Panel introduces bill killing women's commission

Posted at 10:58 AM, Feb 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 23:31:46-05

A House panel has given the go ahead to hold a public hearing on a bill that repeals the Idaho Women's Commission, a women's advocate group created in the 1960's.

Representative Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, brought forward the bill. She said the commission was unnecessary.

"Women have made great achievements," she said. "I believe just having this in place implies women are inferior in directs them in what they should be doing to be better."

The Women's Commission was created in 1965. It's stated purpose is to encourage women to get involved in politics and government and "stimulate the development of strong families." The commission has been effectively dead since 2009, when the Legislature took away their funding.

That doesn't mean efforts to completely eliminate the commission has been easy. Scott's proposal was generally accepted by Republicans. One female colleague, Rep. Gayle Batt gave high praise to the North Idaho lawmaker.

"We has women can't have it both ways," said Batt, R-Wilder. "We can't sit here and say, 'I am woman hear me roar!' and in the meantime say we are inferior, we need help, and we need a special commission."

However, Democratic lawmakers opposed introducing the bill. Both Reps. John McCrostie and Paulette Jordan voted against its introduction. Rep. Melissa Wintrow voted to print it, but had strong words against the legislation.

"There are barriers that women face that men don't in this society," she said. "The cultural fabric of our world is one that supports men."

Wintrow, who teaches a genders studies class at Boise State University is outspoken on equality issues. She is a co-sponsor of a bill that requires gender-neutral language in all legislation. In today's hearing, she referenced a study that shows Idaho is ranked 50th for the status of women.

"I go to conferences where women talk about the hostile environment to become a CEO," she said. "It's not because they are not good women. It's because we don't have policies in force that embrace and draw women in."

Wintrow's comments were rebutted by Representative Linden Batemen, R-Idaho Falls. He pointed out Idaho's relatively high rate of children per capita as an indicator why women may not be involved in activities outside of the home.

"They don't have a lot of time, women, to be involved in boards - those that are actively engaged in raising children and grandchildren," he said. "They come in late into the workforce. That's maybe why their salaries are not as high."

Bateman went on to say he respected women who stayed in the home to raise children.

"I pay tribute to women. If anything, they're more intelligent," he said. "I think they are the most magnificent creature in the universe and the subtle powers they have... I get tired of all the statistics, as if every woman should jump in and be dynamic and just leave the kids in the home."