Members of the Florida Senate would be required to take an hour-long course on sexual harassment under a rule approved by the Senate Rules Committee Thursday.
The action comes as the result of a series of sexual harassment and misconduct cases involving senators in recent months.
The training class could be taken online, according to Rules Committee Chairwoman, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. The Fort Myers Republican has spent the past couple of months revising the Senate’s sexual harassment policies.
“I would like to begin today by addressing a very important issue that addresses not only the Florida Senate, but also our counterparts in Congress, the entertainment industry, employers large and small across the country, and our culture in general,” Senate President Joe Negron told members of his chamber on opening day earlier this week.
“Let me be clear: The Florida Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment or misconduct of any time against any employee or visitor,” he said.
Last month, former Sen. Jack Latvala resigned after two separate special investigations by the Senate determined there was probable cause to move forward with sexual harassments claims against the Clearwater Republican.
One of those reports went so far as to suggest Latvala may have committed public corruption for expressing an interest in exchanging support for a bill in return for sexual favors. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently conducting a preliminary review of those charges.
Latvala has denied the claims.
The Senate has had a couple of other cases involving sexual misconduct over the past two months.
Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens resigned his Senate seat in October after admitting to having an extramarital affair with a lobbyist.
Earlier this week on the opening day of the legislative session, Senate Democratic Leader, Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, and Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, issued a statement acknowledging “our longtime friendship evolved to a level that we deeply regret.”
The rule requiring senators to take a sexual harassment training course is expected to be approved by the full Senate. The Florida House already has a rule in place requiring sexual harassment for its members.