Allen intends to tackle equal pay as policy leader with National Foundation for Women Legislators

Friday, March 3rd, 2017
By David Levinsky,  Burlington County Times

State Sen. Diane Allen isn’t retired yet.

The longtime Republican legislator might have announced plans to retire from politics at the end of her term next year, but she’s planning to keep a busy schedule during her final year and will continue to serve in a leadership post with the National Foundation for Women Legislators.

Founded in 1938, the nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation is the oldest organization for elected women in the country and is credited with helping bring elected women together to discuss policy and exchange ideas as well as provide them opportunities to improve their leadership and governance.

Allen was re-elected to the foundation’s Board of Directors in November during the organization’s annual conference, and on Tuesday she announced she would serve as chair of the group’s Policy Committee, as well as a member of its Bylaws Committee.

The senator previously served as the organization’s chair in 2014, and she also served as president of the related National Order of Women Legislators in 2013.

In a statement, Allen said she was looking forward to leading the committee, which is charged with developing educational programs on policy issues and recommend areas of policy where the foundation can focus on. Among the issues the group has focused on previously were human trafficking, health care, economic growth, as well as other matters affecting women, children and families nationwide.

Allen, who has represented the 7th Legislative District in the New Jersey Legislature since 1996, said she hopes to tackle equal pay with the group.

“The challenges we are facing in this legislature, such as securing equal pay, are not unique to New Jersey,” she said. “As Policy Chair, I will work with other elected women leaders from across the nation to charter a course for passing the kind of meaningful legislation that the people of New Jersey and the country deserve.”

The issue is an important one for Allen, who has said she experienced wage discrimination during her previous career as a television news reporter and anchor. She filed an age- and sex-discrimination complaint against Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV (Channel 10) in 1992.

She already has taken on an influential role on the issue in New Jersey, where legislation seeking to guarantee equal pay for women workers by amending the state’s discrimination laws to expressly prohibit unequal pay for “substantially similar” work was advanced to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk last year.

Christie vetoed the measure, which also would extend the statute of limitations for unequal-pay claims and boost potential penalties, saying it went beyond the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 and oversimplified wage comparisons “while ignoring any consideration of the employer’s practices or facilities.”

“This is nonsensical and makes New Jersey very business-unfriendly,” Christie wrote in his veto message.

In January, Allen was one of only a few Republican lawmakers willing to vote in favor of a veto override. Although the override failed, Allen was applauded by colleagues for her willingness to cross party lines to support equal pay, and she has promised to continue to push for legislation to correct pay inequities during her final year in office.

Allen, who previously was named one of the top 25 elected women leaders nationwide by the Governing Institute, said her experiences with the national foundation have helped her tremendously with her service in New Jersey.

“The ideas and solutions I have found at the NFWL, and in our community, have helped me lead the fight to pass laws that protect and empower families across our state,” Allen said. “As I enter my final year of elected service, I am committed to seizing every opportunity I can to learn how we can make changes that will help the people of New Jersey for years to come.”

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