(WHTM)– The fallout from sexual harassment complaints against a top aide to Governor Shapiro continues to reverberate around the capitol. Women lawmakers are introducing a flurry of bills to combat it and a new troubling nationwide report shows it is a widespread problem and not just in Pennsylvania.
The report is a deep dive into sexual harassment in state houses across the nation and the data is damning.
“We found 130 sitting lawmakers were accused of sexual harassment while in their offices,” director of the National Women’s Defense League Emma Davidson Tribbs said. “Over the last decade.”
Tribbs spearheads the National Women’s Defense League, made up of professional women who work in capitols and looked at lawmakers who’ve been publicly accused, including five in Pa. 96% of the accused are men and 88% get re-elected anyway.
“This is a problem nationwide,” Tribbs said. “It’s not a single bad apple. It’s not one person, one state to remove and the problem solved. It’s systemic and it’s happening nationwide.”
And it’s bipartisan. Half the accused are Republican and half Democrat.
“There’s nothing political about sexual harassment is not Republican or Democrat,” Senator Kim Ward (R) said. “It’s sexual harassment.”
Senate President Kim Ward introduced a bill to require all harassment claims to be handled by outside, third-party investigators. Democrat Maria Collette is a cosponsor, frustrated that the House, Senate and governor’s office all seem to treat accusations differently.
“We’re here to do an investigation that is going to do justice to the people that are taking the risk to step forward and make that allegation,” Collette said. “We’re treating them with the integrity and the dignity that they deserve. And we are getting to the bottom of things.”
“We can’t stop all of the sexual harassment, but we can make sure the process is in place to handle it when it does happen,” Ward said.
A second bill would require public disclosure of sexual harassment settlements.
“There are some people that feel that this should be handled internally, and when you’re using taxpayer dollars, it becomes a public issue, in my opinion,” State Rep. Abby Majors (R) said.
Republican State Rep. Abby Major and four of her female colleagues will introduce five house bills Wednesday to combat sexual harassment.
“When people are electing legislators to come out here and they’re behaving, behaving in a predatory way, I think the people deserve to know how their legislator is acting,” Major said.
I’m hopeful because this really will I believe bring about some robust and dynamic change,” Collette said. “And we need it. We’re ready for it.”
Governor Shapiro told us recently that if there is a better process for reporting sexual harassment claims he’s certainly willing to look at it.