A Tennessee state Senate committee did not approve a funding extension for the state’s Economic Council on Women after a Republican lawmaker wondered why there wasn’t an equivalent for men, the Huffington Post reported.
The Tennessee legislature established the council in 1998, and the council has since conducted research on issues like employment practices, education, child care, and domestic violence.
During a hearing on the bill in the state Senate Government Operations Committee on Wednesday, Republican committee chair state Sen. Mike Bell (pictured above) asked the Economic Council on Women’s executive director, Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, why there was not an economic council for men as well.
“Other than generating reports, what benefit does the state have by having this council?” he asked, according to the Huffington Post. “My second question is, with women making up 51 percent of the population of the state, why don’t we have a men’s economic council, why don’t we have a Hispanic economic council, why don’t we have an African-American economic council, why don’t we have this group and that group? Why do we have a women’s economic council, and why is it needed?”
Qualls-Brooks then told Bell that “men basically are running everything, anyway.”
“When you focus and deal with issues that relate to women, then it ripples over and deals with children and families as a whole,” she said.
Another Republican lawmaker, state Sen. Mae Beavers suggested that the legislature create an economic council for everyone.
“I always have a concern that we create the balkanization of our population. We’ve become, almost by implication, a victim group, and I don’t perceive women as victims at all,” she said.
State Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris (D) said in a statement that it was “heartbreaking that this important work could fall victim to the Republican war on women,” according to the Huffington Post.
“Men have to recognize the advantages we have and be willing to zero in on issues that uniquely affect women. Finding solutions to these problems benefits us all,” he said.
The bill would have extended funding for the council until 2019, according to the Nashville Business Journal. The state Senate committee could still vote to extend funding, but if lawmakers fail to do so, the council will cease operations in 2016.