Denver Post
David Migoya

A Republican-led state Senate committee Wednesday voted to end the work of a commission whose task was to deal with issues of pay equity, prompting an angry response from labor groups.

In a party-line 5-4 vote, the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee chose to end the commission’s work.

Colorado’s Pay Equity Commission was created in 2010 as an arm of the state Department of Labor and Employment. Its charge was to increase awareness of pay inequity and develop ways to overcome it.

It was formed after a 2007 study of issues surrounding pay inequity.

The 11-member commission was up for sunset review, and the state had recommended to continue it.

“Pay inequities are unfair and hurt Colorado families,” Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, a member of the Senate business committee, said in a statement. “I thought everyone understood that, but that proved not to be the case today.”

Erin Bennett, Colorado Director of 9to5, echoed that position: “The current and continuing pay inequity in the state of Colorado proves that the work of the Pay Equity Commission is not complete. Without a permanent commission, there will be no oversight of the progress being made on the vital issue of equal pay in Colorado.”

In supporting its demise, some pointed to the commission’s ineffectiveness.

“There is not a single person who wants any group or gender to be paid less for equal work,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “The Pay Equity Commission, however, not only didn’t meet its statutory obligations, it perpetuates misnomers about equal pay in Colorado and unnecessarily vilifies Colorado’s businesses.”

The state Department of Regulatory Agencies, which supported reapproval, said in an October report that the commission “has made some, though minimal progress on its assigned tasks. As such, the work … remains unfinished and it should be continued.”

Sunset reviews are periodic assessments of state boards to determine whether they should be continued.

Although part of the commission’s task was to make recommendations to the state labor director about possible legislation, it never made any in the 21 meetings it held, the DORA report shows. However, it was instrumental in a number of education campaigns designed to enlighten businesses about issues of pay inequity based on race and gender.

“Given that the PEC was provided no resources to conduct its work, its accomplishments are somewhat remarkable,” the DORA report said. “Inadequate administrative support and poor recordkeeping are not, necessarily, grounds to repeal the PEC if the work of the PEC is deemed important.”