The California State Assembly announced Tuesday that the legislative body will hold public hearings on the issue of sexual harassment in the Golden State’s Capitol, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) reportedly issued a joint statement with Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), chair of the Assembly Rules Committee, and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), chair of the Assembly Rules Subcommittee on Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Prevention and Response.
The announcement arrived days after a group of female leaders in the Golden State signed an open letter that sought to address and eradicate a culture of sexual harassment in the state Capitol, and weeks after dozens of women accused Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of years of sexual harassment.
“First, we must change the climate that has allowed sexual harassment to fester,” part of the statement read, according to Bay Area public radio station KQED. “Second, we must ensure victims have a safe and dependable environment to come forward and discuss complaints no matter who the perpetrator is and without detriment to their career or environment. Third, we must ensure that sexual harassment is dealt with expeditiously and that the seriousness of consequences match the violations committed.”
Also on Tuesday, KQED reported that the state Senate announced it hired two outside firms — one law firm and one human resources firm — to investigate the issue of harassment in the State Assembly. However, KQED noted, “Organizers behind the sexual harassment letter criticized the Senate’s actions as inadequate. They said the process lacked transparency and that women who have experienced harassment in the Senate have no incentive to cooperate with an investigation sponsored by the Senate.”
According to the Associated Press, the revelations against Weinstein have sparked similar responses in other states, with lawmakers, lobbyists, and consultants opening up about experiencing the same sort of sexual harassment in the political world.
Female lawmakers from Illinois, Oregon and Rhode Island have reportedly accused “male colleagues of inappropriate touching or suggesting that sexual favors be a condition for advancing bills.”
The AP reported that Illinois political fundraiser Katelynd Duncan said she was fired from a political campaign when she was in her 20s for reporting inappropriate behavior.
The AP further reported that in “Rhode Island, Democratic Rep. Teresa Tanzi alleged she was told by a more senior lawmaker that sexual favors would allow her bills to go further.”
The individuals mentioned in the piece are Democrats and worked for Democratic lawmakers — though Republicans are not exempt from such accusations.
Last week, Republican Arizona State Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) said she had been sexually harassed by male colleagues in the Arizona legislature that she had faced retaliation for reporting it.
“Almost immediately upon my arrival to the Capitol, I experienced unwanted sexual advances and lewd and suggestive comments regarding my body and appearance from male colleagues,” Ugenti-Rita wrote.