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How Sacramento’s sexual harassment scandal could boost Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez’s bill

By in Press Enterprise on December 2, 2017

By Jeff Horseman

The focus on exposing and stopping sexual harassment in state government has given new life to an Inland assemblywoman’s bill that has repeatedly faltered in the state Senate.

AB 403, sponsored by Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, would extend whistleblower protection to lawmakers’ staff. Versions of the bill that would protect legislative staffers who report wrongdoing from being fired or retaliated against have passed the Assembly four times, only to die quietly in the Senate.

But with Sacramento enmeshed in a national backlash against sexual harassment that led to the resignation of Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Arleta, Melendez’s bill, previously billed as an anti-corruption measure, is being seen as a way to foster a culture that encourages victims to come forward and hold harassers accountable.

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In a Wednesday, Nov. 29, letter to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León, D-Los Angeles, Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, called for a Senate hearing on Melendez’s bill, which is idled in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“If the ‘Legislative Employee Whistleblower Protection Act’ had been enacted, perhaps some of the horrible acts recounted at (Tuesday’s) Assembly Rules Committee hearing could have been prevented, or at least dealt with in a manner much more fair to the female victims,” Vidak wrote.

The committee held a five-hour hearing in which women who work in and around the state Capitol urged […]    

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