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Conversations Surrounding Sexual Harassment Continue to Consume Attention in the State Capitol

November 8th, 2017 by Jake Stofan
Lawmakers at the State Capitol continue to prepare for their annual session in January,  but the preparation is taking second stage to concerns about sexual harassment after one Senator resigned after sleeping with a lobbyist, and another was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women.
The subject  of sexual harassment came up at nearly every group interview.
“If anyone comes forward, sure I’ll be there as a woman and as a human being to protect them,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi.
The Sexual harassment charges leveled at powerful state senator Jack Latvala continue to consume attention at the Capitol. Pressure is building for Latvala to resign
“If anybody’s done anything wrong they shouldn’t be serving,” said Governor Rick Scott.
State Senator Lizbeth Benaquisto is one of two State Senators assigned with the task of improving the Senate’s sexual harassment reporting policy.
She says despite the scandal attracting a large portion of media coverage, business among lawmakers is unaffected.
“We’re addressing issues. We’ve had vigorous discussions about hurricanes, opioids,” said Benacquisto.
But accusations have shaken up leadership in the Senate. Latvala has  been removed from the chairmanship of the senate appropriations committee. He’s been accused of sexual harassment by seven women. Latvala’s staff told us he was in town Tuesday, but we were unsuccessful at tracking him down in the Capitol.
The concerns over the scandal reach further than lawmakers. Lobbyists worry how the accusations will affect their standing with the legislature.
State Senator Audrey Gibson says lobbyists are reaching out to her directly.
“Everything that seems to be happening is impacting women in totality. Whether they’re a lobbyist or a member of the legislature in having sensitivity, but at the same time making sure that our productive work moves forward,” said Gibson.
Even Clearwater State Representative Kathleen Peters who has spoken out in defense of Latvala posted on Facebook that she had been groped as an elected official.
The process of selecting an independent third-party to conduct an investigation into the accusations against Senator Latvala is currently underway.

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