Editorial: Governor’s first act a smart one

New Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer isn’t wasting any time putting his stamp on the office.

Colyer issued his first executive order on Monday, requiring annual sexual harassment training for all executive branch employees. Such training is welcome, needed and, some might say, long overdue.

The order applies to roughly 20,000 state government employees who work for departments or agencies under the governor’s direct control. The direction comes at a time of sweeping allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by a number of prominent actors, media members, business leaders and politicians. Legislators in nine states have been forced to step down over allegations of misconduct during the past seven months, including an Arizona House member who was expelled last week.

Kansas’ executive branch has not had a single anti-harassment policy across all agencies. Colyer’s order is designed to supplement existing policies, and it requires agencies under his control to review their policies at least once every three years.

The order requires state agencies to notify state contractors of their anti-sexual harassment policies. It also says that allegations involving an elected official or agency head may be investigated by “independent legal counsel.”

Colyer’s order only affects state government employees. He can’t set policies for the offices of other elected officials, state universities or independent boards and regulatory commissions. But Colyer said his office would encourage other entities to adopt similar policies.

“For me, sexual harassment is not acceptable,” Colyer said. “We respect every Kansan. They are going to be accorded the dignity and respect that they deserve.”

Colyer stepped into the governor’s role last week to fill the unexpired term of former Gov. Sam Brownback, who resigned to become the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom in the Trump Administration. As lieutenant governor throughout Brownback’s seven years as governor, Colyer mostly maintained a low profile. But his first executive order shows that he could be a force in the crowded Republican primary for governor.

It’s hard to imagine anyone — Democrat, moderate or conservative Republican — being opposed to sexual harassment training for state government employees. It was a smart move by Colyer that sends a message that the new governor is willing to work with others, regardless of party, for the betterment of Kansas.