SALT LAKE CITY — A proposal to study gender-based wage gaps in state government was met with antagonism in a Utah legislative meeting Tuesday.
Members of the Senate Business and Labor Committee didn't debate the merits of SB152 as much as pepper Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, with procedural questions about the bill.
After a 20-minute discussion, the committee abruptly adjourned without taking any action. Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, said it was an issue for lawmakers to study over the summer.
Technical issues aside, Escamilla said some of her colleagues appear to have ideological problems with the bill.
"I'm not going to lie. It's not going to be an easy task, and we haven't done anything related to unequal compensation in the state, not that I recall in the last 10 sessions," she said after the meeting.
The bill would appropriate $125,000 for an independent evaluation of gender-based wage disparities, including policies and practices intended to prevent unequal compensation, in 28 state agencies.
Escamilla said the bill isn't intended to debate whether a gap exists but provide legislators with information for making decisions about wage policies.
Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said the issue needs to be studied, and areas where women aren't earning as much as men should be addressed.
"It's not designed to be an equal rights amendment or anything else," he said.
The Utah Public Employees Association spoke in favor of the bill, as did the YWCA.
Escamilla said she didn't take the meeting adjournment as a defeat but as a chance to bring the bill back.
"Obviously, there's a lot of questions, and I'm looking forward to answering them," she said. "I hope my colleagues will see this as just an opportunity to get more info."