House Bill 770 was passed by 111-5. It now heads to Senate where a similar bill, Senate Bill 2451 is also pending. Both bills would give the state an “actionable right” to any employee who is paid less for work that is sex-based. This right is already provided by federal law. However, aggrieved employees will find it more difficult and costly to take an employer to court. Mississippi is the only state that does not have an equal pay provision in its state laws. Although bipartisan support is growing, past attempts to pass such a law have failed. The argument of the opponents was that federal equal pay laws exist already and they don’t want any regulations to be placed on businesses or unjustified lawsuits. On Thursday, Rep. Dana Criswell (R-Olive Branch) asked Angela Cockerham, Judiciary A Chairwoman, “Does it know how many women have used the federal law in this last year?” Criswell replied, “Sometimes, we pass laws just to pass laws.” “We’re passing a law right now, and we don’t know if it will help,” Criswell, R-Olive Branch, said. Rep. Dan Eubanks (R-Walls) asked Cockerham whether the bill took into account “maternity leaves… differential costs to the employer for maternity Leave” and whether it would lead to men asking for maternity leave for equal pay. Cockerham replied, “Men can already receive maternity leave now.” “… The bill applies to both men and women. It would apply to men if they do the same work but are not getting as much. According to the U.S. Census, women account for 51.5% of Mississippi’s population and over half of its workforce. This state has 53.5% of the nation’s highest percentage of women as primary breadwinners. READ MORE: Equal pay: Will Mississippi join the rest of the country in 2015? Women who work full-time in Mississippi make 27% less than men. This gap is much larger than the national 19% gap. This gap is even worse for Black and Latina Mississippi women, who earn just 54 cents per dollar for white men. Mississippi’s workforce is almost 60% female, with nearly 60% living below the poverty level. In almost every ranking of working women, Mississippi has been ranked at the bottom or very close to the bottom. Criswell, Chris Brown, R.Nettleton, Steve Hopkins and Brady Williamson, R.Oxford voted no to the House bill. Rep. Carolyn Crawford, R-Pass Christian voted present. Reps. Tracy Arnold, R.Booneville, and Steve Horne (R-Meridian) did not vote. Reps. Larry Byrd (R-Petal) and Robin Robinson (R-Laurel) were absent.