Lawmakers get sexual harassment training in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- Illinois lawmakers received training Wednesday to help identify and prevent sexual harassment amid several complaints by woman working in the capital.

Members of the state House attended the training on Wednesday. Senate members will attend Thursday.

"We started with some pre-questions, like a quiz, we went through a PowerPoint, we had ample chance to ask questions. I think that was very important and a great step," said Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills.

House Speaker Mike Madigan, who sponsored legislation mandating annual training, called the training productive and informative.

The hour-and-a-half session puts members on notice that the culture in Springfield needs to change. After the training, Madigan said that lawmakers have no excuse for engaging in inappropriate behavior.

"There's a rule that should be followed which is good and appropriate conduct and if you don't engage in good and appropriate conduct you're going to be in a big heap of trouble," Madigan said.

Madigan declined to say whether he believes state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, should resign after being accused of sexual harassment by a victim's rights advocate.

Silverstein would not say if he plans to resign or not.

"My first conversation's going to be with the inspector general and I hope it happens as soon as possible," Silverstein said.

Some lawmakers said the increased awareness of the problem of sexual harassment in the capital is having a positive impact already and that the training will help.

"I think that will be very beneficial for everybody, but I've noticed a big difference just in the couple of days that we've been down here," said Patty Bellock, R-Westmont.

"I can always be reminded of what I can be doing better, how I can be acting professionally in this environment, so I'm going to take this training seriously and do the best I can to treat everyone with respect and dignity and if everyone does that we'll be in really good shape," said Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside.
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