TOPEKA (TNS) — Democrat-led efforts to face sexual harassment have moved forward in the Kansas House.
The pair of legislative changes dealing with sexual harassment advanced during the chamber's budget debate Friday afternoon on a marathon day in the Kansas Legislature.
The budget will likely still have to be picked apart by a conference committee between officials in both the House and Senate before heading to the governor's desk.
Rep. Brandon Whipple, D-Wichita, pushed for the first change. Under his amendment, Whipple said state employees who signed a non-disclosure agreement could not be silenced if they were victims of sexual harassment or abuse.
"We want to make sure that if there are bad actors in our government, that we become aware of it so that we can stomp out some of this behavior that hurts Kansas workers," he said.
The non-disclosure change passed into the House budget bill on a 100-12 vote.
The Star revealed last year that legislative interns and other young women in the Kansas Capitol have faced sexual advances and lewd comments from lawmakers of both parties.
The newspaper later found that interns in the Kansas Statehouse were required to sign a sweeping confidentiality agreement that employment law attorneys warned could have a chilling effect on their willingness to report harassment or illegal activity.
The second move agreed to Friday was a measure that would ban taxpayer money from being used to settle sexual harassment claims within Kansas government.
The amendment would also bar statewide elected officials accused of sexual harassment from requesting a non-disclosure agreement in settlement cases.
It would apply to members of the House and Senate, as well as district judges, district attorneys, district magistrate judges and members of the state board of education.
Rep. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, pushed for the amendment that the Kansas House agreed on a voice vote Friday to put into its budget bill. She said the cases could not kept secret, unless requested by the victims.
"It's something we need to put in place to show our commitment to professionalism and respect for each other in the Capitol," she said.
The overall House budget bill advanced on a voice vote Friday night.
"I think that regardless of party, sexual harassment is bad," Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park said about the moves agreed to by the House. "And we don't like it and we don't want tax money going to help people who do that."