INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier women are likely to continue facing barriers to equal pay and opportunity in the workplace after the Indiana House failed to act prior to last week's deadline on four proposals filed by Region lawmakers.

According to the Indiana Institute for Working Families, the median earnings of full-time male workers in Indiana were $12,717 higher than the median earnings of full-time female workers during 2016. That's a 26 percent wage gap.

House Bill 1047, sponsored by state Rep. Carolyn Jackson, D-Hammond, aimed to close that gap by barring employers from paying wages that discriminate based on sex for substantially similar work, and prohibiting retaliation against an employee for discussing his or her pay rate with colleagues or anyone else.

"The gap in pay adds up over time, and that also means women experiencing a pay gap will retire with significantly less money than men," Jackson said.

"After 30 years in the workforce, women have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars less than men."

The proposal was not considered by the House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee, led by state Rep. Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo.

State Rep. Pat Boy, D-Michigan City, focused her equal pay efforts on teachers, since women comprise the majority of the classroom workforce in Indiana's schools.

House Bill 1205 would have provided school corporations additional per-student state funding over the next two years, so long as the district increased teacher pay between 2 and 5 percent during the same period.

"Our teachers work hard to provide our children with a quality education," Boy said. "An investment in a competitive salary for teachers across Indiana is an investment in a quality education for our children, who are the future of our state and country."

State Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, chairman of the House Education Committee, did not permit a hearing on the measure.

Since Hoosier women also often have to look after children, in additional to holding down their regular jobs, state Rep. Lisa Beck, D-Hobart, proposed a plan to reduce the burden of paying for child care.

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House Bill 1288 would have provided most Hoosiers a state income tax credit, on top of the federal child and dependent care tax credit, for qualified expenses associated with placing a child at a day care center, babysitter, summer camp or other care provider.

"We need real action to provide financial relief to working and middle-class women and families," Beck said.

"We should be putting money back into the pockets of the hardworking women and families in Indiana to help them afford the rising cost of child care."

The legislation was not evaluated by the House Ways and Means Committee, led by state Reps. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, and Todd Huston, R-Fishers.

State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, also could not get a hearing in the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, led by state Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, for her proposal to criminalize lewd touching in the workplace and elsewhere.

House Bill 1574 would have clarified that knowingly or intentionally rubbing or fondling another person's covered or uncovered genitals, buttocks, pubic area or female breast, without the person's consent, is a misdemeanor crime.

Last year, a special prosecutor declined to file charges against Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr., in connection with allegations that Hill groped Candelaria Reardon and three female legislative employees at a bar, in part, because the prosecutor doubted he could win a conviction under current Indiana law.

Candelaria Reardon said she's not surprised her legislation did not advance in the Republican-controlled House.

But she's also not going to give up on trying to find a way to make the legislative process work in the end.

"It isn't over until April 29," she said. "So while my individual bills may not have been heard, I'm committed to moving the language within them forward."

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