Lawmakers working on new Code of Conduct which may ban sexual relations at the Capitol

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Two lawmakers at the state Capitol want to ban sexual relations at the Capitol as part of a new Code of Conduct. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Two lawmakers at the state Capitol want to ban sexual relations at the Capitol as part of a new Code of Conduct. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Representatives Don Shooter, Michelle Ugenti-Rita and Rebecca Rios were under investigation for a variety of inappropriate behavior. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Representatives Don Shooter, Michelle Ugenti-Rita and Rebecca Rios were under investigation for a variety of inappropriate behavior. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Rep. Shooter is under investigation for claims of sexual harassment from nine women, including lobbyists, journalists and fellow lawmakers. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Rep. Shooter is under investigation for claims of sexual harassment from nine women, including lobbyists, journalists and fellow lawmakers. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
We sat down with Rep. Maria Syms and Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, two representatives who want change. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) We sat down with Rep. Maria Syms and Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, two representatives who want change. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

From Hollywood to Capitol Hill, corporate America and big media, claims of sexual misconduct are spreading.

"It's an opportune moment in the country right now to have this conversation," said Arizona Rep. Maria Syms, R-Phoenix.

It's a conversation now plaguing our state Capitol, where three lawmakers were under investigation for a variety of inappropriate behavior: Representatives Don Shooter, Michelle Ugenti-Rita and Rebecca Rios.

[RELATED: Top Democratic leader at state Capitol accused of 'inappropriate relationship']

We sat down with Syms and Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, two representatives who want change. They know making that happen is not that easy.

"It's the People's House, not a frat house," describes Syms.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Politics]

When asked to define sexual harassment, there was no simple answer.

"That's a hard one to describe, and that's probably where we're having our issues," explains Cobb.

If offending behavior is hard to define, drawing the line is also tricky.  

[READ MORE: Arizona lawmaker cites sexual harassment by male colleagues]

"I think that if we were to expel everyone who acted in an inappropriate way, we'd have an empty House," joked Syms.

They are two of four Republican women behind a letter to Speaker of the House, J.D. Mesnard.

They asked that Reps. Ugenti-Rita and Rios be removed from their leadership roles since he removed Rep. Shooter from his on the House Appropriations Committee during an investigation.

[READ MORE:  Arizona lawmaker accused of sex remarks loses committee post]

"Once you make that decision for one, you need to make it for all," explained Syms.

Rep. Shooter is under investigation for claims of sexual harassment from nine women, including lobbyists, journalists and fellow lawmakers.

[READ MORE: Powerful lawmaker accused of sexual harassment at AZ State Capitol]

Rep. Ugenti-Rita is under investigation for a sexually-inappropriate comment at a public hearing and an affair with a staffer.

Rios was also under investigation for an affair with someone who worked at the Capitol. Her case was recently dismissed.

[READ MORE: Ethics charges dropped against state House minority leader]

We asked if those alleged behaviors are the same and should they be treated equally.

"That is accurate. You are talking about inappropriateness," explained Syms.

[RELATED: Publisher says Arizona lawmaker made offensive remarks]

In the eyes of the law, the distinction is more clear.

"I would look at unethical versus illegal. There's a difference," explains Tyler Allen, an attorney in Phoenix.

He's seen a spike in recent harassment claims, saying people are now feeling safe to speak up.

[RELATED: ?New accuser charges Arizona lawmaker with sexual harassment]

He says sexual harassment is looked at from the victim's point of view.

"It's on what the person who's being harassed and feels that they are being harassed, it's on their perspective. It's an unwelcome and unwanted advance," explains Allen.

And, he says, it's also a crime whereas typically having an affair, is not.

"It's a difference because it's not unwelcome or unwanted in the workplace," distinguishes Allen.

But he says, that doesn't mean there can't be repercussions. 

"The NFL has a code of conduct. They could say, 'Hey, you're violating the code of conduct,'" Allen explains.

Turns out, a code of conduct is non-existent at the Capitol.

[RELATED:  Gov. Ducey says more need to be done to end sexual harassment at the Capitol]

They do have a policy on workplace harassment which only addresses illegal behavior. That's why Cobb and Syms want to re-write the rules and outlaw sex at the statehouse.

"I'd like to see that we have rules that say you cannot engage in sexual relations with employees, with staff, with lobbyists," said Syms.

We asked if that might be going too far when trying to root out sexual relations between consenting adults. 

"That's where the line has been crossed. If it affects your relationship at work. If it affects how you vote. If it affects how you treat others," explained Cobb.

"Influence is a very big thing in politics. Anytime you mingle positions of power with influence and sexual relations, it causes problems and gives rise to a lot of uncomfortable situations and allegations that cost the taxpayers money, and I think the people don't want to put up with it anymore," added Rep. Syms.

The women say their efforts are about restoring the credibility of the House membership and the trust of their constituents.

"If we raise that bar, then the rest of the nation's gonna start following us," said Rep. Cobb.  

A spokesperson for the House says Speaker Mesnard has taken that letter under advisement.

The Speaker is also gathering feedback from his colleagues at the Capitol to improve their workplace policy on sexually-inappropriate behavior.

[READ: Arizona House of Representatives' Sexual Harassment Policy]

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