House committee Votes Yes on Sexual Harassment Policy Changes
The Missouri House of Representatives Administration and Accounts committee approved changes to intern and sexual harassment policies in the House on Thursday afternoon.
These changes include implementing annual mandatory sexual harassment training, the prohibition of fraternization and romantic relationships, and the formalization of an intern selection process.
Before approving the changes, the committee heard an overview of the new policy from the House Chief Clerk Adam Crumbliss and heard witness testimonials from the public.
Witnesses included Taylor Hirth, a past intern for former senator Paul LeVota. Hirth had concerns regarding the changes.
"My final concern is that nowhere in the proposed changes do I see any standard procedures for disciplinary action to deal with allegations or proven instances of sexual harassment,” Hirth said.
Hirth was also concerned with the proposal of new mandated reporting guidelines.
“Proposed policies that expand mandated reporting of incidents, discussed in private by two adults is unnecessary and quite frankly an invasion of privacy,” Hirth said.
Representative Jay Barnes served as a witness during the hearing. He also voiced his concerns with the policy changes.
“One thing that’s been missed in the discussion so far is right now the way the system works if there’s a complaint to the speaker, the speaker doesn’t have to do anything with it,” Barnes said.
Not all witnesses voiced concerns. Alex Eaton with the Women’s Foundation read a statement from the foundation’s president Wendy Doyle.
“We believe that the changes put forth by Speaker Richardson are conducive to an environment in which all interns, staff and elected officials can succeed,” Eaton said.
After testimonials, Committee Chair Mike Leara moved to vote on the policy changes.
“I have not heard anything today that would suggest to me do not move forward with this,” Leara said. “I think that there’s a lot of work ahead of the chief clerk on this and in order for us to have them available and ready to be implemented before session starts I think we need to move forward at this point with at least what we have.”
All three of the motions involving sexual harassment, fraternization and intern policy passed. Two of the motions passed 6-1, and the intern policy passed 7-0.