Batinick 'bubble' burst after learning of sex harassment allegations
Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) told a House committee this week that he was shocked to hear allegations that sexual harassment has been going on for a long time in the Capitol.
“I have certainly lived in a bubble on this issue,” Batinick said.
During the hearing, two women testified about alleged sex harassment they or others had faced. Activist Denise Rothmeier accused Majority Caucus Whip Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) of harassing her when they worked together, and Katelynd Duncan, a political fundraiser, accused unnamed elected officials and lobbyists of sexual harassment with a letter signed by 300 women.
“It takes people who have the courage to stand up, and I know these are extremely difficult situations when you are dealing with superiors and people you depend on your paycheck for, so you are paving the way for hundreds and thousands, if not millions, of other women,” Batnick said. “I wanted to thank all the people that testified today everybody that provided written testimony and went on record, and everyone who signed the letter.”
House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) introduced Senate Bill 402, which would require lawmakers, staff members and lobbyists undergo sexual harassment training annually. It also would implement a fine system.
“The $5,000 fine seems rather trivial for some of those this would come against,” Batnick said, but added that he would still "certainly support this bill.”
A push to hire someone to fill the post of legislative inspector general also took place. The post has not been filled in more than two years. Batinick approved of the intention but questioned the method.
“The idea of starting the process by going to an ethics officer who is employed by the leader, who has worked decades with them, had long-term relationships, and whose paycheck depends on it, makes it hard,” Batnick said. “Just like it is hard for certain women to stand up and state their case in fear of retribution, the ethics officer has the same situation. They are in a trick bag, too.”
He suggested that the answer could lie in hiring an independent party with no political interests or job concerns.