Illinois Senate Acts On Sexual Harassment: Too Little, Too Late?

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – State lawmakers worked quickly Tuesday to address a growing sexual harassment scandal among members and staff, demonstrating they can move with lightning speed when they want to.

But some questioned whether it’s still more show than substance, according to CBS 2 Political Reporter Derrick Blakley.

As Illinois state Sen. Ira Silverstein, who’s accused of sexual harassment, looked on, the Senate took action to amend the statute of limitations on harassment complaints.

The inspector general’s office charged with looking into such complaints was vacant for nearly three years, during the time anti-violence activist Denise Rotheimer filed her sexual harassment complaint against Silverstein, D-Chicago, which went nowhere.

“We blew our own statute of limitation,” Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, said.

In a unanimous vote, the Senate also passed a bill to establish a task force to take further steps, with significant input from women.

At least one Democrat acknowledged since their party has controlled the capitol for most of the last three decades, they’re most responsible for dropping the ball.

“The fact we’re having this conversation now after years without a legislative inspector general, after decades of whispers and conversations but no real, systematic effort to root this out is really a stain on the Democratic Party’s legacy,” state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, said.

Biss, a gubernatorial candidate, was among three Democrats calling on Silverstein to resign.

Sen. McConnaughay and some other Republicans say Tuesday’s actions don’t go far enough. She wants an entire rewrite of the state ethics law and wants legislative leaders taken out of the process of picking the IG.

The newly appointed legislative inspector general, former federal prosecutor Julie Porter, expects to get to work right away. There’s no timeline yet for getting to the bottom of the 27 lingering ethics complaints, including the one against Silverstein.

Silverstein declined comment Tuesday in Springfield. He has said he will cooperate with the IG investigation.

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