Time is running out for lawmakers to pass sexual harassment legislation

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla (WJHG/WECP) - One of the top priorities of our state lawmakers two months ago was preventing sexual harassment in the Capitol. But the legislation is currently stalled in the state Senate. As Newschannel 7's Jake Stofan tells us, time is running out.

After two state Senators resigned for sexual misconduct last fall, Jack Latvala for claims of sexual harassment and Jeff Clemons for having an affair with a lobbyist, lawmakers vowed addressing the issue would be at the top of the agenda.

"The Florida Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment," said Senate President Joe Negron.

But It didn't clear the House until last Thursday, just two weeks before the close of session.

"We can do a whole lot here," Representative Kristin Jacobs said, "but if we don't have it echoing on the other side, we won't have accomplished what we have tried."

Now, the Speaker of the House and House Sponsor Jennifer Sullivan want to know why the Senate has yet to take it up. "Not hearing this bill is once again showing that these victims voices don't matter," Representative Jennifer Sullivan said.

The Senate bill stalled in its last committee and with no more scheduled meetings, Committee Chair Dennis Baxley says the bill has hit the end of the line. "I want to do it at a time and in a way that we can have a very contemplative approach to it before we put things in statute that everyone else is going to need to abide by," he said.

Without this legislation the names of sexual harassment victims could be made public.

Senate sponsor Lauren Book says she's exploring every option. "You know, there's two days left," she said, "and I'm maybe an eternal optimist, but I do believe that hopefully we're going to be able to see something happen."

If the Senate doesn't act, it will leave the status quo in place, which, has prevented some victims from coming forward in the past.

The proposed legislation would explicitly prohibit lawmakers, lobbyists and state employees from engaging in harassment of any kind. It would also establish a sexual harassment task force as well.

In Tallahassee, Jake Stofan, Newschannel 7.