ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland Senate unanimously passed a measure Friday that would change how the General Assembly handles sexual harassment complaints.
Sexual harassment and discrimination complaints made to the legislature’s ethics committee would be referred to an independent investigator, unless the person who filed the complaint doesn’t want that to happen.
The bill also would prohibit lobbyists from sexually harassing legislators, interns and pages, among others.
In March, the House voted unanimously to pass the bill, but the Senate has made some changes to it since then. The version passed by the House of Delegates would require complaints be referred to an independent investigator only in certain situations. The House and Senate still have to reconcile their versions of the bill before the legislative session ends at midnight Monday.
Last month, Sen. Cheryl Kagan accused a lobbyist of inappropriately touching her in a bar. The lobbyist denied the allegations. Kagan spoke about the bill on the Senate floor Thursday.
“The sexual harassment issue has overlaid much of this session for me, as you can imagine,” said Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat. “This legislation is important for moving this state forward, for starting to address the culture that has too long existed, not just in Annapolis, not just in the legislature, but in the United States, around the world.”
Three female state lawmakers also publicly discussed sexual harassment they’ve experienced while working in the statehouse.
Under the bill passed by the Senate, taxpayer money could not be used to settle a lawsuit involving sexual harassment.
In December, a rule-making committee decided to publish reported incidents of sexual harassment by elected legislators in an annual report that wouldn’t disclose the legislators’ names.
If the bill makes it through the General Assembly and is signed by Gov. Larry Hogan, it would take effect immediately.
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