BOISE – The head of the Idaho Women’s Commission told lawmakers Wednesday that women haven’t yet reached equity in Idaho – and that the Legislature is a perfect example.
Part-time director Kitty Kunz said that’s why the state still needs the commission, which Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, seeks to eliminate.
“We feel our purpose and value is still necessary,” she told the Legislature’s joint budget committee. “Have women in Idaho achieved equality? We only have to look at this body and the leadership in Idaho to see that that hasn’t happened.”
Just a quarter of Idaho’s state lawmakers are women – eight of the 35 senators and 18 of the 70 House members. According to the National Foundation for Women Legislators, which commissioned a national study in 2007, that puts Idaho above the national average. Nationwide, 23.5 percent of state legislators were women in 2007.
“We believe that a well-run, fiscally conservative women’s commission has a role to play still,” Kunz said. “The Idaho Women’s Commission helps women become self-sufficient. We provide a lot of outreach.”
The tiny agency spent nearly $4,000 less than its $30,600 state budget last year, she said. “Because of our frugality, we had money to give back to the state,” Kunz said.
Broadsword, who last week introduced legislation to eliminate the commission, asked no questions of Kunz; neither did anyone else on the panel.
“I don’t think there was any willingness on the part of the committee to open up that can of worms,” Broadsword said.
Broadsword said that the commission is obsolete and that she’s had “words of encouragement from a goodly number” of members of the budget committee.
While acknowledging the commission’s budget isn’t large, she said, “there are a number of groups that do very similar things, like the Idaho Women’s Network, the Health and Welfare 211 Care Line. I think there are a lot of private organizations out there that are providing the same services.”
Kunz said the women’s commission publishes a guide to family laws in the state, which a grant may soon allow to be translated into Spanish, and participates in regional and statewide conferences to educate women about issues such as finances and retirement.
It also participates in health outreach programs and other efforts to improve the status of women in Idaho. Studies show the state ranks low in comparison to other states on such measures as pay equity.
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