FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky lawmakers advanced a bill Thursday to create a confidential tip line for legislative employees to report sexual harassment or other misconduct.

The measure confronts sexual harassment allegations that have entangled lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The bill was introduced amid an ethics investigation of Rep. Jeff Hoover and three other Republican lawmakers for their involvement in a secret sexual harassment settlement. Hoover stepped down as House speaker but kept his seat.

The tip line would give legislative employees another option for making complaints alleging fraud, theft, sexual harassment, discrimination and other misconduct, the bill's supporters said.

Longtime Rep. Tom Burch said the proposal was overdue to help uproot misconduct.

"We have got to do something to nip it in the bud," said Burch, a Louisville Democrat.

The bill cleared the House State Government Committee with strong bipartisan support. Its sponsors are Republican Reps. Ken Fleming and Kim Moser.

The goal is to improve the workplace environment by deterring misconduct, Fleming said.

Under the bill, the Legislative Ethics Commission would establish and maintain the tip line. It would be promoted through posters and emails, and the number would be included in legislative branch employment manuals.

The measure also seeks to shield tipsters from any retribution from lawmakers or other legislative branch employees. And it would create an accelerated timeline to review allegations.

The subject of the allegations would be notified within 24 hours of a complaint, which could be closed within 30 days if commission leaders agreed it was resolved.

The commission also would have the option to refer a tipster's complaint to state or federal authorities, or a case could be forwarded for investigation in a formal process that includes a public hearing with witnesses testifying to determine whether ethical standards were violated.

A sexual harassment scandal involving Hoover and three other Republican lawmakers overshadowed the opening days of this year's legislative session. The next step in their case before the ethics commission will be an adjudicatory hearing.

Hoover publicly acknowledged that he secretly settled a sexual harassment claim with a woman in his office. Hoover denied sexual harassment, but said he sent inappropriate but consensual text messages with a woman who once worked for the House Republican Caucus.

A few years earlier, then-Rep. John Arnold was accused by three female state employees who said he touched them inappropriately over a period of years. Arnold, a Democrat, resigned from office amid the accusations.


The legislation is House Bill 9.