#AZHouse Democrats Force Vote on #ERA

ERA vote in Arizona House

For the third year in a row, Arizona House Democrats forced a debate and a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). On April 16, I made an “emergency motion” to skip over First, Second and Third Readings of HCR2030 and bring the ERA up for an immediate vote. Predictably, the Republicans offered as substitute motion which led to two hours of rousing debate on women’s equality.

The Back Story

Earlier in the session– when the Democrats still believed that at least a few Republicans may have a tiny independent streak– Senator Victoria Steele and I both garnered signatures from a handful of Republicans and all of the Democrats for ratification of the ERA. Steele had the votes to pass it in the Senate, but  Judiciary Chair Eddie Farnsworth refused to hear the ERA in committee, and President Karen Fann stopped a real floor vote.

Arizona Senate debated, but since there was no floor vote– only a division call– the Republicans weren’t held accountable for their stance against equal rights for women. None of the Republicans who had signed Steele’s bill stood up for the ERA or spoke in favor of it.

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley calling for a vote on HCR2030, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Pre-Game Action

Fast forward to yesterday. The House didn’t hear the ERA on the same day as the Senate because the plan was to propose the ERA in the House on a different day… unannounced. A stealthy surprise for the House Leadership. The Republicans don’t like it when the Dems surprise them with parliamentary procedures and force votes on bills they thought they had killed with parliamentary procedures. Their intransigence is the catalyst for our shenanigans.

Several weeks ago, I met with Speaker Rusty Bowers about the ERA and asked him to assign HCR2030 to a committee that would hear it. Every year, the Democrats and ERA supporters ask for a real committee hearing, a real floor debate in Committee of the Whole, and a Third Read vote on the ERA. Every year, the Republicans use “horse and buggy procedures” to stall any meaningful progress.

At the time of our meeting, the ERA had not even gone through the First Read– the very first step in the legislative process. He told me in no uncertain terms that he had “no intention” of doing anything to move the ERA forward. Initially, he declined to tell me why and said he wanted to “explain his position in a larger forum.” I pushed for a reason, and he talked about his wife and daughter and how it would negatively impact them. He also talked about more lawsuits as a result of passage of the ERA. I told him that the ERA focuses on government-based discrimination. If the ERA is passed and if the state of Arizona has discriminatory laws on the book, then, yes, the state could be sued, but the real issues are equal pay for equal work, equal protection under the Constitution, and structural sexism in our country.

Facts on the Floor

Since the Republican leadership refused to allow the ERA to go through the normal bill process, the House Democrats decided to do the motion for a Third Read vote. Immediately, Majority Leader Warren Petersen called for my motion to be tabled, which would kill HCR2030 for the session. House members cast votes for or against tabling the ERA motion. Of course, the vote broke along party lines– with all of the Republicans voting YES to table the ERA. Rep. John Fillmore (who had signed my ERA bill, as well as Steele’s) and the two other Republicans who told me that they might vote for the ERA if it came up for a vote– all voted YES to table the motion– essentially voting NO on the ERA.

I led the floor debate with a speech about economic inequality, the wage gap and the intersectionality of race, class and gender. (My speech text is below. You can watch the official video here; the motion is around 9:13 min.)

The wage gap statistics are staggering. White women make approximately 77 cents on the dollar compared to men; this translates into $555,000 in lost wages over a lifetime. To make what a white man earns during a 40-year career, a white woman has to work an extra 11.9 years, according to the USA Today and the National Women’s Law Center.

For women of color the wage gap is exponentially worse:

  • Black women vs white men: 61 cents vs $1, which translates to $946,120 in lifetime lost wages. A black woman would have to work an extra 25.8 years to make the same as a white man makes in 40 years.
  • Native women vs white men: 58 cents vs $1, which translates to $977,720 in lifetime lost wages. A Native American woman would have to work an extra 29.9 years to make the same as a white man makes in 40 years.
  • Latinas vs white men: 53 cents vs. $1, which translates to $1,136,440 in lifetime lost wages. A Latina would have to work an extra 35.5 years to make the same as a white man makes in 40 years.

Lost lifetime wages of $500,000 to $1.1 million amounts to a hefty lifetime discrimination tax levied on women. Furthermore, a 2018 story on NPR reported that the wage gap has not been shrinking in recent years, and for women of color the wage gap is actually increasing when their wages are compared to that of white men. The wage gap has been steadily– but very slowing– closing since 1980. The wage gap has narrowed 13 cents since 1980; that is 3 cents per year over 39 years.

Several Democrats rose and gave speeches in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. A handful of Republicans– primarily the women– gave speeches against hearing the ERA. We were encouraged in our quest for ratification of the ERA by the presence of enthusiastic AFL-CIO members– including many from Tucson– who filled the gallery. Tuesday happened to be their day of action at the Legislature. Unions wholeheartedly support the Equal Rights Amendment, equal pay for equal work, and fair wages for everyone. In the photo above, you can see the unionists standing in the gallery as Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez explains her vote.

The Republicans completely dismissed the equal pay for equal work argument that the Democrats emphasized. Their primary arguments revolved around dire predictions about increased access to abortion, glowing stories about successful women, and complaints that we didn’t follow the process. The Republicans believe that the ERA is unnecessary and perhaps even dangerous. In his remarks, Bowers said the ERA was “fodder for a radicalized agenda.”

I don’t understand why the Republicans are afraid of women’s equality and equal pay for equal work. We’re not giving up on this. If another state doesn’t ratify the ERA and become the 38th and final state, I will propose the ERA again in the next session. If the Republican leadership refuses to allow the ERA to go through the proper process, they can expect another motion for a floor vote in 2020.

Floor Speech in Support of the ERA Ratification

Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez and Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley hold a list of Arizona voters who supported ratification of the ERA on the Legislature’s Request to Speak System.

by Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, April 16, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I’d like to explain my vote. I want to clarify that a vote for this substitute amendment is really an up or down vote on the Equal Rights Amendment.

Arizona has a progressive legacy when it comes to women’s equality. Just months after Arizona became a state, the MEN of Arizona voted to give the women of Arizona the right to vote. Today, Arizona has the opportunity to make history again by becoming the 38th and final state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The ERA is simple. It is one sentence, but it could have a profound impact on the lives of Arizona women. The ERA reads:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.

You’ll note that the ERA includes is NO mention of military service for women, no mention of gender-neutral bathrooms, or no mention of abortion. So, let’s dispense with those erroneous arguments from the 1970s and focus on what the ERA is really about.

The ERA is about economic opportunity.

It is about equal pay for equal work.

It is about equal protection under the Constitution.

It is about fighting discrimination and structural sexism in the United States.

Nearly 100 years after the Equal Rights Amendment was initially proposed, women at all income levels still make roughly 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, and women of color make even less due to the intersectionality of race, class, and gender.

The wage gap between men and women is dramatic, and it has narrowed only 13 cents per hour since 1980. That is 3 cents per hour per year over 39 years. That is unacceptable. The average white woman will lose a half million dollars during her lifetime because of the wage gap, BUT women of color will lose double that amount—one million dollars or more. That is a lifetime discrimination tax.

This disparity in wages not only hurts women and their families. It hurts our state’s economy, since women comprise 51% of the population.

If women received equal pay for equal work and if Moms and their children were offered a quality education, THAT would be economic development. THAT investment would make our state stronger.

Let’s join together today to ratify the ERA. Let’s tell the women of Arizona that we value them, their families, and their work.

There is no time limit on equality.

The time is NOW for the Equal Rights Amendment in Arizona.

And with that, I vote NO on the subsequent amendment.

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