State Ethics Reform & Sexual Harassment (Watch)

State Ethics Reform & Sexual Harassment (Watch)

CS/CS/HB 7007 (formerly PCB PIE 18-01) (House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee) and SB 1534 (Mayfield) prohibit the use of an elected official’s (including municipal) name, image or symbols of office in a public service announcement while the official is a candidate for reelection or election to another public office if such announcement is paid for with public funds or donated media.  The term “public service announcement” is defined as any message that “promotes or announces an issue of public importance, concern, or welfare.” In addition, the bills amend various provisions relating to public officer and employee conduct regarding solicitation and negotiating of conflicting relationships. Specifically, the bills would prohibit any public officer or employee from soliciting any employment or contractual relationship from entities with whom they are prohibited from entering into conflicting relationships under the state Code of Ethics. The bills also amend various provisions relating to executive branch lobbyist registration. The bills clarify that the current lobbyist registration process for the executive branch does not require an officer or employee of a political subdivision, including a municipality, to register if the officer or employee is acting in the normal course of his or her duties. CS/HB 7007 was amended to include various changes to the state Code of Ethics relating to sexual harassment. The amended bill provides that all state agency employees and private persons who interact with agencies must comply with new provisions prohibiting sexual harassment, as well as specified procedures and requirements relating to sexual harassment. With respect to local governments and state agencies, the bill creates new sections in the state Code of Ethics that define “sexual harassment” and prohibit it in the workplace and in the conduct of public business. All public officials and employees, and all private persons who interact with public officials and employees, are required to comply with these new provisions. The amended bill requires government entities to have a process by which written or verbal reports of sexual harassment may be provided to at least one official recipient designated by the applicable public agency. The amended bill prohibits retaliation against reporting individuals. In addition to reporting violations to the applicable public agency, an individual may report violations to the state Commission on Ethics. The bill requires government entities to offer employees subjected to sexual harassment the services of a victim advocate. State agencies and local governments are required to establish policies and rules consistent with the new state law definition and provisions on sexual harassment, and to review them at least every two years. In addition to an individual’s immediate supervisor, such policies must designate at least two individuals as official recipients who may receive reports of sexual harassment. State and local policies shall establish guidelines and limitations for dating and romantic relationships that may impact operations of the agency or interfere with supervisory responsibilities. Policies shall permit verbal and written complaints and establish procedures for both. The bill specifies procedures to be included in policies when written complaints are received, including determinations of probable cause and hearings. The type and severity of potential disciplinary actions against individuals determined to have committed sexual harassment shall be as described in written policies of the applicable agency, unless otherwise provided by state law. The bill requires all public officers and employees to receive training on sexual harassment. (O’Hara)