Christine Stuart / ctnewsunkie
Senate President Martin Looney and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (Christine Stuart / ctnewsunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — The Connecticut General Assembly will reflect this year on its sexual harassment policy for lawmakers and employees at the state Capitol complex.

In what seems to be a proactive move and response to the #MeToo movement, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for retraining for lawmakers, who are only mandated to take sexual harassment training once no matter how long they’ve been in office.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said legislative leaders plan to introduce legislation through the Joint Committee on Legislative Management and hold a public hearing on the sexual harassment policy for the state Capitol complex.

Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said Thursday outside the Senate caucus room that they have to recognize “there’s a power dynamic in this building.”

She said “even just having this hearing lets everyone in this building know that that power dynamic is not to be used to exploit young women or young men or older women or older men.”

Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Trumbull, said they’re trying to “get ahead of this.” She said she’s unaware of any allegations of sexual harassment, “but I think it’s smart of us to get in front of it.”

Looney said the review of the policy for the state Capitol complex doesn’t foreclose any committee’s ability to look at altering the statute of limitations for reporting sexual assault or enhancing criminal penalties in certain areas.

Given the current climate, Looney said he believes they owe it to the public to review their own policies.

The policy was updated and reviewed in 2013 following an incident in which a lawmaker in a leadership position told a 17-year-old girl that if she was shy then he had a live snake for her under his desk. The girl, an intern with the Connecticut Science Center, talked about being shy and overcoming her fear of snakes during her testimony.

The lawmaker was stripped of his leadership responsibilities and didn’t win re-election.

“Everyone needs to examine their policies,” Looney said.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said he thinks the 2013 policy is much stronger than policies of “many private businesses.”

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, ordered his caucus members to attend sexual harassment training again this year.

Aresimowicz himself took the training on Thursday and is happy to have the Legislative Management Committee review the current policy.

Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the policy should be reviewed and there was agreement among legislative leaders to move forward with a public hearing.

Pat O’Neil, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said all four caucuses agreed to address this issue and one of the options was reviewing the current policy.

It’s not an insignificant decision for the four caucuses.  The Joint Committee on Legislative Management meets very rarely, in fact, it hasn’t met in five years.

The decision to review the current policy comes after Legislative Management has received a handful of Freedom of Information requests for disciplinary action taken against any members of the General Assembly. There have been no responsive documents to provide and according to Looney there’s been no settlements made.

Pew Charitable Trusts Stateline blog found in late December that at least 18 state lawmakers who faced allegations of sexual misconduct have either resigned, announced they will resign, or been punished to some extent. At least 14 states have held anti-harassment training, announced that training will take place at the start of the next session, or said they will institute more regular training and at least 19 legislatures are updating or reviewing their code of conduct, policies or procedures.

Senate Deomcrats want to review sexual harassment policies. (2 of 2)

Posted by on Thursday, January 25, 2018