After allegations from a legislative staffer over date rape drug used by a lobbyist surfaced, the Department of Public Safety began investigating the case only to conclude, as announced by the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, that no charges will be pursued due to lack of evidence.
Several lawmakers, following the allegations and a long history of sexual harassment in the Legislature, spoke out on the lack of measures to avoid these common practices including the limitations on training, as it is only a requirement for staff and members.
In spite of legislative deadlines, both the House and Senate accepted within their chambers, the introduction of fast-tracked bills to prevent more cases of sexual harassment, suggesting unanimous support.
In a joint statement issued on Thursday, Speaker Phelan, Rep. Donna Howard, and Rep. Senfronia Thompson stated that “the conversation about how to best keep our Capitol family protected must continue. The Texas House remains firm in our commitment to move forward with legislation and administrative policy changes that create a safer work environment and culture for our entire Capitol community”.
The bill, which was authored by Rep. Thompson, would create a special administrative process to report sexual harassment complaints by lobbyists to the Texas Ethics Commission, while also making a requirement for lobbyists to receive sexual harassment training. It has been voted out of committee and has until next Thursday to be voted on by the full House.
The Senate passed a proposal Tuesday to require ethics and sexual harassment training for lobbyists. It will now be referred to the House.
Separately, the House gave initial approval to a bill by Rep. Victoria Neave, a new statute that would match the federal timeline for filing sexual harassment complaints, from 180 days to 300 after an alleged incident.
“This legislation is asking us to give survivors a little more time. More time to process trauma, to speak with their families, to make sense of what cannot be sensible, courage to speak up,” said Neave. “Today, survivors are asking for a little more time to decide.”