Three weeks into the state legislative session, where do Georgia women fit into the General Assembly’s legislative priorities?
When you look at the bills Republican versus Democratic leaders are championing, there are pretty stark differences, particularly when it comes to how, or even if, women fit into their priorities.
It is disappointing to see that leadership, particularly on the Republican side, aren’t interested in addressing wage disparities between men and women, or the disproportionate impact of childcare on women, among other important policy areas.
Now, to be fair, this is the time of year when budget negotiations take up the most time and energy, committees are just getting established, and legislators and lobbyists alike are trying to build support for their initiatives.
But Democrats have clearly thought about how our identities impact our lives differently, and this is reflected in the bills that Democratic leaders are championing themselves or taking time to talk about.
Some of these bills already have Republican co-sponsors, so it’s not that Republicans are completely disregarding the need for public policy that supports women.
However, women don’t seem to matter when you listen to what Republican leadership is talking about at fancy legislative breakfasts, and when you look at the the bills party leaders are taking the lead on.
Republican leaders, not surprisingly, have been talking about making Georgia more “business-friendly,” and are backing legislation to ostensibly do this.
If you want to make Georgia more business-friendly and more entrepreneurial, if that’s your stated goal, then it’s important to address how sexism affects people’s lives. Because, it turns out, women also run small (and large) businesses, while being expected to disproportionately perform care work for family members at home.
Women work. Women create. And women live in a sexist society. And it doesn’t really make any sense to leave women behind, regardless of party affiliation.
On the Senate side, there are a handful of bills addressing issues that impact women, all championed by Democrats. For instance, there is a bill, SB 28, to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Given that 80 percent of low-wage workers are women, this would go a long way towards closing the gender pay gap. Senate Democrats have also proposed a measure, SB 60, called the Georgia Equal Pay Act, specifically to target and eliminate gender pay differences in a business (yes, of course, for doing the same work).
The Georgia Family Medical Leave Act would create a sort of worker’s compensation insurance system for employees that need to take temporary leave to care for loved ones who are sick or have a disability. Because care work still disproportionately falls on women, women disproportionately are impacted by sick children or parents. They often use their own sick days or vacation time to take time off from work to provide care, or self-select into lower-paying jobs with more flexible hours, to allow them to perform these duties.
Senate Dems are also backing a measure called the Georgia Family Planning Initiative to help make birth control and other aspects of reproductive healthcare more broadly accessible. This is likely going to take on particular importance should the Trump administration and other federal leaders decide to end no-copay birth control.
On the House side, there is a bill in the pipeline to explicitly protect pregnant workers from discrimination, including being fired just for wanting to start a family. House democrats are also backing a measure to expand who qualifies for TANF, temporary assistance to needy families. Again, because care work disproportionately falls on women, and so many households headed by women are low-income, I would expect a measure like this one to benefit women.
The House Democratic Caucus is also backing a measure to make childcare more accessible by making it tax-deductible, they will have their own bill targeting pay equity and are going to push a measure related to domestic violence support. Those bills have been announced, and will likely be introduced in the coming weeks.
I hear being optimistic is good for your health, so I’ll just say this: it’s still early and perhaps, perhaps, as the legislative session picks up steam, there will be more bills introduced — and championed by leaders of both parties — that help Georgia women.