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Monday, December 9, 2019

Bill that would bolster legislative inspector's ability to look into sexual harassment claims sent to Rauner

State Government

By Angela Underwood | Jun 14, 2018

Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-West Dundee)

House majority leader Michael Madigan’s (D-Chicago) chief of staff, head political operative and appointed House leader have stepped down or been fired since being accused of sexual harassment in the past few months, making HB 138 more timely than ever.

Passing unanimously on May 31, the final day of the spring legislative session in Illinois, the bill sponsored by Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) would allow Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter to investigate any allegation or complaint of sexual harassment without the approval of the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Since late 2017, the allegations of powerful men abusing women have swept across the nation from the entertainment industry to Springfield. First it began with state Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) who was accused of harassment by activist Denise Rotheimer. 

Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon)

Rotheimer subsequently called out Porter in January for failing to properly investigate her claim. 

Next it was Kevin Quinn, Madigan’s chief political operative, who allegedly sexually harassed Madigan’s campaign staff member Alaina Hampton. Then it was state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Chicago), who was accused of similar behavior by Maryann Loncar. Now, it is Madigan's chief of staff Tim Mapes.

Vociferous on the issue, Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) has called for the resignation of Madigan

"Tim Mapes, like Kevin Quinn, abused that power," Ives said in a recent press release. "And it is because of Speaker Madigan’s failure to carry out the responsibility of his leadership position that we’re at this point. He failed to do his job and ensure that a legislative inspector general was in place and that complaints were handled in a timely manner.”

During the May 31 Senate debate, Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-West Dundee), a member of the Sexual Harassment Task Force, thanked Bush and Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) before noting the #MeToo movement that rose up six months ago. 

“It kind of threw this building into a tailspin, and honestly, I have been very passionate about this since that day forward,” McConnaughay said, adding that the work of the task force has been challenging and difficult.

Tracy, who is also a task force member, thanked Bush and said that without the sponsor, that piece of legislation may not be before them. Noting the work of lawmakers and all members of the task force, Tracy said the bill is just the beginning of their efforts to address the concerns surrounding the ethics commission.

“It became apparent that if we could restructure it, we could assure the public, or anyone that wanted to make a complaint to the commission, that there would be better transparency,” Tracy said.

Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) said legislators should not be policing themselves and judging each other.

“The structure of the committee is faulty,"Bivins said, adding that although the bill is good, it does not go far enough. "We have four Democrats and four Republicans, and there is no tie breaker.”

Bush noted that although there is still a lot of work to be done, HB 138 is a step in a long process to come. 

“I can’t thank everyone enough for the work and the support, and let’s stand together, all of us, and say, 'No more,'” Bush said.

McConnaughay concluded by saying that the best way to end the last day of the session would be for the entire Senate floor to vote yes for HB 138. It did, and now the bill is in Gov. Bruce Rauner's hands.

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