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Welcoming springlike weather, blooming azaleas add a pop of color to the Capitol Gardens dressing up the new State Capitol Building Thursday March 8, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La. The ice blue sky and beautiful weather may be the calm before a stormy legislative session that begins at high noon on Monday.


A Louisiana House panel on Wednesday swiftly approved of a bill that seeks to beef up how the state handles sexual harassment claims and institute new measures to prevent harassment.

House Bill 524 now heads to the full House for consideration, after sailing through the House and Governmental Affairs with no objection.

If it makes it into law, all public employees and elected officials would be required to undergo annual harassment prevention training and each agency head in state and local government would have to develop and institute policies to prevent sexual harassment.

Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge, said it was inspired by the "Me Too" movement that has propelled heightened discussions about and awareness of sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace.

"It will allow the agencies to analyze existing policies, make recommendations for training and improve" how the state handles harassment, she said.

No one spoke against the proposal during the committee's hearing.

Carpenter's bill, which was co-authored by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, is the first to get a hearing in the State Capitol since lawmakers began the regular session on Monday, but several others have been filed and are awaiting action.

Multiple reviews of the state's sexual harassment policies were launched last fall, after a top aide to Gov. John Bel Edwards resigned amid an investigation into sexual harassment claims lodged against him. Johnny Anderson, who was the governor's deputy chief of staff at the time of the allegations, has denied any wrongdoing. 

But the reviews found that the state lacked uniform policies and procedures for addressing claims of harassment and preventing harassment in the work place.

Records obtained by The Advocate though an open records request show the state has paid nearly $4 million to settle harassment claims since 2004.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.