PHOENIX — Republicans who control the Arizona House turned back an effort by Democrats on Thursday to force a debate and vote on the federal Equal Rights Amendment.
The effort to force action came months after Democrats introduced a ratification resolution. It never received a hearing.
Republican Speaker J.D. Mesnard blocked Thursday’s effort by moving to recess, setting off an hour-long series of speeches by Democrats as a formal vote on his motion was held. They argued the amendment is needed in part to bring equal pay and other rights to women.
Mesnard said he has no intention of allowing a vote this year.
The Constitutional amendment was passed by Congress in 1972 and referred to the states for ratification. It received only 35 of the needed 38 state ratifications by a 1982 deadline.
Nevada’s Democratically-controlled Legislature made that state the first to approve the amendment in decades last month.
Democratic Arizona Rep. Lela Alston was in the Legislature when the ERA was being debated in the 1970s. She said she was hopeful at the time that it would pass and her teenage daughter would reap the pay benefits when she entered the workforce as a young professional.
“I now have two adult granddaughters who were not even imagined in my life at the time I first was in office,” Alston said in a floor speech.
“So there have been two generations since this was first considered. And now I’m hopeful someday I will have a great granddaughter and I hope I am not here giving the same tired speech for her or for them.”
Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend said she didn’t think government should tell businesses how to operate, while also saying she didn’t believe workplace discrimination should be allowed. She voted against the surprise effort by Democrats to force a debate.
“I don’t appreciate this being sprung on us at lunchtime,” she said. “I would have loved to have had time to discuss this with you. I just think this is not the right time.”
Mesnard said he once considered introducing the ratification resolution himself, but changed his mind after studying the issue.
“There’s a lot of questions that remain unanswered on this, equal pay for one,” Mesnard said. “There are no two people that are identical. It’s a very interesting notion, equal pay for the same job. I truly don’t know what that means.
“You’d have to have the exact same person with the exact same productivity,” he said.
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