ST. PAUL-Lobbyists, interns, members of the media and the general public would all be protected from sexual harassment under a proposal poised to be adopted for the Minnesota House Wednesday.
In addition, the behavior of House members and employees would not end when they leave the Capitol; the policy would cover them "during any activity that involves legislative business."
The proposal - the first revision of the House sexual harassment policy since 2008, amounts to a major overhaul directly stemming from the #MeToo movement that led to the resignation of former Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, late last year following allegations by a female lobbyist.
Here are some of the proposed changes.
•The current policy says nothing about non-employees, such as lobbyists or members of the media who are forced to work with lawmakers. The proposed changes include them, as well as "any member of the public." In addition, the proposal clarifies that interns and high school pages would be afforded the same protections as employees.
•The nonpartisan House HR staff would have the authority to hire outside investigators to look into a complaint without needing anyone else's permission. Currently, only elected leaders can make that decision. The results of the investigation would be available to leaders of both parties; currently, only the majority party is guaranteed a view.
•Supervisors would be directed to "take a broad view of what may be harassment" and "err on the side of promptly reporting" any complaint they receive. Similarly, everyone is advised "you should report any concern," even if you were just a bystander or witness.
The proposal, which features bipartisan support, doesn't require a vote of the entire House or the governor's signature. It would become effective when adopted by the House rule committee, which is expected to do so Wednesday.
The proposal would work in concert with a plan to create a year-round task force of lawmakers charged with ensuring that a new reporting system is implemented. That system would include a public website, dedicated phone number and email address monitored by nonpartisan staff to field complaints.
Some Democrats have pushed for citizens to be on the task force to add a level of independence, but that notion doesn't appear to have enough support to be adopted by the Republican-controlled committee.