News Local/State

General Assembly Tackles Sexual Harassment Measures During Veto Session

John Cullerton and Ira Silverstein on the Senate floor.

Senate President John Cullerton (back) during a Nov. 7, 2017 debate on HB 137--a proposal to extend the statute of limitation on complaints made to the IG. A victims-right advocate says Sen. Ira Silverstein (foreground) sexually harassed her last year. Daisy Contreras/NPR Illinois

With the final week of veto session underway, the Illinois General Assembly took action meant to address sexual harassment at the state Capitol. 

One of the new proposals would allow the newly appointed legislative inspector general to backtrack on 27 complaints dating to 2014, overriding the current one-year time limit.

One of these cases is reportedly about Democratic state Senator Ira Silverstein. A victims-right advocate says he sexually harassed her last year.

Silverstein was present and voted in favor of the proposal. He told reporters he'd love to talk, but that his first conversation would be with the inspector general, "which I hope to have as soon as possible," he said.

Both the Senate and the House also voted to create anti-sexual harassment task forces — to discuss other reforms on the issue.

However, some legislators said they believe more is needed to solve the issue.

"I too think that we can write as many laws as we want," said Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, a Democrat from Chicago, "but until we become mindful humans with a commitment to changing the culture, we've got nothing."

Lawmakers, staff, and lobbyists will have to undergo sexual harassment awareness training under a different proposal that's already been sent to the governor for approval. Part of that proposal includes the creation of a sexual harassment hotline to anonymously report sexual harassment in both public and private places of employment. If signed into law, the hotline will be available by phone and Internet.

Ending the week of veto session, Democrats and Republicans will hold a sexual harassment training for legislators as well.