The San Antonio Express-News reports that the gubernatorial campaigns have begun fighting a war of words over the Equal Pay for Equal Work act and how each candidate would handle the issue. As some may recall, back in June, Governor Rick Perry vetoed a new equal pay for women bill that would have mirrored Texas law to newly implemented Federal standards. The controversy specifically revolves around the statute of limitations for such suits, which has previously been defined as 180 days from the date the allegedly discriminatory pay was set. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Act into law, which shifted the statute of limitations to 18o days following the last allegedly discriminatory paycheck received.
Following a 2012 decision of the Texas Supreme Court, renewed attention was placed on State law, which still had the “180 days from first paycheck” limitation placed upon it. Thus, State Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Harris County) reintroduced a bill in the State Legislature last session to make Texas law mirror existing Federal regulations. Reasons for this include the fact that the State Court system is significantly cheaper and less cumbersome than the Federal system. The bill, which had State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic nominee for Governor, as its main co-sponsor in the upper chamber, passed by razor-thin margins before being vetoed by the Governor.
Davis, of course, is now making a fairly substantial issue out of the position. Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for Governor, has been remarkably coy in avoiding answering the simple question of how he would react as Governor if this bill once again came across his desk.
When Peggy Fikac of the Express-News contacted Abbott and asked him point blank how he would react to the legislation, he expressed his support for both the Federal Ledbetter act and the abstract concept of Equal Pay for Equal Work. He did not, however, give a straightforward answer to the question of if he would sign or veto the bill.
Abbott did deflect the questions by pointing to the fact that Texas actually has a provision in its State Constitution equivalent to the Equal Rights Amendment, and the State was actually one of the 35 to ratify the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution, both occurring in 1972. It is a nice tidbit of history, but it has nothing to do with the issue here and now, whether Abbott would sign or veto an Equal Pay act.
For what it is worth, he deflected this question at the Tribune festival back last September as well. Do not expect him to provide a straightforward answer any time soon.