Bill Targeting Sexual Harassment at the State Capitol Heads to Senate

FRANKFORT, Ky. — For the second time in two years a measure taking aim at sexual harassment at the Kentucky State Capitol is now up the Senate.

The Kentucky House of Representatives passed House Bill 186 unanimously on Friday. The bipartisan measure makes sexual harassment or discrimination among lawmakers, legislative staff, and lobbyists an ethical violation.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and that’s a standard that we should be setting for our workplaces,” Primary Bill Sponsor Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, said. “Expectations should be clear, reporting mechanisms should be clear and well defined and confidential and adjudication should be swift fair and predictable.”

The measure defines sexual harassment as ethical misconduct while setting a clear definition as to what is sexual harassment. The bill grants more authority to the Legislative Ethics Commission to investigate sexual harassment complaints and sets a timeline for how reports will be investigated, it also allows complaints to be submitted to the committee up to a year after a lawmaker or lobbyist has left their position.  The confidentially of the reports are also strengthened under the bill. Finally, the legislation changes annual ethics training for lawmakers from three hours to two hours.

The issue of sexual harassment came to the forefront at the start of the 2018 session after news broke during the interim of a secret six-figure sexual harassment settlement between a legislative staffer and then House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and three other Republican lawmakers including Rep. Michael Meredith, Oakland.

The settlement cost Hoover his speakership and revealed holes in Kentucky’s legislative ethics code against sexual harassment.

Similar legislation passed unanimously during the 2019 session but died in the Senate.

Lexington Democrat Rep. Kelly Flood hopes the bill will not face the same fate this session.

“I want to express appreciation and gratitude for this clean, crisp measure and for the opportunity to work across the aisle as we crafted a bill over sessions that I think is worthy is full passage and I look forward to that,” she said.

The measure passed 85-0 with a yes vote from Meredith; Hoover was not present at session to vote for the measure.

The bill now heads to the Senate.