Higher Ed Commissioner salary taken out of Legislature’s hands _lowres

Advocate file photo -- The Louisiana state capitol in Baton Rouge.

The Louisiana Legislature has approved a business and industry-backed bill that aims to shift gears in the equal pay debate — just days after the same language was killed in a Senate committee.

Senate Bill 359 — originally a wage dispute bill — was amended in the House to include the equal pay for women wording that was opposed by women’s groups because it doesn’t go as far as Democrat-backed bills that have sought to bridge the wage gap. The Senate agreed to the bill in a 28-10 vote Friday, sending it to Gov. Bobby Jindal for approval.

The bill stresses the need for equal pay and restates existing federal gender discrimination law but provides no new teeth to enforce pay equality.

Women in Louisiana make, on average, about 67 cents for every dollar men make, making it one of the worst states for pay disparity.

“This is what you call a hijack,” said state Sen. Jody Amedee, a Gonzales Republican who voted against the earlier bill. “This is not an equal pay bill. It is a farce.”

Supporters argued that the legislation doesn’t take away from any other law and is harmless.

State Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said that there are varying reasons for pay discrepancies and he doesn’t buy into stats on Louisiana’s pay differences.

“You have to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges,” he said.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .