Not that I need one more committee to serve on, but this week the Senate Rules Committee appointed me to serve on the Joint Committee on Rules as well as its Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention & Response.
The Chair of the Subcommittee is Assemblymember Laura Friedman and the Vice Chair is Senator Holly Mitchell and we had our first meeting yesterday afternoon. The topic of the hearing was “Best Practices for Changing Culture on Sexual Harassment.”
In my opening remarks, I mentioned that I’ve been in this untenable situation before, when I was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 2012, when a County manager, who was also a Santa Ana City Councilman, created a massive sexual harassment stir (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Carlos Bustamante — July 3, 2012). It gave the County a black eye. The recent revelations and resignations have given the Capitol a black eye, too. The Associated Press provides its perspectives in two pieces that have been picked up nationwide.
This topic also dominated this morning’s Senate Floor Session, which sandwiched the Governor’s sixteenth and final State of the State Address. The President Pro Tem provided a resolution that I did not receive until after 8 p.m. last evening (talk about transparency) that would allow the Senate Rules Committee to unilaterally extend a voluntarily requested leave of absence once.
As I am now on the Joint Committee, I decided to lay off. The Senate leadership needs an administrative tool when an investigation has not concluded, and I appreciate that from a management perspective. But, the voters recently provided a remedy with Proposition 50 (2016). However, it was not availed (see https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_50,_Legislator_Suspension_Amendment_(June_2016)).
Lawmakers discuss changing Capitol culture
BY KATHLEEN RONAYNEAssociated Press
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, left, chairwoman of a joint legislative committee on sexual harassment prevention and response, talks with committee member state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, before the committee hearing Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. Lawmakers from both houses joined together to start the process to reform the Legislature’s policies for handling sexual harassment allegations.
The Latest on a legislative hearing on the California Legislature’s harassment policies (all times local):
Members of a panel tasked with revamping the California Legislature’s sexual misconduct policies say a cultural change won’t come quickly.
The joint panel of Assembly and Senate lawmakers met Wednesday for the first time to hear from experts.
Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, the chairwoman, says the panel owes it to the public to take a “deep dive” on the issues.
Republican Sen. John Moorlach says misconduct allegations against multiple current and former lawmakers are a “black eye” for the institution.
The committee’s meeting comes amid an investigation into misconduct claims against Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza. He was interviewed by outside lawyers Tuesday and is set to return from a leave of absence next week.
Assembly and Senate lawmakers are joining to address allegations of rampant sexual misconduct at the California Capitol for the first time as a unified front.
A joint legislative panel will meet Wednesday to discuss reforming the Legislature’s policies for handling sexual harassment allegations. Until now, the two chambers have worked separately. The panel will hear from national and state experts and take public comment.
The committee’s meeting comes as the Legislature continues to grapple with allegations of harassment that prompted two lawmakers to resign and another to take a paid leave of absence.
Democratic legislative leaders have promised to release details about lawmakers and high-level staffers who have been disciplined for sexual harassment. They have not set a date for releasing the information.
Capitol sexual harassment panel says change won’t be quick
There’s no quick fix to the California Legislature’s problems with sexual harassment, lawmakers leading a panel on the issue said Wednesday.
“This change in culture will not come overnight,” Democratic Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes of San Bernardino said.
The bipartisan panel is tasked with reforming the Legislature’s policies for handling sexual harassment allegations, including how to hold members accountable and protect victims. The meeting was the first time both chambers joined together to address allegations of rampant harassment that forced two lawmakers to resign and Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza to take a paid leave of absence. Critics of the current system say it’s designed to shield lawmakers rather than protect victims.
The committee took testimony from experts on corporate culture and human resources as well as the University of California’s Title IX coordinator. Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman of Glendale said she wants the committee to take a “deep dive” and be careful about rewriting legislative policies with the hope of making lasting change.
One committee member said he’s hoping for more rapid change.
“It’s like the Capitol has a big black eye right now and I’d like to see things move maybe a little quicker,” Republican Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa.
Indeed, the Legislature is grappling with more immediate decisions as the committee evaluates a cultural shift. Mendoza was interviewed Tuesday by outside lawyers looking into claims he behaved inappropriately toward young women who worked for him, including by offering one alcohol when she was underage.
He agreed to a leave of absence in early January, promising to return at the end of the month, which would be next week. But Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon is now threatening to suspend him if he comes back before the investigation is done.
Meanwhile, de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon promised Jan. 5 to release documents related to sexual harassment claims against lawmakers or high-level employees if discipline was imposed or the allegations were substantiated. They have not provided a date for releasing the documents. At a Dec. 14 press conference, de Leon said the Senate would respond more fully to records requests within 30 days.
Lawmakers on the committee acknowledged the Legislature’s problems are the product of a culture that for years has allowed harassment to go unchecked and gender dynamics unaddressed. Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles said both issues need to be addressed moving forward.
“We need to work collaboratively create a culture in which women are valued, women are perceived as equal and that employees have mutual respect for each other,” she said.
Janet Denhardt of the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California told lawmakers they need a large-scale buy-in from members of the Capitol community to make lasting change.
“It isn’t enough to have one or 10 people saying we are going to change the culture,” she said.
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