The Latest: Gov applauds, jabs lawmakers on sex harassment

November 8, 2017
Democratic Senators Tony Munoz D-Chicago, left, and Michael Hastings D-Tinley Park, speak on the floor of the Illinois Senate as Sen. Ira Silverstien, D-Chicago, sits nearby Tuesday Nov. 7, 2017, in Springfield, Ill. The Senate voted to expand power of the newly appointed inspector general to allow her to investigate existing complaints, including one filed last November by legislative activist Denise Rotheimer against Silverstein. (AP Photo by John O'Connor)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Latest on legislative action in Springfield (all times local):

7 p.m.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has congratulated the Illinois General Assembly for adopting anti-sexual harassment protections.

But the Republican took a shot Tuesday at Democrats who control the General Assembly. In a statement he says his office has a harassment-free code that’s enforced. He says the Legislature “finally moved to protect its members and staff and end the culture.”

Lawmakers scrambled last week as they prepared to adopt a plan to prohibit sexual harassment and require annual training for its members. A woman complaining of sexual harassment against a state senator pointed out there was no inspector general to enforce provisions.

An interim investigator was named during the weekend.

Senate President John Cullerton acknowledged in a statement that the action was a “beginning” and answered issues which “should have been tackled a long time ago.” He pledged support to ongoing study and recommendations for change.


6:40 p.m.

The Illinois House has voted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a measure creating a bill of rights for those taking out student loans.

The legislation was drafted by Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan after she handled thousands of complaints that prompted her investigation into abusive practices by Navient. It’s one of the nation’s largest loan-servicing companies.

The House voted 98-16 to override the veto. The measure becomes law.

It prohibits loan companies from misleading borrowers and requires that they properly process payments and work with struggling borrowers. They must inform borrowers of all repayment options and possible loan-forgiveness plans.


The bill is SB1351


6:10 p.m.

The Illinois House has failed for the second time to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of union-friendly legislation.

Des Plaines Democratic Rep. Martin Moylan’s proposal would ban local governments from setting up “right-to-work” zones. It would set forth that only the state government has the authority to set rules regarding union membership.

The 70-39 vote Tuesday fell one tally shy of the necessary three-fifths majority necessary to reverse Rauner’s action. It failed with a 70-42 vote two weeks ago even though the Senate approved an override.

A worker in a “right-to-work” jurisdiction may hold a union job with labor-union protections but not have to join the bargaining unit or pay dues.

Making Illinois a statewide zone was part of Republican Rauner’s agenda when he took office in 2015. It failed. The Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire established a local one at Rauner’s urging. A federal court invalidated it in January. The judge said only a state can establish such a zone.


The bill is SB1905 .


4:35 p.m.

The Illinois House has endorsed expanded authority for the Legislature’s new inspector general.

The unanimous vote Tuesday would allow the first inspector general in two years to investigate more than two dozen ethics complaints filed while the office was vacant.

The state ethics law in many cases limits the time to resolve such complaints to one year. Inaction became painfully clear last week when a legislative activist complained that Sen. Ira Silverstein had harassed her last year.

Denise Rotheimer filed a complaint in November and wondered why nothing was done. Silverstein has denied the allegations.

The legislation now goes to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner after a Senate OK earlier Tuesday.

The brouhaha arose in response to a plan to explicitly prohibit sexual harassment in the state ethics law. That legislation by House Speaker Michael Madigan was endorsed by the House Tuesday afternoon and moves to the House.


4:20 p.m.

The Illinois House has unanimously approved a resolution urging a commitment to change the culture that breeds sexual harassment.

The legislation was sparked by an open letter calling for an overhaul in Illinois politics. It’s garnered over 300 signatures and followed the #MeToo social media campaign in the wake of high-profile sexual harassment cases.

Legislators say the letter is a catalyst.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz is a bill sponsor. She says the campaign has been an “explosive and extraordinary unveiling of truth” that women in politics have been burying inside.


The legislation is HJR83


4:15 p.m.

The House has unanimously adopted plans to explicitly bar sexual harassment in the state ethics code and require annual awareness training for all employees.

The legislation sponsored by Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan won approval 117-0 Tuesday.

The measure was in response to sexual harassment complaints against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and others and the revival of the #metoo social media campaign among women who have been victims.

But it caused a week of emergency reaction by lawmakers who were criticized for a two-year vacancy in the office of the inspector general who would enforce the plan. And the vacancy meant that a legislative activist’s allegation of harassment by a state senator had sat idle.

Madigan’s legislation would require annual training for all state officers, lawmakers, employees and lobbyists. And the Illinois Department of Human Rights would create a hotline for reporting.


3:30 p.m.

The Illinois House has approved a measure removing criminal penalties from legislation banning local government from setting up “right-to-work” zones.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has rejected the “right-to-work” plan. An initial attempt to override him failed.

But Des Plaines Democratic Rep. Martin Moylan says the related plan the House approved Tuesday addresses some concerns the bill raised. It would remove a criminal provision for local governments if they try to introduce “right to work” zones.

It would take effect in June 2018 if the other bill becomes law.

However, Republicans call it a bad fix for a bad bill.

A worker in “right-to-work” areas may hold a union job with labor-union protections but not have to pay dues or join the bargaining unit.

Making Illinois a statewide zone was part of the Republican governor’s agenda when he took office in 2015. Lincolnshire created a local, but a federal court invalidated it in January. The judge said only a state can establish such a zone.


The legislation is SB770.


2:30 p.m.

The subject of a sexual harassment complaint that has engulfed the state Capitol told reporters he won’t discuss allegations publicly before speaking with the new investigator on the case.

Chicago Democratic Sen. Ira Silverstein approached the Senate press box Tuesday and said, “My first conversation will be with the inspector general. Thank you.” He then left the floor shortly before the Senate recessed.

The 18-year Senate veteran was accused in public testimony last week of sending inappropriate messages, paying unwanted compliments and making late-night phone calls to Denise Rotheimer. The Ingleside victims-rights advocate was working with him during 2016 on legislation.

Silverstein has denied the allegations but resigned his leadership post last week.

Rotheimer’s is one of two dozen complaints to the Legislative Ethics Commission which have sat idle for a year or more because the post was vacant. Her testimony spurred the commission to fill it temporarily with former federal prosecutor Julie Porter.


1 p.m.

The Illinois Senate has approved expanded authority for the Legislature’s new inspector general.

The Senate voted 55-0 Tuesday to allow Julie Porter to investigate 27 pending ethics complaints even if the time limit for resolving them has expired.

Porter was named Saturday to the post which had been vacant for two years. Her appointment became an emergency last week when lawmakers began discussing an explicit prohibition on sexual harassment by legislators, staff members or lobbyists.

The plan revealed the fact that the office of the inspector — the expected enforcer — was empty. Legislators faced another embarrassment when a legislative activist testified about harassment by Chicago Democratic Sen. Ira Silverstein. Silverstein has denied the allegations but Denise Rotheimer pointed out that her complaint had sat idle for nearly a year.

Silverstein is on the floor and voted “aye.”


The bill is HB137 .


12:50 p.m.

The Illinois Senate has convened amid a sexual-harassment quandary and the focus of the debacle is in attendance.

Chicago Democratic Sen. Ira Silverstein appeared on the floor Tuesday a week to the day that he was thrust into the sexual harassment spotlight. Crime-victims advocate Denise Rotheimer testified before a House committee that Silverstein sent her inappropriate messages and paid her unwanted compliments last year while the pair worked on legislation.

Silverstein walked onto the floor and waved at reporters in the press box. He spoke to a staff member and for several minutes with Senate President John Cullerton before taking his seat and working on a laptop computer. No one else approached or spoke to him.

Silverstein has denied Rotheimer’s claims but resigned his leadership post last week.


4:55 a.m.

The Illinois General Assembly returns to Springfield on Tuesday for the final days of its fall session after spending last week wrestling a sexual-harassment quandary.

The House could take up action on legislation by House Speaker Michael Madigan to prohibit sexual harassment in the ethics law , require awareness training and put the legislative inspector general in charge of enforcement.

Focus shifted when critics pointed out that the inspector general’s office was vacant for two years.

Then a legislative advocate publicized her experience with sexual harassment in the Capitol. She noted there’s no one to investigate her case or other cases.

Former federal prosecutor Julie Porter was hurriedly named temporarily to the post Saturday.

Senate President John Cullerton plans legislation allowing Porter to extend the time limit for investigating existing claims.

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