Idaho lawmakers undergo anti-harassment training

January 10, 2018

FILE--In this Jan. 5, 2018, file photo, from left, Idaho Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, Idaho, House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, and Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, speak to reporters about the upcoming 2018 legislative session at the State Capitol building in Boise, Idaho. Bedke and Hill recently hosted an anti-harassment training at the beginning of the session to prevent unwanted and unwelcome attention. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger, file)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho lawmakers on Tuesday underwent anti-harassment training following the wave of sexual misconduct allegations across state legislatures, businesses and entertainment industry.

“It’s not like we felt there was a particular problem, but we’ve seen problems in parts of the world where we didn’t think it was a problem,” said Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, a Republican. “People I never would have suspected have a problem with this.”

State lawmakers typically undergo some sort of ethical or civic training every two years in Idaho. This is the first time in recent history the Idaho Legislature has specifically addressed harassment in the workplace.

“If this training can be preventative for at least one person, it’s worth it,” Hill said.

Representatives from the Division of Human Resources and the Attorney General’s office led the two-hour training event to a packed auditorium filled with lawmakers, lobbyists and staffers. Presenters focused on the legal definition of sexual harassment, case law and real life scenarios.

“This is not just the golden rule,” said Susan Buxton, administrator of the human resources division. “There’s another way: treat somebody better than they expected you to treat them.”

The emphasis on maintaining a respectful working environment comes after reports revealed in December that an Idaho lawmaker was the subject of a complaint for allegedly making inappropriate comments to at least two people during the 2017 legislative session.

The complaint said that Rep. James Holtzclaw, a Republican, made a woman feel uncomfortable and asked her if and how she used the social media Snapchat app. The case was handled privately by the attorney general’s office and House leadership. It’s unknown what if any disciplinary action was taken.

Furthermore, 14 female lawmakers reached out legislative leaderships asking for anti-harassment training to be a regular event for legislators at the Idaho Statehouse.

During Tuesday’s training, House Speaker Scott Bedke, also a Republican, and Hill also unveiled new policies on how to report harassment for lawmakers, lobbyists and staffers. Each group was given a variety of options on how to report allegations of harassment or misconduct, ranging from going directly to Bedke or Hill, or contacting the assistant chief deputy of the attorney general’s office.

Bedke added that the new process was a draft and could be modified as officials spend the next few months studying and debating the issue.

The policies do not change the current rule that says only lawmakers can file formal ethics complaints against other lawmakers. Democratic lawmakers have recently asked Republican leaders, who hold control the Statehouse, to change the ethics complaint process but have faced resistance so far.

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