BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards is trying for a third year to persuade Louisiana lawmakers to enact equal pay and minimum wage increase proposals, and the bills began advancing Thursday in the Senate.
The Democratic governor appeared personally in the Senate labor committee, which sent the measures to the full Senate for consideration.
“These are small steps, but they’re going to make a big difference. These ought to be easy,” Edwards said. “I will never give up until we actually do it.”
The outcome of Thursday’s committee hearing wasn’t a surprise. The majority-Democratic panel has approved similar measures in Edwards’ first two years in office only to see the proposals hit roadblocks later.
The measures continue to face tough hurdles to passage in a majority-Republican Legislature that has sided with business lobbying groups that oppose the bills.
The proposals would:
—Raise Louisiana’s minimum wage from the $7.25-per-hour federal level to $8 per hour in 2019 and $8.50 a year later, or let voters decide whether to enact the same wage hike through a constitutional change. The bills sponsored by New Orleans Sen. Troy Carter, a Democrat, passed on party-line votes, with four Democrats in support and three Republicans in opposition.
—Extend an equal pay law that bans state agencies from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job to cover any business that gets a state contract. The committee advanced the proposal by New Orleans Sen. J.P. Morrell, a Democrat, without objection.
— Prohibit employers from taking action against workers who talk about their pay. The bill, also by Morrell, won committee passage with a 6-1 vote. Chairman Neil Riser, a Republican from Columbia, was the lone opponent.
Twenty-nine states have minimum wages above the federal level, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
-by AP reporter Melinda Deslatte