By Assistant Democratic Leader Jean D. Breaux (D-Indianapolis)
In Indiana state government, men know best. That’s the message conveyed by actions taken and priorities considered at the Statehouse. Until Governor Pence and the male-dominated legislature view the issues facing our state through the lens of women and working families, women will remain on uneven footing in Indiana.
Despite inserting themselves into the private decisions of women by enacting the controversial proposal aimed at banning legal abortions, the Republican-controlled legislature and the governor continue to ignore – or worse – condemn common sense issues that would lift all Hoosiers. They defeated a proposal to ensure that children being born with disabilities would be guaranteed assistance when families are faced with financial hardship. They blocked a discussion on making child care more affordable. They disallowed a vote on an innovative paid family leave program. They voted down a proposal ensuring Hoosier women receive equal pay for equal work. They implied a proposal to eliminate a tax on tampons and feminine hygiene products was “sexist” while approving the same tax break for the purchase of gold bars!
It’s not that the scope of these issues are limited to women. Around kitchen tables across our state families are talking about how they’re going to pay for child care. How many mothers and fathers go back to work sooner than they’d like after the birth of a child? What impact does worrying about the health of a loved one at home have on labor productivity? These issues reverberate beyond women and beyond families. They impact our communities and our economy. The fact that Republican leadership in this state continues to sideline them is alarming.
It goes beyond issues they prioritize, it’s personnel decisions too. Governor Pence’s administration coldly said goodbye to a skilled compromiser in Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann. Rarely are politicians’ claims that a person is “the most qualified to serve” based in reality. But in Ellspermann’s case, by resume, by reputation, and by accomplishment, there’s little doubt she should be considered among the most capable of Lt. Governors. Former Governor Mitch Daniels recognized that when he personally recruited her to run for public office. She was a testament to young women across the state that hard work pays off. Her departure closes a chapter on nearly a decade and a half of leaders that our daughters could point to and say: “that could be me one day.”
In March we reflected on the enormous impact women have made on the direction of our country and the world. We too must recognize there’s a long way to go. Sadly, the Republican-led Indiana Legislature and Governor Pence aren’t even at the starting line. Success looks different to different people but we can agree that women earning about 75 cents for every dollar men earn for the same work, and women holding just nine of 50 seats in the Indiana Senate doesn’t cut it. Until these major issues move to the forefront, there’s more work to be done.