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Prospects of pay-discrimination measure unclear in early stage of legislative process


The prospects of H.R. 2831 remain unclear, observers say.

The House of Representatives passed the bill, known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, on a largely party-line vote of 225-199.

A companion bill, the Fair Pay Restoration Act--S. 1843--was introduced July 20 in the Senate by a bipartisan group of 14 senators led by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

Jason Straczewski, director of employment and labor policy at the Washington-based National Assn. of Manufacturers, said it is clear Sen. Kennedy, who issued a press release applauding the Ledbetter bill's passage, "would like to explore the issue further in the fall."

"I think we've only seen the beginning of the legislative process," said Michael Eastman, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's executive director of labor policy in Washington.

Although Bush administration advisors have said they would urge the president to veto the current bill, "If the bill's changed, who knows? We don't know what the White House would say," Mr. Eastman said.

While the House "rammed this thing through with very little open debate," the Senate is likely to take a more thoughtful approach and hold hearings before it reaches the floor, "but it all depends on the timing," said Mr. Straczewski. "I'm not sure how the votes are in the Senate, though we're just getting started" on lobbying efforts.

However, Amy Kohn, human resources legal consultant with Hewitt Associates Inc. in Lincolnshire, Ill., said the legislation's chance of becoming law is "slim."

"Even if it gets out of Congress, it is very unlikely President Bush would sign it" and there are not enough votes in the House in its favor to overcome a veto, she said.

"This is not a consensus piece of legislation, and we hope that senators will hear us out as we move our education efforts over to the Senate side and talk about the ways this legislation may be potentially unfeasible for HR professionals," said Michael Layman, manager of labor and employment legislation at the Alexandria, Va.-based Society for Human Resource Management.

But Jocelyn Frye, general counsel for the National Partnership for Women & Families in Washington said, "We're very positive" about the legislation's passage. "We think we have strong bipartisan support in the Senate."