N.O. lawmaker's attempt to advance wage bills rejected by House committee

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - At the state capitol Thursday there was another push to get more equal pay protections for women passed as well as a higher minimum wage.

The two bills were sponsored by New Orleans Rep. Joseph Bouie, D-New Orleans.

They were heard by the House Labor Committee.

One would require companies with state contracts to pay women the same amount men receive for similar jobs.

"For the life of me I don't understand how we can embrace discrimination in this state against almost 50 percent of the female-headed families in this state," said Bouie.

Representatives of small businesses spoke against the proposal.

"The bill keeps coming back. We keep coming here to fight it because business is in a situation where they are constantly being made out to be the bad guy. Employers are here to create jobs," said Dawn Starns, of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

There was enough opposition among the lawmakers on the panel to keep the legislation from moving to the full House for consideration.

Then Rep. Bouie's bill to create a Louisiana minimum wage of $15 an hour was considered by the committee of state lawmakers.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

"Every time we get paid, literally my check is gone within the same day and that's just on supplying for my child," said Jerwana Newman, of New Orleans who is part of the group, Step Up Louisiana.

"How dare you say they don't deserve a living wage in whatever it is that they're doing."

Business groups said having a higher minimum wage will cost businesses in ways beyond the hourly rate," said Tillman Hardy, activist and business owner.

"It also increases the payroll tax that they pay and so they start making decisions about what they have to do because they have a hundred dollars of expenses in labor every week," said Renee Amar, of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

The minimum wage bill also failed to make it out of the committee for consideration by the full House.

"I do not want to do anything that is going to result in the inability of an employer to hire low wage employees," stated Rep. Reid Falconer, R-Mandeville.

"We cannot continue to ignore these institutional barriers to a good quality of life for our citizens," said Rep. Bouie.

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