IL lawmakers tackle sexual harassment bills during veto session

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- The Illinois House and Senate tackled a handful of measures Tuesday that address sexual harassment in the capital after several complaints against lawmakers.

In addition, three Democratic gubernatorial candidates called for Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, to resign after allegations last week that he sexually harassed victims' rights advocate Denise Rotheimer while they worked on legislation.

"We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard here, we're meant to represent the highest ideals of what the public wants and we all know that is not what has always gone on in this building," said Sen. Daniel Biss, one of the gubernatorial candidates who want Silverstein to resign.

Silverstein avoided cameras outside the Senate chamber but said in a text to ABC7: "I would love to talk with you but my first conversation will be with the inspector general and I hope to have it as soon as possible"

Previously, Silverstein told ABC7 that he wants Julie Porter, the newly appointed special legislative inspector general, to investigate the complaint against him.

"I do not intend to prioritize one complaint over another. I will take a look at what the allegations are, take a look at their seriousness, look at the timeliness off them and make decision about what should happen in what order the best I can," Porter said.

Porter will grapple with 27 ethics complaints that have not been looked into because her position has been vacant for nearly three years.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill to extend the one-year statute of limitation so that all 27 of the complaints can still be investigated. They also approved a resolution to set up a special task force to look for ways to combat the sexual harassment problem.

"But I think it's very important that we are very cautious that this just doesn't become window dressing, that this just doesn't become, well keep the women in the general assembly busy with a little task force over here, but we've dealt with the issue, that is a fear that is legitimate because it's happened here before," said Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-West Dundee.

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Illinois lawmakers approved bills Nov. 7, 2017 that tackle sexual harassment in Springfield.

The House and Senate approved Tuesday a bill that would require sexually harassment and awareness training for lawmakers, as well as whistleblower protections for those who come forward with a complaint. The measure now goes to the governor for consideration.

State lawmakers start sexually harassment and awareness training on Wednesday.

Another proposed bill would give more authority to the inspector general.

"It gives the office the ability to censure, it takes the fine level up to $25,000 for a complaint that's found to be true," said Rep. Grand Wehrli, R-Naperville.

In a statement, Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton said: "This is a beginning. We addressed problems and issues that should have been tackled a long time ago. I look forward to the task force recommendations on the next steps we need to take and offer my support for them."

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Illinois lawmakers who met Nov. 7, 2017 during a veto session will tackle a variety of bills that tackle sexual harassment in Springfield.

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