Bill requiring anti-harassment training for lobbyists advances to House

A bill aimed at making sure lobbyists on Utah’s Capitol Hill are trained in avoiding workplace harassment passed the House Government Operations Committee Tuesday.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, and in light of harassment allegations on Utah’s Capitol Hill, lawmakers are considering implementing anti-harassment training for lobbyists, much like the one legislators are already required to take.

While a similar measure failed during the Legislative interim session, Rep. Jeremy Peterson, the sponsor of HB110, said this bill would provide a safeguard for legislative employees and interns.

“If any of it is not common sense to the person taking [the module], it’s a reminder of proper decorum and proper behavior in the workplace,” he said. “It protects our employees by providing that training to those they might be interacting with.”

Peterson, a Republican from Ogden, said his bill would also give the legislature a measure of protection against any liability, in case lobbyists did engage in inappropriate behavior towards an individual.

“It protects the taxpayers because in the event that there’s a lawsuit filed because of the poor behavior of someone in this area, the taxpayers would not be writing a check to compensate an employee because we did not have a process in place to deal with this,” Peterson said.

One lobbyist in attendance, Jeff Hartley, questioned whether the training was necessary. He said the law is already clear enough for lobbyists.

“Under the code currently, under the section that deals with lobbyists, it clearly states lobbyists are not allowed to violate state harassment laws,” Hartley said. “So we’re already covered, in terms of behavior, under that law.”

Hartley also said that the legislature should think twice before singling out lobbyists, as opposed to other contractors and vendors who work for the state.

“I have no objection to the training, I have objections to the way we’re being singled out as a class of people being required to take the training when we are not your employees,” he said. 

Concerns about singling out lobbyists aside, the bill advanced from committee on a 6-3 vote and will next be heard on the House floor.