HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Lawmakers reached a tentative deal Tuesday on a policy to report and investigate harassment, discrimination and retaliation involving lawmakers and legislative employees.
A conference committee recommended lawmakers reject a House proposal that the policy also apply to lobbyists, media and members of the public.
The full Senate and House will consider the committee recommendation. It likely will be up for second reading in the Senate on Wednesday.
"We have put in a very substantial policy of how we would handle a harassment case and who would handle it, records and confidentiality, findings and corrective actions that apply to us," Republican Sen. Fred Thomas told the conference committee. "We wouldn't try to discipline a person from the media or lobbyists, that's up to their employer to do that."
Democratic Sen. J.P. Pomnichowski argued media and lobbyists should be subject to the policy drafted by the Legislative Council in an effort create a respectful workplace.
"If we pull off these members then we are really subjecting ourselves to a standard that others are not expected to meet," said Pomnichowski, a member of the council.
The policy does say if lawmakers feel they've been harassed or discriminated against by someone other than a fellow lawmaker or legislative employee, they can report it to the own human resources office, which would help determine the appropriate place to lodge a complaint.
Depending on the nature of the complaint, it might be forwarded to the offender's employer, the Montana Human Rights Bureau or law enforcement. Legislative leaders have the ability to have a person removed from committee rooms, either house or even the Capitol, Thomas noted.
The policy, developed over 18 months amid sexual misconduct complaints made against lawmakers across the country as well as other powerful men as part of the #MeToo movement, creates a confidential process to report and investigate complaints.
Thomas recently confirmed a lawmaker filed a sexual harassment complaint against another lawmaker about a year ago.
The Legislative Legal Division is still evaluating what, if any, information about that complaint can be made public, said Todd Everts, director of legal services for the Legislative Services Division.