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Florida Democrats to propose “The Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Act” aimed at closing gender pay gap

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House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz and two of her colleagues have filed the Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Act, aimed at closing the gender pay gap in Florida.

Lantana Democrat Lori Berman is co-filing the legislation with Cruz in the House (HB 319), and Orlando Democrat Linda Stewart is filing the bill in the Senate (SB 410).

“It is unconscionable that in America today women continue to be paid less for the same amount of work as men,” declared Cruz in a statement issued on Friday. “Our nation was founded on the ideal that all of us are created equal and that ought to hold in all facets of our lives. Paying people fairly for the work they do shouldn’t depend on their gender, but rather on the quality of their work.”

The Democratic lawmakers say the two bills delineate which reasons that employers can use to pay employees differently, such as based on education, skill-set and experience. They say that by clarifying those reasons, employers can avoid litigation and be clear about which attributes are valued.

The bills would also bar employers from inquiring about or screening employees based on their prior salary history, and it would also increase civil penalties for a violation.

“While I feel this legislation should be unnecessary, the reality is that in 2017 women are still not earning the same pay as men in the same position,” said Berman.”Paying women equally is good for the economy and good for business. It is simply a no-brainer and I invite my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to write this into statute once and for all.”

“Those groups most affected by this – the single mother; a family stricken by illness or unemployment or tragedy that relies on a female breadwinner; those Floridians whose gender identity isn’t even recognized anywhere in our state laws; they deserve policies and protections that reflect the reality of their everyday existence. That’s why we need this bill. That’s why we were elected to serve,” said Stewart.

Helen Gordon Davis was a Tampa icon who passed away last May at the age of 88. She was the first woman from Hillsborough County elected to serve in the Florida Legislature back in 1974. She  was reelected for six consecutive terms and, in 1988, was elected to the Florida Senate. Her political career ended in 1992 when she lost that state Senate seat that comprised parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas County to Charlie Crist.

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) of Florida, over a lifetime of work (47 years), the total estimated loss of earnings of women compared with men is $700,000 for a high school graduate, $1.2 million for a college graduate and $2 million for a professional school graduate.

The odds of the bill passing in the Legislature would appear to be slim, as Cruz has offered it up in previous sessions without much success.

The three Democrats will speak about their bill next Tuesday at a press conference in Tallahassee.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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