Bill concerned with preventing sexual harassment stalls in Florida Senate

Senate bill stalled in its last committee

By Jake Stofan - Tallahassee corespondent

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A bill concerned with preventing sexual harassment in the Capitol, an issue that was one of lawmakers' top priorities two months ago, is stalled in the state Senate.

After two state Senators resigned for sexual misconduct last fall -- Jack Latvala for claims of sexual harassment and Jeff Clemons for having an affair with a lobbyist -- lawmakers vowed that addressing the issue would be at the top of the agenda.

"The Florida Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment," Senate President Joe Negron said.

But the bill didn't clear the House until March 1, just two weeks before the close of session.

"We can do a whole lot here, but if we don't have it echoing on the other side, we won't have accomplished what we have tried," Rep. Kristin Jacobs said.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, want to know why the Senate has yet to take it up.

"Not hearing this bill is once again showing that these victims' voices don't matter," Sullivan said.

The Senate bill stalled in its last committee. With no more scheduled meetings, committee chair Sen. Dennis Baxley said the bill has hit the end of the line.

"I want to do it at a time and in a way that we can have a very contemplative approach to it before we put things in statute that everyone else is going to need to abide by," Baxley said.

Without this legislation, the names of sexual harassment victims could be made public.

Senate sponsor Sen. Lauren Book said she's exploring every option.

"You know, there's two days left and I'm maybe an eternal optimist, but I do believe that hopefully we're going to be able to see something happen," Book said.

If the Senate doesn't act, it will leave in place the status quo, which has prevented some victims from coming forward in the past.

The proposed legislation would explicitly prohibit lawmakers, lobbyists and state employees from engaging in harassment of any kind and establish a sexual harassment task force.

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