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Indiana House backs mandated training on sexual harassment

January 25, 2018

The Indiana House voted Thursday to require sexual harassment training for lawmakers, just weeks after a top Republican leader questioned whether it was effective.

The measure by Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, would require legislators to take at least one hour of training every year.

"It's just good public policy," said Pryor. "We need to go on record and show that it's important to us."

The move comes after a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men in public office, Hollywood and the media, igniting the #MeToo movement.

Indiana does not currently require lawmakers to take sexual harassment training and neither the House nor the Senate have specific sexual harassment policies governing legislators' conduct.

Instead, codes of conduct in the House and Senate each call for legislators to behave with "high moral and ethical standards."

Shortly after this year's session began, House Speaker Brian Bosma said the possibility of updating the policies had been discussed. But he was non-committal on the issue, adding that when it comes to sexual harassment training there was "a question whether it's effective."

"We've been dealing with bills. I'm not opposed to it by any means," the Indianapolis Republican told reporters.

On Thursday, Bosma voted in favor of Pryor's measure, which was folded into an existing bill, on a 95-0 vote. The full measure is expected to receive a vote in the coming days.

If approved, it will move to the Senate. It's unclear if there is support for the measure there, though Pryor added that "they'd be hard pressed not to recognize that they need to."

Any training is likely to be done by video. Last week, Bosma and Senate leader David Long of Fort Wayne wrote a joint letter to the National Conference of State Legislatures, inquiring about video that is under production.

Though lawmakers are not governed by specific sexual harassment policies, their staffers are. They are forbidden from unwanted whistling, touching, pinching and requests for sexual favors, along with more overt types of unwanted sexual behavior.

Staffers in the Senate are required to take yearly sexual harassment training, while House aides take periodic training, according to officials.

House and Senate officials said no sexual harassment complaints have been filed since 2008.

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