Taxpayers were outraged earlier this week, when Arizona State Speaker of the House JD Mesnard took action to protect lawmakers involved in the current sexual harassment scandal by declaring that taxpayers would foot the bill for their attorneys. Mesnard’s move was seen as an effort to provide cover to lawmakers guilty of either predatory behavior or political skulduggery.
At least one lawmaker, Rep. Maria Syms, is trying to bring some semblance of transparency to the House. On Thursday, Syms submitted legislation that would protect the public and victims by preventing the enforcement of non-disclosure agreements designed to silence victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
“Justice will no longer go to the highest bidder, and sexual predators will be held accountable,” said Representative Syms. “Sexual predators should not be allowed to buy their freedom or a victim’s silence. My legislation will close this ‘sexual predator loophole’ and ultimately will protect the public from these predators and prevent possible future crimes.”
This legislation also adds language to hold elected officials to the same standards as the public.
“Elected officials should not be permitted to abuse the public trust by hiding wrongdoing through confidentiality agreements.”
Syms has previously passed victim’s rights legislation, having last session sponsored HB 2268, a bill signed into law by Governor Ducey that requires all rape kits are tested in a timely manner. Additionally, during her tenure at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Representative Syms was responsible for increasing accountability for elected officials.