A bill preventing sexual harassment in the Florida government, a top priority only about two months ago, has stalled in the state Senate.
With the resignation of two state senators late last year for sexual misconduct—Jack Latvala and Jeff Clemons—lawmakers took up the call to address the issue and put it on the agenda for the 2018 session.
Officials began investigating former senator Latvala after multiple women claimed sexual harassment. He avoided interrogation by the rules committee by resigning before session began. Clemens resigned in late October after admitting to an affair with a lobbyist.
After these allegations came to light, Governor Scott signed an executive order in December outlining a process for sexual harassment training and reporting, as well as recovery for victims at all his agencies. He also urged both chambers to do the same.
Sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, bill SB 1628 makes sexual harassment a crime, punishable by the Florida Commission on Ethics. It makes illegal unwanted advances by lawmakers, candidates for public office, lobbyists, and agency employees. It also imposes new penalties on those who violate sexual harassment laws and creates a new victims’ advocate in each agency.
The bill was a high priority at the start of this legislative session, but was overshadowed by a school safety regulation package following the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The measure was passed unanimously by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee in January. However, it never got another hearing, and time has run out for the session that ends March 9.
When asked about the status of the bill, sponsor Book said, “Yes, the things that happened in Parkland have consumed a tremendous amount of time, but I am still committed to making sure that we address the issues that have occurred and been going on here for a very, very long time. So we are working on language for amendments, and we will continue to push to get this over the finish line.”
“It needs a little more time to figure out all that’s in there. It will be back. That subject is never finished,” said Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, chair of the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee—who did not put the bill on the agenda.
It remains to be seen if SB 1628 will end up on the legislative agenda. One thing that we do know is that sexual harassment is against the law. The attorneys at Yeboah Law Group are knowledgeable and experienced in these types of cases, and will hold the guilty parties responsible for their actions. Contact our Fort Lauderdale law firm at 1-800-TELL-SAM or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.