Advance Notice: Briefs

House passes bills shedding light on some sexual harassment settlements

By: - November 4, 2021 4:39 am

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

The Michigan House of Representatives passed two bills on Wednesday that would make publicly available any future sexual harassment or sexual assault settlements entered into after claims are brought against a state lawmaker or top Michigan official. 

HB 4920, introduced by Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Wayland) in May, would mandate public disclosure of certain reports regarding sexual assault or sexual harassment accusations against state lamakers. The name of the elected official attached to the complaint in addition to the settlement amount would be accessible to the public via the state Legislature upon request. 

In an October House Oversight Committee, Johnson said that the reasoning behind the bills is that “the taxpayers, they should know if their rep. is a dirtbag or not.” 

Under HB 5281, introduced by state Rep. Adam Fink (R-Adams Twp.), a settlement regarding a sexual assault or harassment accusation against an elected executive official would also have to be made public by the state department agency the leader works for, also upon request. Elected executive officials include the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general or secretary of state. 

Under current state law, both the governor’s office and the state Legislature are not subject to public records requests. 

HB 5281 also highlights that the name and identity of the victim in the sexual assault or harassment claim would not be made public. 

Both bills only apply to sexual assault or sexual harassment settlements entered on or after the pieces of legislation go into effect. The laws apply to settlements being handled at the administrative level and those within civil court cases where taxpayer money is utilized for the settlement. 

The House passed both bills 103-0. The bills now head to the Senate for consideration. 

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.