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Bills creating tougher penalties for sexual harassers filed in both chambers

In the wake of back-to-back sex scandals at the Capitol, Sen. Lauren Book and state Rep. Kristin Jacobs on Friday filed similar bills that aim to systematically change how sexual harassment is dealt with in the workplace, particularly in a government setting.

The proposal include civil penalties of up to $10,000 for public officers and lobbyists who engage in sexual misconduct.

“While many of these issues have become top-of-the-fold stories in the past several months, it is important to recognize that this issue did not begin with the recent revelations about the two now former senators, nor will it end with their resignations unless and until we strengthen the laws to punish abusers and protect victims,” Book said.

Last year, several women came forward in two separate Senate investigations detailing accounts of harassment and sexual misconduct at the hands of Sen. Jack Latvala, who defiantly resigned his powerful post in the Senate. His resignation is effective today (Friday).

“As laid out in both the Special Master’s report and Attorney Gail Holtzman‘s investigation, the totality of the culture must be examined,” Book added.

The measures create a task force in charge of preventing sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace, “particularly in government settings and as applied to the conduct of public officers … and lobbyists.” The task force is required to meet every four years to report its findings and recommendations to the governor and the Legislature.

The measures have the blessing of both Senate President Joe NegronĀ and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“State government should lead by example in instituting policies that ensure employees feel safe when they come to work and comfortable to confidentially report inappropriate behavior by any person,” Negron said.

Under the bills proposed, the identities of victims are to remain anonymous and exempt from public records requirements.

Book said the piece of legislation has been in the works for several months and was crafted to include penalties for public officials and lobbyists who engage in sexual misconduct.

Written By

Ana covers politics and policy Before joining the News Service of Florida she wrote for the Naples Daily News and was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida. She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.

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