State Senate sent wrong message about sexual harassment

Jeff Neal

Sexual harassment. The "MeToo" movement.

All of this struck very close to home in 2017 when one of Pulaski's own state representatives -- Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) -- was one of four state lawmakers who were involved in an under-the-table sexual harassment settlement that blew up and became very public.

It was so public that it cost Hoover the coveted position of House Speaker. And, quite frankly, he deserved to be stripped of that position.

The sexual harassment of a staff member, perpetrated by men (and perhaps women) we elect to represent us in government, is unacceptable.

I guess some lawmakers believe their power allows them the right to do and say anything to underlings. Those people need to be weeded out of Frankfort.

And when a person comes forward to report such actions, they need to be assured they will not return to a hostile work environment.

The Kentucky House took a big step toward making Frankfort a much better workplace in this year's session with House Bill 60. The legislation would have made sexual harassment an offense under the ethics code for state lawmakers. Believe it or not, the legislature's current ethics code doesn't currently prohibit sexual harassment.

The bill also created a new process for reporting harassment complaints. Legislators, lobbyists or legislative employees could report harassment claims to a tip line monitored by the Legislative Ethics Commission. The commission then would've had an expedited timeline to review the complaint.

"What this bill does, very simply, is create a clear pathway for reporting any complaints of harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination for a professional, expedited review," State Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, told The Daily News of Bowling Green. Moser was one of the bill's sponsors.

The bill certainly seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Why wouldn't we hold legislators accountable for their actions? Why wouldn't we want men or women who are being sexually harassed to have a safe way to report such actions?

Well, the bill passed the House 99-0.

But, incredibly, it died in the Senate.

No vote.

No discussion.

The Daily News of Bowling Green reported that Senate President Robert Stivers said he "wasn't familiar with the bill."

"We find it really hard to believe that as president of the state Senate, Stivers was unaware of a bill regarding a matter that brought so much unwanted attention to our state," said The Daily News in an editorial that appeared in its newspaper last week.

I agree wholeheartedly.

It's ridiculous.

The Senate's inaction certainly sends a chilling message to men and women who have received unwanted attention from state lawmakers -- and people who might have to endure such nonsense in the future.

For you naysayers who roll your eyes at "Me Too," I ask you to think about this -- what if it were your wife? Your daughter? Your granddaughter? Your son? You'd take their claims seriously, I assume. Every young woman or man deserves the same consideration.

My question for our State Senate is why was this bill not considered important enough to discuss?

I wonder if our State Sen. Rick Girdler was aware of this bill. If he wasn't, maybe he will spearhead an effort next session to correct this horrendous mistake. I certainly believe he would support a law which would make it more difficult for sexual predators to thrive in Frankfort.

The State Senate screwed up. Big time.

And this is one piece of legislation that needs to be introduced and re-introduced until they get it right.

JEFF NEAL is the Editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Contact him at jneal@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.