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Carlson pulls pay equity bill

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A bill which would abolish pay equity for local governments has been pulled by its author, Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji.

"That bill's been pulled and it won't see the light of day," Carlson said Saturday morning to an Education Minnesota eggs and issues breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express. It brought about 50 teachers from five school districts.

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He apologized to the teachers for authoring the bill, and said his intent wasn't to denigrate women's effort to seek equal pay.

When the bill was first presented, it drew the ire of Democrats for its repeal of the Local Government Pay Equity Act, a part of the bill which included the repeal of numerous "mandates" on local government.

"Our state faces a budget deficit, a jobs deficit, and now Republicans are trying to add an equality deficit," said Rep. Linda Slocum, DFL-Bloomington. "This proposal distracts us from the real challenges facing Minnesotans while making it harder for working women to earn a wage they deserve. It makes no sense."

The Equal Pay for Women law was passed in 1984 to eliminate gender based wage disparities in public employment in Minnesota local governments. Since its application, it has brought transparency to public wages and helped narrow wage gaps, the DFL lawmakers said. Nevertheless, research indicates an equity problem remains.

According to a June report by the Woman's Foundation of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota, white women earn 76 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. Disparities are even worse for African American and Hispanic women.

The Pioneer editorialized against the repeal of the measure, and Carlson defended the measure in a Feb. 15 column.

Saturday he called the bill and its ramifications "really stupid" and alleged that he may have been naïve about authoring it.

"We hit this head on, and (the Pioneer) called me out and I called (the Pioneer) out, and then we had it out in the paper and that's fine," Carlson, a freshman, said.

""When you're new in the Legislature, the learning curve is unbelievably steep and we honestly don't know what we don't know," he told the teachers.

Carlson said cities, school districts and counties were asked what the state can do to lessen their burden, thus saving money in lot of a $6.2 billion shortfall. A list was compiled in put in a bill.

"I am sure that some of the older, more seasoned members who had been there for awhile, thought, well, good luck with that one," Carlson said of when he offered to author the bill with the pay equity repeal.

"I would admit I didn't do my homework very well," he said. "What I was told by the League of Minnesota Cities was not to worry about it as it's not about fair pay for women. It's about some onerous reporting problems and it costs a lot."

He was also told there are other laws on the books calling for equal pay for women.

"Obviously, I've been married for 32 years, I have a daughter out the workforce and I have a granddaughter -- I can't believe anyone would think I would harm that relationship," Carlson said.

"So I author the bill, put it in the hopper, and the next thing I know, all hell breaks loose," he added. "And I deserve it for being naïve. Quite honestly, I deserve that. I did it with good intentions."

He did not say if he would reintroduce the bill without the pay equity provision.

"Hopefully I learned my lesson," Carlson said. "To all of you, I apologize about that pay equity thing."

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