Legislative sessions are often overwhelming, stressful, and fraught with bills we don’t like, but good things do happen and it’s important to take a moment to appreciate them when we can.
Possibly arising out of the #metoo movement and possibly just because it was long overdue, at least one caucus in the legislature is now a majority of women. With 30 women, including 11 women of color, the House Democratic Caucus leads the other 3 caucuses, but Washington’s legislature now ranks fourth in the nation for gender parity. Similarly, the Senate Democrats elected the most diverse leadership team in state history. Not to be left out, the Senate Republicans elected a leadership team that is 75% female.
On Thursday, the House took its first vote of the year when they unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 4401. The resolution was transmitted to the Senate, who could pass it as soon as next week. Once passed, the resolution will create the first code of conduct of the Washington state legislature.
Former Clallam County Commissioner and current House Representative Mike Chapman provided a good summary in his weekly review, noting that “[t]he problem of harassment in the Legislature festered for decades until more than 200 women in the legislative community came together to sign a ‘Stand With US’ letter.” He also quoted colleague Nicole Macri who stated that “[i]f we can’t protect our staff here in the House and Senate, then we have no moral authority to legislate how any other employer should protect their workers.”
HCR 4401 will apply to all members of the legislative community – legislators, staff, and lobbyists alike. Those conducting business with the legislature will be expected to:
- conduct themselves with self-awareness, self-respect, and professionalism;
- treat all others with respect, dignity and civility, regardless of status or position; and
- refrain from engaging in hostile, intimidating, offensive, or unlawful activities or behaviors that may amount to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, or bullying.
The Code of Conduct applies equally and at all times to all members of the legislative community, both on and off the capitol campus.