the state has turned the corner,” he said.

The bill says lawmakers “recognize the importance of taking the necessary measures to prohibit wage discrimination against women.”

Federal law has prohibited different wages based on gender since the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Ledbetter Act reset the 180-day statute of limitations for filing equal-pay suits with each new paycheck affected by a discriminatory action.

Baria said he named his bill after Gandy — the first woman to be elected Mississippi’s insurance commissioner, treasurer and lieutenant governor — because she was a pioneer for women.

“In each office to which she was elected, she was paid the same as any male predecessor,” the bill says. “Her achievements are evidence that women are just as competent and effective as men.”

Paul Hampton: 228-896-2330, @JPaulHampton

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