SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — After decades of complaints, lawmakers in Springfield passed legislation addressing sexual harassment.
The Senate passed a bill to allow the new Inspector General to investigate a pile of ethic complaints that have been left unanswered.
“We had to pass legislation just so the 27 complaints can be heard because we blew our own statute of limitations today. That’s what happened today. We should never have to be in a position here we have to do that in the first place,” Sen. Karen McConnaughay, (R-West Dundeee), said.
In the House, Speaker Michael Madigan’s bill to change ethics rules to include sexual harassment passed.
“We will require all constitutional officers, members of the legislature, state employees and lobbyists to participate in annual sexual harassment training,” he said.
Both chambers passed a resolution creating a Sexual Harassment Task Force focusing on awareness and prevention. It’s expected to make recommendations to the full body.
The General Assembly returned Tuesday and moved swiftly to address sexual harassment at the Capitol.
State Senator Toi Hutchinson opened up about an incident that happened before she was a lawmaker during Tuesday’s session.
“The head person on this bill told me the only reason I was there was so we could put my beautiful black breasts on sale. It was humiliating. It was literally truly humiliating,” she said.
Last month, a spotlight was shined on sexual harassment after more than 100 people signed an open letter claiming the issue was pervasive in Springfield.
“It’s our duty to protect women especially when we want more of them here in Springfield under the dome. I think we need to create an environment where they feel safe,” State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz said.
“This is, I think, our way to hold everyone’s feet to the fire as to what happens next,” Hutchison said.
Everyone at the Capitol is set to undergo harassment training.
But even after all this, some lawmakers worry the issue might get swept under the rug.
“I think it is very important that we are very cautious that this just doesn’t become window dressing that this doesn’t just become keep the women in the General Assembly busy with a little task force over here but we’ve dealt with the issue,” Sen. McConnaughay said.
Senator Ira Silverstein returned to work Tuesday, no longer in a leadership post, after lobbyist testified he made inappropriate comments to her.
Silverstein declined to talk to reporters, saying he needs to discuss the matter with the Inspector General.
Speaker Madigan’s bill also establishes a sexual harassment hotline where people can seek advice on how to proceed with a complaint.