Christine Stuart photo

As the existence of Permanent Commission on the Status of Women has been threatened by the state budget crisis the 16th annual “Making Women Visible” day at the state Capitol was more important this year than in years past.

Sporting a red suit jacket, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal promised to take the legislature and the governor to court to make sure the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women stays “permanent.”

“It is the permanent commission and we want to keep it that way,” Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said. He said the Democratic caucus plans to beat back the Republican proposals to consolidate all the state commissions.

Christine Stuart photo

“There’s not a lot of appeal on our side of the aisle,” Donovan said. 

“Over our dead bodies will the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women will be cut,” Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz said.

During the Nov. 24, 2008 special session, Republicans in the House proposed combining all six commissions. The Republican amendment proposed combining the women, children’s, elderly, African-American, Latino and Puerto Rican, and Asian Pacific American commissions into one commission under the direction of one executive director with two staff members for each of the respective groups.

The fiscal note attached to the amendment said it currently costs the state $4.25 million to operate all six commissions and would cost the state about $1.58 million if it combined them in fiscal year 2009.

Teresa Younger, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, said “sometimes we forget what is happening in this building actually affects the lives of real people.”

She said this year the commission is working on making sure all women are economically self-sufficient, making sure all women are free from sex discrimination, and making sure all woman have access to health care.

As part of its job the commission provides discrimination and harassment training to 10,000 state employees, holds public hearings, and advocates on behalf of women who make up 51 percent of the population in the state.

“Your work has not just made women stronger, it’s made our state strong,” Nancy von Euler, director of the Fairfield County Community Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls, said.

Cindy Slane a professor at Quinnipiac Law School said it will take until 2083 to close the wage gap in this country. Nationally women make 78 cents for every $1 men earn.

“We can’t wait until 2083 to close the gap,” she said.

Kimberly Primicerio contributed to this report.