Abbott clears the air on fair pay legislation stance

UPDATED to include clarification from the Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office

Weeks after first being asked the question, Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is taking a stand on a Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter Act. He told the Associated Press today he would not sign a Texas version into law. The question was first posed to Abbott during an interview with WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics. Democrats began attacking his position on fair pay when he declined to take a firm position on the issue.

Campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch told the AP:

“Because wage discrimination is already against the law and because legal avenues already exist for victims of discrimination, Greg Abbott would have not signed this law.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis authored the Texas Fair Pay Act, which extended the statute of limitations for bringing lawsuits against employers accused of pay discrimination. The legislation garnered bipartisan support in the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry.

The issue moved front and center in the Governor’s race, when two high profile Republican woman stumbled in response to questions over the party’s position on fair pay. In one instance, Republican Party of Texas Executive Director Beth Cubriel told Capital Tonight that equal pay legislation was unnecessary. Instead, she said, ”Men are better negotiators and I would encourage women, instead of pursuing the courts for action, to become better negotiators.”

The Davis campaign was quick to respond to Abbott’s declaration. The campaign pointed to a San Antonio Express News report that the Attorney General’s office pays female assistant attorneys general less than male ones. In a statement, campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas said:

“On the day that Texans discover Greg Abbott pays women less than men in his office, he announces he would veto equal pay legislation that would help his employees address this discrimination. Texans are tired of business as usual from Greg Abbott and support Wendy Davis’ fight on economic fairness for all hardworking Texans.”

UPDATED

In an email to Capital Tonight, the Attorney General’s office said there are various reasons for pay discrepancies that are not gender related. According to the AG’s office, there are seven different AAG classifications and 50 unique job titles with “variety of job duties, experience and qualifications.”  Abbott’s office says some discrepancies in pay can be attributed to varying years of service and experience as a licensed attorney. Assistant Attorneys General also work in different legal practice areas which are “subject to different labor market forces, which means that salaries within an AAG classification will inevitably differ.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Capital Tonight: New fallout in debate over pay discrimination

The fight over equal pay for men and women continues in the race for governor, and the latest dust-up stems from an interview that aired here on Capital Tonight.

This time, Republican candidate Greg Abbott is responding to a statement made by Republican Party of Texas Executive Director Beth Cubriel about Democratic candidate Wendy Davis’ call for a state version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

“Is it really fair to clog up the courts with litigation that you can take through another avenue and put that ahead of litigation that can only go through the state courts? I don’t think so,” Cubriel said. “Men are better negotiators and I would encourage women, instead of pursuing the courts for action, to become better negotiators.”

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at the slew of responses that followed Cubriel’s statement, and what the business community says the argument should really be about.

VIEW FROM CONGRESS

Congressman Lloyd Doggett joined us in-studio to comment on the governor’s race, along with how enrollment numbers are adding up ahead of the looming March 31 deadline.

Plus, our Capitol Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, debated the significance of the fight over wage discrimination.

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Abbott campaign distances itself from RPT equal pay remarks

Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is responding to controversial comments regarding pay equality by a top Republican Party of Texas official.

On Monday’s Capital Tonight, Executive Director Beth Cubriel said equal pay laws were unnecessary and the solution for pay discrimination lies outside of legislation. ”Men are better negotiators and I would encourage women, instead of pursuing the courts for action, to become better negotiators.”

Those remarks drew a swift response from the Wendy Davis campaign and other Democratic groups, including the Lone Star Project, Battleground Texas and the Texas Democratic Party. They have been firing shots at Abbott over the issue since last week, when Abbott declined to say if he would have supported the Texas Equal Pay Act.

In a statement to Capital Tonight Tuesday afternoon, the Abbott campaign distanced itself from Cubriel’s remarks. Spokesman Matt Hirsch said: 

“Greg Abbott supports equal pay, and he supports Texas and federal law that provides legal avenues for victims of discrimination. The Texas Constitution and both state and federal law guarantee a woman’s right to equal pay in Texas. Equal pay is the law in Texas, and as Governor, Greg Abbott will continue to ensure it’s enforced.

Greg Abbott believes it’s inappropriate to ever blame the victim of discrimination, and he remains focused on ensuring greater prosperity and opportunity for all women and Texans. As a father of a teenage daughter and a husband to a former teacher, Greg Abbott will ensure that growing prosperity in Texas touches all families.”

Lawmakers passed a Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter Act during the 2013 legislative session. The law allowed a discrimination suit to be filed when the wrong-doing is discovered. Under current law in Texas, there is a 180-day time frame to file such a lawsuit.

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the legislation, saying it was unnecessary since a federal version already exists. Supporters of the bill, however, say the law would have allowed women to sue in state court, rather than federal court, which is easier and cheaper.

 

 

Capital Tonight: New group enters fray over pay discrimination

A new group is hoping to secure the votes of Texas women for Republicans, even as the Democratic party fields two female candidates at the top of the general election ticket.

The Red State Women PAC is putting its support behind Attorney General Greg Abbott for governor on issues ranging from pay discrimination to women’s health. In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we took a look at how the group is faring in a combative election environment.

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Capital Tonight: Van de Putte muses on contentious Republican runoff race

One week after the primary polls closed, Republicans remain split over who to support in the lieutenant governor’s race. Sen. Dan Patrick soared passed incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, surprising pundits and forcing the race into a runoff.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at where support is coming from for both candidates. Plus, we spoke to Sen. Leticia Van de Putte about how a contentious runoff race could affect her campaign.

CAPITAL COMMENTATORS

Sen. Wendy Davis’ campaign is bringing in some outside help to lead the communications team. We talked to Democratic strategist Harold Cook and Republican strategist Ted Delisi about that change, along with new lines of attack between the Davis and Greg Abbott campaigns.

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Federal officials say more than four million people have signed up for health insurance through the online exchange since October, but the White House still needs more young people to sign up in order for the Affordable Care Act to work as planned.

A new video from comedian Zach Galifianakis might help in that effort. The fake community access interview with the president has gotten more than six million views so far, and White House officials say it’s driving record traffic to the healthcare.gov website.

Davis campaign hires new communications director

Sen. Wendy Davis’ campaign is bringing in some outside help to run its communications operation. The campaign announced today Zac Petkanas will be the new communications director.

In February, the campaign said it would take action to correct its course, following some dust-ups with the Capitol press corps. Davis’ team was criticized after only select members of the media were allowed into a Travis County Democratic Party fundraiser in January. Davis took that opportunity to set the record straight over reports that she blurred some of the details of her personal story on the campaign trail.

At that time, the campaign said it would bring in an outsider to “right the ship” in the communications department. Other additions are being made to the communications staff as well. Sources close to the campaign say they’re trying to bring on board the best team possible to move the campaign forward and to help get Davis’ message out across the state. Petkanas has worked for Senate majority leader Harry Reid as well as the Nevada Democratic party.

Capital Tonight: Party leaders assess primary night results

It’s been a few days since the primary elections, and a few unanswered questions remain. Was Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ poor showing in South Texas a big concern for her party? And what about the Tea Party’s strong performance on the Republican side?

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we sat down with leadership from the Republican and Democratic parties to get their take on Tuesday night.

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Capital Tonight: Patterson sounds off after primary loss

Whole Woman’s Health announced it is closing clinics in McAllen and Beaumont, due to restrictions placed on the facilities by an omnibus bill passed last session. Ten other clinics across the state have already closed since the law took effect.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we heard from both sides of the abortion debate about what to expect heading into September, when a new portion of the law could lead to more closures.

FIRING BACK

He might be out of the race for lieutenant governor, but Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has no plans to fade away quietly. He joined us for a one-on-one interview about his campaign, the runoff race, and his potential successor in the General Land Office, George P. Bush.

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Plus, Democratic strategist Harold Cook and Republican strategist Ted Delisi weighed in on the stories that got overlooked on election night.

Capital Tonight: Dewhurst faces difficult path to victory

Now the underdog, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has only a few months to turn the tide against Sen. Dan Patrick, who led the polls on primary night. Patrick has positioned himself as the more conservative, Tea Party favored candidate.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we dug into last night’s primary election results, seeing how they will shape future Texas political races.

MISTAKEN POLLS

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ELECTORAL INDICATORS

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