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It's a piece of legislation built on a premise with which we can't imagine anyone would find fault - inside or outside the Iowa Statehouse.

A bill was introduced in the state Senate by all 20 Democrats and Independent David Johnson of Ocheyedan to protect taxpayers from having to pay damages for improper behavior by employees of state government, including elected state legislators and members of their staffs.

The bill was filed in the wake of a recent $1.75 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by a former Iowa Senate Republican staffer who said she was fired in May 2013 after filing a complaint alleging a toxic work environment caused by sexual harassment. Payment of the settlement came from the state's general fund.

The bill filed last week would allow plaintiffs to receive awards from the state in future civil settlements, but would require the Iowa attorney general to recover the money from the offending state employees.

"Most Iowans can't believe they're on the hook for $1.75 million because of the misconduct and mismanagement of some Republican senators," said Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, who briefed reporters on the bill.

Like recent news of $17 million in public money paid since 1997 to settle workplace disputes on Capitol Hill, including cases of sexual harassment, news of the state's $1.75 million payment for settlement in the Kristen Anderson lawsuit left us asking a question likely asked by many Iowans: Why is this on taxpayers?

We don't know where, if anywhere, this effort will end, but we believe identifying a way to shield taxpayers from having to shoulder responsibility for payment of civil settlements for state of Iowa employees who behave badly is absolutely worth the time of study and discussion.

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