Lawmakers want more transparency intern policy group

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JEFFERSON CITY - Some state House democrats requested more transparency from the group creating new intern policies Wednesday, but others think the group's committee status would make it more difficult to implement change.

House Minority Whip John Rizzo stated in a press release that he requests to elevate the task force to the status of an interim committee and expand its duties to include developing policies for combating the broader problem of sexual harassment at the capitol. Rizzo's request came one day after emails between lawmakers in the group suggested changing the dress code to something more conservative to make interns less distracting.

Lawmakers created the task force after sexually-charged text messages between an intern and former House Speaker John Diehl came to light. 

With its current status, the group isn't required to hold public forums. Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, is in the task force. He said the group of lawmakers have never met in person.

"I thought from day one it should have been a committee," Kendrick said. "The public has every right to know what's going on. And quite frankly, the public can put pressure on the committee to make sure there is substantial policy changes being enacted."

But another member of the group, Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said he does not think making the group meet in public forums would make their job any easier.

"If you want to get nothing done, form a committee," Engler said. 

Engler said committee meetings turn into media shows. He said the task force's current status has a more professional atmosphere. 

"There's several ways we can handle this," Engler said. "If the speaker decides to have a committee on it, that's fine. That's up to him, but I prefer to get something done and get something substantive done rather than politically done." 

Engler hasn't directly heard from Rizzo so he's not sure if Rizzo is more concerned with getting something done or getting publicity. 

Kendrick said he thinks the group's discussions should be in the public eye so issues are not swept under the rug.

KOMU 8 News tried reaching out to Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson for comment. A spokesman said the speaker would call KOMU 8 News if and when he is ready to make a statement. 

Engler said making the group into a committee would be up to Richardson, but Engler hasn't heard from him either.