* Press release…
Following last week’s signing of House Bill 138, female senators are calling on the four caucus leaders to fully support and commit to seeking additional ethics reforms. They sent a letter to the legislative leaders underscoring that HB 138 was only the beginning of what needs to be done to ensure there is a truly independent, transparent process for individuals to come forward with complaints of inappropriate behavior.
“The passing of House Bill 138 represents another vital step in ensuring we have a process that is effective and free from partisan influence to investigate the serious nature of sexual harassment in the Capitol,” said Sen. Bush (D-Grayslake), sponsor of House Bill 138. “We do know, however, that we won’t change a culture that accepts sexual harassment and discrimination overnight. Together, rank-and-file members and caucus leaders can continue pushing ahead to eradicate sexual harassment in Springfield.”
In total, 14 senators signed onto the letter saying they are hopeful HB 138 will give more people the confidence to come forward. However, they made it very clear that more work is needed to ensure that powerful individuals, or anyone working in the Capitol building, can no longer get away with abuse and threats.
“It took a great deal of advocacy and determination to push this much-needed measure through the General Assembly this session, and in doing so, we made an important first step in beginning to address allegations of sexual harassment in the context of the Legislative Ethics Commission,” said Sen. Tracy, chief co-sponsor of HB 138. “This legislation also addresses some shortcomings we found in the procedures and make-up of the Commission itself. This is the beginning. In the coming hearings of the Senate Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention Task Force, we plan to delve deeper to improve the processes and managing of sexual harassment complaints at the state level.”
The lawmakers note that there are several changes they would like to see moving forward. Their recommended changes include:
• Adding legislative staff to those employees covered by the Human Rights Act;
• Ensuring a closer examination of the makeup and structure of the commission.
“I remain committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that those who have been sexually harassed, retaliated against or abused have greater confidence in the investigative process,” said Sen. McConnaughay, member of the Legislative Ethics Commission. “The culture must end, and those who take part in this behavior must be held accountable. Together, we women are standing strong, and we request the full support of our caucus leaders in our efforts.”
“We are calling on the four caucus leaders to be leaders of change,” said Sen. Steans (D-Chicago). “For too long, these issues have been ignored. All people should feel comfortable working in the Capitol.”
I’m a little surprised they didn’t address Jessica Basham’s changes in the House, particularly the one about hiring a human resources director and an equal employment opportunity/affirmative action officer. All four leaders ought to get together on that one.
The full letter is here.