A state agency that strived to improve the economic lives of women will shut down for good, after Republican lawmakers argued it wasn’t needed.
The Tennessee Economic Council on Women will disband June 30 following 18 years in existence. A Senate committee voted in March not to renew the organization's charter, putting it on track to cease operations at the end of the state's fiscal year.
Opponents successfully argued having an agency dedicated to women's issues was unfair to other groups, namely men.
The council had an annual budget of just under $250,000 and employed three people. But the council's executive director, Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, says it played an important role, by offering state leaders a different perspective.
"We look at women's issues from an economic lens," she says. "So when we do violence against women, gender equity, we're looking at it as to how much it costs the public for these issues."
The council had received scant attention in recent years, even after it became clear its operations would be wound down. A March hearing on extending the agency's mandate drew only a handful of onlookers, and backers say they'd expected it to eventually win the support it needed to remain.
Those supporters instead held a news conference Tuesday to try to draw attention to their work and encourage state officials to keep some of it going.
Qualls-Brooks says the council's research often led to changes in state policy. She cited Tennessee's efforts to combat cross-border prostitution as one example.
The Economic Council on Women also organized seminars and helped women win appointment to state boards and commissions.
It's not clear what agency — if any — will take on those roles. The Economic Council on Women was administered by the Tennessee State Department but operated independently.