So much for a quiet winter recess.
The California Capitol has been one of the epicenters of sexual harassment allegations that have also swept Hollywood, journalism and other industries across the country.
This week, state lawmakers kicked off an effort to explore the extent of the problem and potential solutions in a hearing before the Assembly Rules Subcommittee on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation Prevention and Response.
Perhaps the most shocking revelation to come from the hearing was chief administrator Debra Gravert’s admission that the Assembly Rules Committee doesn’t record and track all complaints of sexual harassment – only those that spur an investigation.
California Public Radio later noted that “there is no legal requirement for lawmakers to keep track of sexual-harassment reports or complaints — and the same goes for any California employer.”
Escondido Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, vice chair of the subcommittee, voiced her frustration with the lack of information and data that might illuminate the scope of the sexual harassment problem in Sacramento.
“I didn’t realize how some of the cases were handled, that there wasn’t a recordation of complaints. There’s a difference between investigations and complaints, so how those things were handled was interesting,” Waldron told me after the hearing. “I’ve been on the Rules Committee for five years, as long as I’ve been in the Assembly. But there’s been no complaints that have ever come before the committee itself. So we have no knowledge of anything like that.”
At one point during the hearing, Waldron asked Gravert why the names of people accused of harassment are kept confidential, even after complaints have been substantiated and provoked discipline.
“At what point do we say, ‘We don’t need to keep these people protected?’” Waldron asked.
“Unfortunately, if you name the perpetrator, you could be violating the privacy of the victim.” Gravert said. “It’s our responsibility to protect the privacy of all entities involved.”
Waldron said she was interested in a few of the ideas raised at the hearing about ways to support victims of harassment, including a confidential hotline for complaints and making trauma counselors available.
“It’s not partisan. Everybody there was looking to try to solve the problem and be supportive of the victims,” she said.
The subcommittee is expected to meet again in early January.
Waldron also told me that she and her chief of staff long ago instituted rules for office interns that require them to use a buddy system when they’re at after-hours events – just to be safe.
- A political research firm compiled all the information it could find on sexual harassment settlements to come out of the California Legislature in the last 25 years. It found at least $1.9 million in settlement payouts, and settlements that included clauses barring victims from working in the Legislature.
- State Treasurer John Chiang, who’s running for governor, this week called for two state pension boards, CalPERS and CalSTRS, to urge the boards of companies they invest in to meet certain diversity standards. He also wrote a Medium post laying out how he’d tackle sexual harassment in Sacramento.
DeMaio Collecting Signatures for Gas Tax Repeal
Talk radio host Carl DeMaio and Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox kicked off their signature-gathering effort this week for a measure to repeal the gas tax hike.
“Sacramento politicians really crossed the line with these massive car and gas tax hikes and we intend to give taxpayers the chance to reverse that decision with this initiative,” DeMaio said, according to KPBS.
Republicans in the Legislature have long contended that a higher percentage of existing gas taxes should be invested in infrastructure and road repairs, instead of being sent to the state’s general fund.
There are at least two measures aimed at repealing the gas tax that have so far been cleared to collect signatures, according to the attorney general’s website. One was submitted by Sacramento lawyer Thomas W. Hiltachk, and another was submitted by Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen.
Golden State News
- Here’s a handy roundup of laws impacting California businesses that go into effect in January. (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)
- Iconic Judge Harry Pregerson has died. He told his family on one of his final days: “The hard thing is that I don’t have strength anymore to help people.” (Los Angeles Times)
- Modern Luxury credits these three Bay Area lawmakers with pushing significant housing measures over the finish line after years of stalling.
- A USC professor lauds Sen. Toni Atkins Gender Recognition Act, which makes California the first state to recognize a nonbinary gender on state documents. “Ideally, other states will recognize California’s efforts and follow suit — working toward full inclusion across the United States as a whole,” he writes. (Advocate)