Capitol Alert

Committees take up gender pay; millennial legislators get together

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, embraces Senate President Pro tem Kevin de León on the Senate Floor at the Capitol.
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, embraces Senate President Pro tem Kevin de León on the Senate Floor at the Capitol. jvillegas@sacbee.com

California has a long way to go to close its gender pay gap.

Despite legislative efforts to balance pay for men and women, a report released last October found that women who work for the state make 80 cents on the dollar compared to their male colleagues. Female state workers face a greater pay disparity than California’s private sector and federal workforce, according to a report from the California Department of Human Resources.

That’s not to say the state has ignored the problem.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in 2015 that expanded California law to require that women be paid the same as their male colleagues for doing “substantially similar” work. It also created new protections for workers to compare wages and put the burden on employers to prove they pay female workers less for legitimate reasons. The bill followed a Sacramento Bee investigation that found women who work for the state Senate made 94 cents and women who work for the Assembly 92 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Late last year the Senate took a big step following a yearlong assessment of its pay practices and gave 10 percent raises to 71 employees to shrink the gender gap.

Leaders of the Assembly committees on Accountability and Administrative Review, Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security and the California Legislative Women’s Caucus want to know what more can be done. Legislators will hear testimony from the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, the state department of Human Resources, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Highway Patrol during a joint hearing on gender pay in civil service.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in room 4202.

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CALIFORNIA’S COOL CAUCUS: Do a Google news search for “millennials” and a gaggle of stories will appear analyzing the young generation like an alien culture that just landed on Earth. They’re entitled, reads one piece. Another suggests the females among them should leap, instead of lean-in, at the workplace, while a different story claims they’re America’s worst drivers. Here’s a new headline you may read today: Ten legislators form California Millennial Caucus. The young state legislators from all over the state are crossing party lines to take on the challenges defining the millennial generation (Pew says it’s people between the ages of 20 and 36). The group hopes to boost civic engagement among peers by hosting town halls and speaking with millennials about the problems they face in society. The new caucus will introduce itself at 9:30 a.m. in room 317 of the state Capitol.

HEALTHCARE REFORM: Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, introduced a bill last week that would establish a single-payer healthcare system for all Californians. The proposal is in response to the federal government’s vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would affect care for the lowest-income residents in the state. The National Nurses Association and the California Nurses Association sponsored Lara’s Senate Bill 562, dubbed the “Healthy California Act,” and will rally in support of it on the north steps of the Capitol at 11 a.m. today.

ANTI-POVERTY CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown has a problem with the state’s earned income tax credit: Not enough Californians are applying for it. The governor issued a proclamation Tuesday declaring Feb. 19 to 25 “California Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Week” and he’s holding a press call today to discuss the state’s efforts to ensure that more Californians apply for the tax break. Brown introduced the earned income tax credit in 2015 as a major tool to combat poverty. State Controller Betty Yee will join the call at 10 a.m..

SECOND BASE: State Sen. Jim Beall's Senate Bill 1, a possible vehicle for any road funding deal between the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown, will go before the Senate Environmental Quality Committee today. Last week, the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee signed off on the bill. And if it clears today's panel, SB 1 will be heard by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. How often do three policy panels in a single house scrutinize the same bill? It's rare. But SB 1, which would generate an estimated $6 billion a year, involves the purview of multiple committees.

ECHOLS: If things had turned out a little differently in November 2014 – say, 10,590 votes differently – Elizabeth Echols would likely be a member of the California Assembly. Instead, Echols today will be in front of the Senate Rules Committee when it considers her February 2016 appointment as director of the California Public Utility Commission Division of Ratepayer Advocates. Echols, a former administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Pacific Region, ran for the Oakland-based 15th Assembly District in 2014. She lost to Tony Thurmond in an all-Democrat November 2014 runoff that featured major spending by outside interests – including some regulated by the PUC.

Jim Miller of the Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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