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Oklahoma lawmaker says she won’t hear equal pay for women bill in committee after voting for it last year

OKLAHOMA CITY - A band of Oklahoma lawmakers have signed on to help shrink the pay gap between men and women, but one lawmaker is holding it up.

Every woman in the House of Representatives has signed on as a coauthor, except for one.

Rep. Elise Hall is the chair of the committee and refuses to hear the bill, despite voting for it last year.

Oklahoma women make 73 cents for every dollar paid to men.

That’s even lower than the national average.

“Anytime there’s a gap like that in pay, women question 'Should I work, does this economically make sense?' With equal pay, it makes some of those decisions whether or not to stay at home or stay in the workforce easier to make, if they can justify being able to afford childcare and make ends meet a little easier,” said Oklahoma Women’s Coalition Executive Director Danielle Ezell.

Right now, the law does not protect workers who bring pay discrimination suits forward.

A bill authored by Rep. Jason Dunnington focuses on pay transparency.

Basically, if you talk about your wages at work with a coworker, you can’t get fired for it.

The bill sailed through last year but didn’t get heard on the Senate floor the last day of session.

“We feel really confident everyone’s opinion on the bill is the same. It’s just being held up with one member of the House,” Dunnington said.

That member is Hall.

She replaced Dan Kirby as chair of the Business, Commerce and Tourism committee when Kirby resigned earlier this month.

Every woman in the House of Representatives, except Hall, has signed on as a coauthor.

The committee has to vote on the bill by Wednesday, or it won’t go anywhere.

But, Hall refuses to hear it in committee, despite voting for it twice last year.

Hall told us Monday outside her office she was too busy to talk about the equal pay bill.

The House Speaker’s press secretary later sent us this statement on her behalf:

“There are already federal and Oklahoma state laws that prohibit pay discrimination on the basis of gender. Very few businesses have written policies that prohibit employees from discussing pay, and those that do are in violation of federal law. Several businesses have expressed concern that this measure as written is overly broad and would have unintended consequences that could affect their ability to recruit and retain talented workers and protect workplace morale.”

Last year, NewsChannel 4 reported the State Chamber opposed the bill.

This year, Rep. Cunnington says he's working with the Chamber on the language of the bill.

“We’ve worked on language with the State Chamber that would be advantageous for what they’re trying to accomplish and keep the transparency language in, which is what we’ve been fighting for,” Dunnington said.

It’s a fight some fear may have to wait another year

“We’ve passed bills that protect honeybees and describe women’s bodies as easy bake ovens. I would think that it would be common sense that we would allow a bill like this, that protects women’s wages… would be something to be prioritized and heard,” Dunnington said.

Hall would have to put the bill on the calendar by 5 p.m. Tuesday for it to be heard by the deadline.