Time running out for Florida lawmakers to pass sexual harassment legislation

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
March 8, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- One of lawmakers' top priorities two months ago, preventing sexual harassment in the State Capitol, is stalled in the Senate and time is running out.

After two state senators resigned for sexual misconduct - Jack Latvala for claims of sexual harassment and Jeff Clemons for having an affair with a lobbyist - last fall, lawmakers vowed addressing the issue would be at the top of the agenda in the 2018 session.

But, legislation didn’t clear the House until last Thursday, 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 wont have accomplished what we have tried," said Representative Kristin Jacobs (D - Coconut Creek).

Now, the Speaker of the House and House sponsor Jennifer Sullivan (R - Eustis) want to know why the Senate has yet to take it up.

"Not hearing this bill is once again showing showing that these victim's voices don't matter," Rep. Sullivan explained.

The Senate bill stalled in its last committee. With no more scheduled meetings, committee chair Dennis Baxley (R - Lady Lake) says 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," Senator Baxley said.

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

Senate sponsor Lauren Book (D - Plantation) says 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.

The senate not acting will leave the status quo in place, 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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