House, Senate proposal targets sexual harassment in Florida capital


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Two South Florida Democrats filed bills Friday that would seek to prevent sexual harassment by public officials and lobbyists and create a task force to examine sexual-harassment issues in government.

Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, and Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, filed the bills (SB 1629 and HB 1233) for consideration during the legislative session that starts Tuesday. The bills were filed on the effective date of the resignation of Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who was investigated for alleged sexual harassment.

The bills include a prohibition in state law on sexual harassment by public officials, candidates, agency employees and lobbyists. The bills also would create a task force that would look at issues such as adequacy of methods for reporting and investigating sexual harassment, the maintenance of confidentiality for people who report sexual harassment and whether changes are needed in training and educational programs for government employees.

“It was vital to both of us that we create a measure that is neither reactionary nor full of empty rhetoric,” Jacobs said in a prepared statement. “A well-rounded task force plus clear language and punishment for those who violate existing laws will send a clear message that the state of Florida will no longer tolerate sexual harassment or misconduct.”

An announcement about the filing of the bills also indicated support from Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes.

“The safety and security of visitors, staff, and all who visit our state Capitol is something we take very seriously,” Corcoran said in a statement. “We will work in a bipartisan fashion this session to address needed changes.”

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