Posted: Monday, March 26, 2001

Study would look at gender bias in state pay

JUNEAU - State senators want to find out whether gender bias affects pay for state workers. They passed a bill Friday that would pay for a $50,000 study of the issue.

Women working for the state are paid less on average than men, said Sen. Dave Donley, an Anchorage Republican, and the state needs to find out why that's happening and whether the disparity is legal.

Although it appears the state's hiring and job classification practices are sound, the state needs to be sure to avoid the possibility of costly lawsuits, he said.

Administration Commissioner Jim Duncan doesn't think there's a problem with gender bias in the state's pay system, but he doesn't oppose the study.

Women and men hired for the same job make the same pay unless one has worked longer or is working in a part of the state with a geographic pay differential, Duncan said.

What the state needs to look at, though, is whether some types of jobs that are dominated by women, such as nursing, are undervalued compared to jobs dominated by men, he said.

Sen. Lyda Green, a Wasilla Republican, cast the only vote against the bill, which was approved 17-1. She said she was concerned the bill didn't provide a time lag for the state to correct a problem if one is found.

She's also concerned about the cost. If the initial $50,000 study didn't answer the question, a more in-depth study would be conducted at a cost estimated at $500,000 or more.

The bill now goes to the House.

Senator introduces hate crimes bill

JUNEAU - Sen. Georgianna Lincoln introduced a hate crimes bill Friday that lets prosecutors file tougher charges against people who commit crimes motivated by prejudice.

Lincoln, a Rampart Democrat, said existing state law doesn't do enough to punish those crimes.

She introduced the bill as the Alaska Federation of Natives and legislators are calling for a federal civil rights investigation in the wake of recent paintball attacks against Alaska Natives in Anchorage.

Dean Guaneli, an assistant attorney general, said Alaska law lets judges increase the sentence for a felony that is racially motivated. The law doesn't address misdemeanors such as the paintball attacks, though.

Guaneli said he assumes judges would consider that in misdemeanor sentencing, but it is a gap in the law.

Lincoln's bill would allow a separate charge to be filed if a crime is committed because of the victim's race, sex, color, creed, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, ancestry or national origin.

The bias charge would be tougher than the original charge. For instance, someone committing a class B misdemeanor also could face a class A misdemeanor charge, which allows for tougher penalties, if the crime was motivated by prejudice.

"That sends a strong message that we will not tolerate these acts of violence against certain people," Lincoln said.

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