Gov. Rauner found sexual harassment bill flawed but signed it anyway
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner almost exercised his amendatory veto power on a sexual harassment bill, but due to the recent pending investigations at the statehouse, he said the bill had to be signed.
Less than three weeks since sexual harassment allegations went public against Sen. Ira Iverson (D-Chicago) and other unnamed Illinois legislators, Rauner signed off on two sexual harassment bills, one of which he almost left unpenned.
Under an amendatory veto, the governor recommends changes to the bill, which then has to go back to the General Assembly for a vote to OK or reject the amended bill.
“HB137 is very flawed,” Rauner said Nov. 16 at an impromptu press conference he called for an unrelated tax credit bill. The governor ended up fielding questions from a roomful of reporters asking about the sexual harassment scandal.
“I would have liked to see something that was more thoughtful and different," Rauner said. "I also thought of A’ving the bill, but then it wouldn’t have been dealt with for two more months and the investigations can’t start, so I said, ‘I have to accept the flawed bill, sign it and get the investigations going,’ but I believe there is a lot more work to be done.”
The governor spoke more approvingly of a Senate-inspired bill on sexual harassment.
“Senate Bill 402 I thought was fine,” Rauner said. “Basically it says there should be annual training around harassment and this is great. It also creates a hotline, which is great. I was happy to sign that immediately.”
Turning back to HB 137, Rauner revealed that the legislation restricted Julie Porter, the newly appointed legislative inspector general, a post that remained unmanned while up to 27 ethics complaints sat stagnant.
“There is a lot of control with the legislators about what they can investigate,” Rauner said. “This is wrong. There should be complete independence, complete confidentiality, complete unilateral ability to do what he or she decides needs to be investigated.”
The governor continued to detail his displeasure.
“I will also say I was very disappointed that the House bill didn’t deal with the 18-month issue now under existing law,” Rauner said. “If these investigations go on right now and there are findings of wrongdoing, there is a statute of limitations on bringing a complaint to the Ethics Commission by the inspector general.”
He said the 18-month limit was a vital part of the bill.
“They should have dealt with that in the bill,” Rauner said. “This was hurried, it wasn’t really thought through. I hope they come back quickly and make it better.”
While critiquing lawmakers legislation, Rauner credited his office with correct ethical procedures.
“I specifically have taken action to put out a code of ethical behavior in my administration through executive order and have pushed and made sure everybody in our state government has gone through ethics training specifically around harassment,” Rauner said.
Rauner made it clear to reporters there was only so much he could say.
“Any specific requests or questions you have about anything pending really needs to go to the inspector general,” Rauner said. “I am not authorized to comment about it.”
Before walking out on reporters who were still shouting out questions, Rauner said he is an advocate for transparency.
“Clearly, the investigations themselves should be confidential ... but once there is actions or determinations, I believe we’ve got good transparency authority for the inspector general, and if we need more, I will be advocating for it,” Rauner said.