California’s state Senate and Assembly are forming a joint committee to create a system for handling sexual harassment complaints in the Capitol, marking the first time both houses have worked together on the issue.
The committee, led by Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman and Democratic Senator Holly Mitchell, will attempt to unify the policies currently in place in each house, since inconsistencies tend to create confusion for those who work there, the Los Angeles Times reports:
“While we are two different houses, it is important we speak with one voice: sexual harassment and abuse have to stop and everyone in the Capitol community must feel safe,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said in a statement. “This joint committee will combine the efforts already underway in the Senate and Assembly and lead the way forward in a bicameral and bipartisan way to ensure the needed changes and protections can be put in place as quickly as possible.”
In October, more than 140 women legislators, lobbyists and other Capitol staffers penned an open letter deriding “dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces.” As a result, the Senate hired two law firms to investigate future complaints, and the Assembly began holding public hearings for input on how to improve its processes.
The committee will be half Democrat, half Republican. Only one man, Assembly GOP leader Brian Dahle, will be included on the panel.
Its formation comes after a spate of accusations against State Senator Tony Mendoza, who allegedly acted inappropriately with at least three of his former aides. He’s been subsequently removed from his leadership positions, and an investigation will soon determine whether he will be removed from office.