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Senate Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: February 1, 2019 09:26 AM
From: Senator Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Legislative Conduct Review Board

As troubling allegations of harassment and misconduct continue to emerge, we find ourselves in a difficult position. Many people doubt that we, as legislators, are willing to thoroughly investigate and properly judge our peers. Certainly, the track record of reviewing previous claims does not provide reassurance otherwise. There is not a great deal of confidence that the current structure provides a satisfactory avenue for resolving claims.

This is a crucial juncture for the institution of the General Assembly. Rep. Tarah Toohil and I are proposing that we establish a Legislative Conduct Review Board, patterned after the Judicial Conduct Board, whose jurisdiction would include allegations against Senators and House members for unethical conduct in violation with any rule, statute or constitutional provision governing the ethical conduct of legislators. The panel would receive complaints, investigate them, and render judgment as to their credibility. In addition to legislators, it would include both experts and lay persons who could bring diversity and differing viewpoints. This process will work to prevent the partisan quandaries that can stand in the way of a fair review and will provide remedies that work to rebuild public trust and confidence in the process.

Our proposal will also provide that upon the board making a threshold determination of credibility, a recommendation may be made to suspend a member from voting and committee participation until a final determination is reached.

In cases where this board makes a final determination that the accusations are credible, the matter would revert to the full Senate or House for any appropriate disciplinary action.

It is not defensible to tell people that we take their complaints seriously, but then refrain from taking any apparent or decisive action. This process is designed to assure both the member and the complainant that due process will be afforded. And it will provide incontrovertible evidence that we are taking a strong stand against harassment, public corruption, or other misconduct, no matter the position or the party of the accused.

Introduced as SB809