BOISE – Female state legislators are calling for mandatory sexual harassment training inside the Idaho Statehouse, according to a letter sent to top legislative leaders.
“Like many professional women, I’ve had my own experiences with inappropriate behavior,” Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy said Monday in a phone interview. “The Idaho Legislature is near and dear to my heart. While I have only been treated with respect during my time there, I think we need to remain diligent in preventing sexual harassment because Idaho is not immune.”
Troy, a two-term Republican from Genesee, said she was inspired to write the letter following the recent wave of sexual harassment allegations surfacing in governments and businesses around the country.
Troy said 13 other female lawmakers have signed the letter asking for better training to prevent inappropriate behavior. The list includes Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett of Ketchum and Republicans Sen. Shawn Keough of Sandpoint and Rep. Maxine Bell of Jerome – who co-chair the state’s influential budget-setting legislative panel. The letter was only sent to the state’s 31 female lawmakers – who make up 29.5 percent of Idaho’s 105-member Statehouse.
“Sexual harassment is inappropriate in any workplace setting. It would be especially disappointing if it were to take place in the Idaho Legislature – where each year we gather to conduct the people’s business,” wrote Troy, in a letter to House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill on Nov. 21
Hill said legislative leaders were already planning an anti-harassment training course for the beginning of the 2018 session.
“We’re still ironing out the details but we will have officials with the state’s human resources department and the attorney general’s office,” Hill said. “It will be required for lawmakers, pages and interns but we hope that lobbyists and the press attend too. We’re all watching out for everyone.”
There have been no reports of sexual harassment by Idaho politicians in the context of the recent allegations. Gov. Butch Otter and First Lady Lori Otter recently came out in support of the popular “me too” social media campaign, pledging to bring awareness to stop sexual assault and harassment and encouraging Idahoans to also step up in their efforts.
In 2012, state Sen. John McGee was forced to resign after being accused of sexually harassing a Senate aide. McGee eventually pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace. Currently, Idaho also faces multiple pending and ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits across state agencies and executive offices.
Idaho lawmakers undergo mandatory ethics training every year. Troy said it could be feasible to add a sexual harassment component to that training for lawmakers, lobbyists and staffers.
Following allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, harassment complaints have arisen in at least 11 state legislatures.