Legislature again moves sexual harassment policy forward – Helena Independent Record

The Joint Rules, carried by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, cleared the Senate Jan. 25. Though carrying the new harassment policy, the draft excludes a list of protected classes such as race, disability and gender identity. 

“In that language,” Thomas said Friday, “we found that is the broadest way of stating there shall be no discrimination, there shall be no harassment, there shall be no retaliation whatsoever regardless of the list. We felt that was the best way to say this.”

Regier’s amendment was condemned Friday by committee Democrats and legal counsel Jaime MacNaughton of the Commissioner of Political Practices office.

“I look at them (the legal review notes), I get questions on them and I think that by allowing one person to bury this information and not have it available to the body when they’re deliberating is in violation of my constitutional rights,” said MacNaughton. She told the committee she testified only on her own behalf.

Rep. Tom Woods, D-Bozeman, asked Thomas directly how Regier’s amendment would be beneficial.

“I see that this harms the process,” Woods said. “You’re here as the sponsor, what’s the benefit? More transparency, more efficiency or something I can’t see?”

Thomas told Woods the amendment “streamlines” the process of deciding what information goes into a bill’s file.

“Whether it’s posted or not, it’s a public document,” Thomas said. “Especially in a legislative file where bills are being drafted. All that stuff’s public documents. The minute we request a bill, that’s a public document whether it’s posted on the website or not.”

An amendment proposed by Rep. Rob Farris-Olsen, D-Helena, to eliminate Regier’s amendment failed in a party-line vote of 7-12.

A party-line vote also befell an amendment from Rep. Kim Abbott, D-Helena, to reinsert into the bill the 17 protected classes articulated in previous drafts.

Yet another 12-7 vote approved an amendment from committee Vice Chair Rep. Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus, to eliminate the “basis of complaint” check boxes from the harassment complaint form.

The Democrats managed to pass one amendment from Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, to reinsert lobbyists, media and members of the public into the harassment policy as possible offenders.

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