State Sen. Wendy Davis gained national name recognition last year when she filibustered a bill that limited access to abortions. When she stopped in Beaumont on March 14 as she campaigned for governor, Davis had another hot button issue on her mind – equal pay for women.
Davis was reacting to a recent interview by a Dallas television station with her Republican opponent and current Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Abbott was asked if he were governor would he have vetoed a bill that closed the gap in pay between men and women the way Rick Perry did. Davis pointed out that Abbott never answered the question.
“He ducked and dodged, and said he supported the ‘concept’ of equal pay,” Davis said at meeting with supporters at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall in Beaumont. "But given Gregg Abbott’s history, he would have done the same.”
For example, Davis said, the attorney general had "no problem" giving himself two “massive” pay raises since 2005 and is now making $150,000 a year.
And, Davis mentioned a case in which Abbott argued against a plaintiff in a wage discrimination lawsuit involving Prairie View A&M University. However, the case Davis cited was over wage discrimination based on national origin, not gender. A female professor argued she should have the right to sue over unequal pay, even though she didn’t learn about the discrimination until months after she was hired.
In Texas, state law says a claim must be filed within 180 days of when the discrimination first started, but federal law was changed under the Lilly Ledbetter Act so that a woman can file a claim when the alleged discrimination is discovered, not when it began.
Abbott’s office argued the federal protections don’t apply under state law and won before the Texas Supreme Court in August 2012.
“Greg Abbott knew the current law wasn’t fair,” she said. “He knew we needed our own law in Texas.”
Davis said, by contract, she was proud to co-sponsor the Texas Equal Pay Act,” Davis said. “It got bi-partisan support and made it through the Legislature to the governor’s desk and Rick Perry vetoed it.
“In the Davis Administration, I would eagerly sign it,” she said to applause.
But Davis said she will fight for economic fairness for all hard working families in Texas, not just women, and make sure Texans have a 21st Century education that is needed for tomorrow’s jobs.
While the Republicans still hold the majority of legislative power in Texas, she said now is the best time for a Democratic shift since Ann Richards was governor more than 20 years ago.
“I’m seeing enthusiasm all over the state. And our volunteer base is growing, and I’m so proud of that. We’ve received record numbers of contributions from more than 100,000 individuals. And it’s only March!" Davis said.