SPRINGFIELD, IL –On November 4, the Legislative Ethics Commission appointed a new Inspector General, and both chambers took up legislation during the week seeking to improve Statehouse sexual harassment policies. Also, female senators announced the creation of a bipartisan Women’s Caucus.
Also during the week, in honor of Veterans Day, Senate lawmakers took time to recognize and honor the men and women of the Armed Forces, and farmers received some assistance early in the week with a recent harvest emergency declaration.
Measures pass targeting sexual harassment
The Illinois General Assembly moved quickly this week to pass legislation in response to recent allegations of sexual harassment in and around the Statehouse.
Senate Bill 402 moved through the House and Senate unanimously, specifically prohibiting sexual harassment of legislators and lobbyists. The measure also requires state agencies and lobbyists to adopt a sexual harassment policy, and requires all state officials, employees, and lobbyists to complete in person sexual harassment training on an annual basis. The bill also imposes penalties for violations of the sexual harassment prohibition and requires the Department of Human Rights to implement a hotline to report sexual harassment.
The Senate also unanimously passed House Bill 137 in response to the scandal surrounding the, until recently, empty Legislative Inspector General position. It was only within the last several weeks that lawmakers and the public were made aware that there have been 27 complaints filed with the Legislative Inspector General’s office over the last three years. However, lacking a Legislative Inspector General, those complaints went without review. House Bill 137 was introduced in response to a statute of limitations in current law that only gives the Legislative Inspector General one year to initiate an investigation after a complaint is filed. House Bill 137 lifts that one-year limit to allow the new Inspector General to go back and review these complaints.
Additionally, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 1076, creating the Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention. The Task Force is charged with conducting a comprehensive review of legal and social consequences of sexual discrimination and harassment in the public and private sectors. The Task Force will later make recommendations on ways to combat sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace, educational institutions and within state and local government.
Republican lawmakers noted that while these measures are good first steps, there is still a lot of work to be done to not only address sexual harassment in the Capitol and beyond, but to advance real efforts to increase transparency and the effectiveness of the state’s ethics provisions and the legislative ethics investigative process.
Special Legislative Inspector General Appointed
Recent calls for the appointment and confirmation of a Legislative Inspector General came to fruition over the weekend as the Legislative Ethics Commission approved the appointment of Julie B. Porter to serve as the Special Legislative Inspector General.
The position had been vacant since 2015, leaving any complaints filed with that office on hold. It wasn’t until testimony during a recent House committee hearing that lawmakers began calling for swift action to fill the vacated role.
Porter’s appointment took effect immediately and will expire on June 30, 2018.
Female senators announce creation of bipartisan Women’s Caucus
A bipartisan group of female state senators announced the creation of the Women’s Caucus on Thursday at a press conference in Springfield.
The caucus is being formed to promote and advance women’s issues within the legislature and to support female senators from both political parties.
While recent increased attention to sexual harassment in the workplace will be a discussion within the caucus, the group hopes to become the leading voice on the broad set of issues facing women across the state, to promote women within the workplace, institutions of education and home.
Harvest emergency declared
In an attempt to assist farmers and grain handlers who are dealing with the fallout of rain-related delays, Gov. Bruce Rauner declared a harvest emergency over the weekend.
The declaration permits drivers carrying agricultural commodities over state highways to obtain a free permit to exceed gross vehicle weight limits by 10 percent. Further, local authorities may waive the permit requirement at their discretion.
At the end of October, this year’s corn harvest was 17 percent behind last year’s harvest, and 11 percent behind the five-year average, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The emergency declaration took effect November 5 and will last for 45 days.
Nominate an Illinois Veteran
As part of the observance of Veterans Day, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Illinois Bicentennial Committee announced their HONOR 200 campaign. They are seeking to honor 200 veterans from across the state, whose sacrifices go above and beyond the call of duty.
The HONOR 200 campaign is looking for the public’s help to nominate well-deserved veterans. Nominees will be evaluated based on their achievements, and on the extent to which their contributions have aided, benefited, and provided inspiration to their community at large.
The HONOR 200 veterans will be recognized on Dec. 3, 2018, during Illinois’ 200th Birthday Gala.
Go to www.illinois.gov/veterans to fill out a nomination form.