Friday, November 06, 2015

House committee approves policy dealing with staff members and interns

 (In his latest newsletter, Rep. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee's Summit, writes about the policy changes that a House committee approved for interns and staff members. The policy comes following scandals involving former House Speaker John Diehl with an intern from Missouri Southern State University, and former Sen. Paul LeVota.)

Yesterday the House Administration and Accounts Committee gave approval to policy changes proposed by Speaker Todd Richardson to improve the culture at the State Capitol for interns, staff, and House members. As a member of the committee, I reviewed the policy proposal and voted in favor of implementing the policy changes. Though the recommended policy changes will not solve all of the problems at the Capitol, I believe the Speaker’s policy changes will help improve the working environment in the building.

Some of the policy changes recommended by the Speaker include: requiring an outside investigation for harassment complaints that involve House members; establishing formal prohibitions on romantic fraternization between House members, staff, and interns; requiring annual sexual harassment policy training for House members and staff; and creating additional levels of oversight and accountability for the intern program.

Though I believe there is a common goal to eliminate sexual harassment in the Capitol, there was some disagreement regarding the mandated reporting section of the policy changes. The new policy needs to make sure all occurrences of sexual harassment are reported, while creating an environment that encourages victims to report sexual harassment. Expanding the mandated reporter list is an important step to increase responsibility and reporting in the Capitol. However, there needs to be an outlet for victims to use without the fear of an interrogation or reprisal.

Creating an effective policy is a fine balancing act that the Committee is determined to achieve. The Committee will continue to review other policy suggestions and could potentially alter the new policy changes before session. I am proud of my colleagues for moving these policy changes forward in committee and I am optimistic these policy changes will have a positive impact on the culture of the Capitol.

Summary of the Policy Changes

Mandatory annual conduct and ethics training for House members that includes sexual harassment policy and procedures.
Mandatory annual staff training that includes sexual harassment policy and procedures.
Formal prohibition on romantic fraternization between members, staff and interns.
Sexual harassment complaints that involve House members or the Chief Clerk require investigation by outside counsel.
Create additional levels of oversight by placing the administration of the intern program under the House Administration Division.
Intern handbook
Intern Training
Provide intern ombudsman as an advocate and coordinator
Retain Majority and Minority party members intern coordinator that ensures member and intern compliance with policies.
Sending universities intern policies must be reviewed and approved by House committee on Administration and Accounts. Sub-committee of Administration and accounts reviews intern placement.
Provide additional options for harassment reporting by expanding the list of mandated reporters to include all leadership staff.
Review of intern policies done annually with intern sending institutions by intern ombudsman

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Says a lot for the caliber and character of those running for office doesn't it. Does anyone think that training our representatives to hold off on sexual harassment and or involvement with student interns and staff will do any good. You mean to tell me there will be elected members of the legislature walk out of the training saying,
"boy, I sure did not know that I can't play around with the young interns and staff members. I am sure glad I had this training."