One of my favorite parts of Monday Night Football is the section called “C’mon Man” where they show essentially a blooper reel from the weekend in football that was.
There seems to be a bit of a political blooper reel going on after the Regular Legislative Session.
The C’mon Man (no pun intended) for today is going to State Treasurer Lynn Fitch. She’s been making a platform issue of the pay equity gap for women. While certainly a laudable and real issue, I generally would not put it legislatively or politically over education funding, healthcare, or the myriad other issues Mississippi is most acutely facing. From a PR perspective, it’s gotten her some press, but one could argue that there appears to be no real end game.
During the legislative session, Fitch pushed hard on SB 2697 and companion bill HB 818. She really put her flag in the ground on those bills, but the Senate bill was double referred and both died in committee. Though the issue got some ink, it appears that no one in the press or the public (or maybe even the Legislature) actually looked at the bill. It was less than two pages and was broad sweeping repetition of what was already federal law. Truthfully, it was a trial lawyer’s dream and if passed as introduced would have created a whole new framework for people, frivolously or not, to sue Mississippi businesses. That’s not something that someone, who has interest in running as a Republican for Attorney General or even staying as Treasurer, probably ought to be hanging her hat on.
In the last week, as focus started to tighten on a special session, the Clarion Ledger reported that Fitch sent a letter to Governor Bryant urging him to include a bill (I suppose this one) in the call for a special session.
Here’s some of the public back and forth from the article.
“I will not consider the political preferences of any group or individual deciding the agenda of the special session. It is my intent to focus primarily on budget and revenue issues,” he said.
In the letter, Fitch said to Bryant, “Earlier this year, you were quoted as saying that you welcome a serious conversation about this issue. This is the opportunity to have that conversation.”
Bryant, a Republican, previously told The Clarion-Ledger, “I unequivocally support women receiving equal pay for equal work.”
First, the optics. The letter and grandstanding comes off a bit like trying to publicly stick it in the eye of both the Governor and the Legislature. Fitch could have done a 1,000 things other than publicly disclosing a letter trying to put Bryant, a fellow Republican, on the defensive. To his credit, Bryant acknowledged the reality of the issue, but said inclusion in a special session call ain’t happening. Again, the issue is fine enough, but nowhere has there been an actual solution offered that seems to move the needle for women’s pay inequity in any way. That’s a pretty complicated fix and it’s one of those inter-generational issues that involves education, poverty, cultural attitudes, etc. It’s not going to get fixed with a press release and a two page bill.
With Lynn Fitch being widely rumored to either be running for Attorney General in 2019 or possibly being recruited away for a position in DC in the meantime, her posture relative to the Governor and the Legislature does not seem to be generally advisable on “how to win friends and influence people”.
As to her call on Governor Bryant to include the issue on the call for a special session, that had about as much of a chance of happening as I have of winning the Cy Young Award this year. If she didn’t intuitively know that, it might be time for her to start thinking about another line of work. If she did know that (and I’m pretty sure that she does), again the point is whether she’d like to demagogue the issue at the expense of those in her political party or actually constructively work to introduce and effect policy. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the issue per se, but the proposed solution of creating a blanket new regime to benefit trial lawyers is probably not what folks who have supported her under the Republican brand had in mind.
Put simply, Lynn is bright. Lynn is committed. But Lynn generally is wrong about how she’s going about this if this is the main policy goal she has as State Treasurer.