State Rep. Joni Jenkins plans to introduce a formal bill during the next meeting of the Kentucky General Assembly that would make sexual harassment training mandatory for state lawmakers.
But state Sen. Katie Stine is questioning whether such a bill would be a “placebo.”
The House on Friday unanimously approved a resolution calling for mandatory sexual harassment training—but it doesn’t carry the weight of law.
Jenkins, a Democrat from Louisville, said she plans to codify the measure into a bill this January when lawmakers meet for the 2014 General Assembly so that the training carries with it legal repercussions should lawmakers not comply with the new training.
That legislation would make sexual harassment training mandatory during lawmakers’ annual ethics training held each January.
But in the Senate, reaction to Jenkins’ proposal appears mixed.
Stine, the Senate President Pro Tem and a Southgate Republican, called the measure “window dressing” that did not address the immediate issues of sexual harassment in the wake of allegations made by three state employees against embattled state Rep. John A. Arnold, Jr., D-Sturgis.
“I don’t want those promises of a future brighter day to blind us to the need to deal with problems that are apparently allegedly occurring right now,” Stine said. “Let’s not let that be a placebo to satisfy something that needs to be addressed in the immediate.”
Stine did not suggest any specific action to address the issue of sexual harassment. When asked if it is acceptable that legislators do not currently have to undergo mandatory sexual harassment training, Stine said that there are “basics of decorum” that cannot be taught.
In response, Jenkins said that while the measure will not fix problems right away, it is necessary going forward “to prevent future problems with harassment.”
Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein however, said she would gladly vote for a version of Jenkins’ bill if it made it into the Senate next year.
“Calling it window dressing is I believe belittling the seriousness of this issue,” said Stein, a Lexington Democrat. “Those of us who have been here have known for years that there is a rocky climate when it comes to the treatment of not only female staff, but of female legislators at the same time.
“Some female legislators in the House and Senate and Republican and Democrat, some of those women are not very concerned about issues that confront women.”
State Rep. Tom Riner also introduced a resolution today in the House honoring women who come forward with allegations of sexual assault, and which would designate August “Sexual Harassment Awareness Month.”
Riner, a Louisville Democrat, made a speech Wednesday on the House floor in which he called attention to issues of sexual harassment in the General Assembly. His speech followed a story from WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting on the first two allegations against Arnold filed last week.
Riner said he didn’t try to do more with his measure because he wanted to move quickly for a floor vote to gauge the support of his colleagues.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo suggested Riner suspend the rules because his resolution fell outside the normal makeup of such measures, which are typically employed to honor or recognize certain individuals.
Democratic Majority Floor Leader Rep. Rocky Adkins said that because the resolution “makes allegations against identifiable members and is therefore not a simple or honorary resolution,” it should not be permitted to be passed as a normal, non-recurring resolution.
Riner did not garner enough votes to do so.
Riner said his resolution has since been referred to committee until the next regular session.