Minnesota lawmakers present new sexual harassment policy

It's been months since longtime Minnesota GOP Rep. Tony Cornish resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct, laying bare what advocates say are big problems with the state House's policy for reporting and investigating incidents of sexual harassment and assault at the Capitol.

Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers are discussing big changes to those rules, which they say make it too easy to sweep complaints under the rug.

Cornish ultimately resigned in November, followed by DFL state Sen. Dan Schoen in December after allegations of similar misconduct. The incidents shone a light on sexual harassment and assault in Minnesota politics at the height of the #MeToo movement, pushing many at the Capitol to action.

“It was pretty apparent that we needed to update our policies, and I think we have a pretty good product,” Majority Leader Joyce Peppin said.

The Rogers native has chaired a subcommittee that's worked for months to overhaul the policy, finally unveiling some big changes Monday during a hearing.

One of the biggest revisions would let the House HR Department decide whether to investigate and give them power to hire outside investigators.

The department then notifies the speaker and minority leader, for transparency.

The old policy, according to the measure's sponsors, seemed overly political in that the speaker decided whether to investigate – or to even tell anyone else.

“This shouldn’t be a political issue," Peppin said. "We should stand against this whether it’s Democrat or Republican."

Voting to send the bill to the full Rules Committee takes place this Wednesday, where insiders say it’s sure to be adopted.

“I think we’ve come a long way in doing that so that when people have a complaint, they can know that whichever party isn’t going to be able to sort of stop the investigation or prevent information from coming out,” Peppin said.