AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers are going to have to attend sexual harassment training in person instead of simply signing a form to fulfill the requirement.
The House voted 120-24 Tuesday to support the change. The 35-member Senate voted 32-0 last week in favor of it.
Nearly all of Maine’s lawmakers attended the most recent anti-harassment training, which occurs at the beginning of each two-year term. But some lawmakers skipped out by opting to sign a form outlining the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy.
In the past year, at least 14 legislators in 10 states have resigned from office following accusations of sexual harassment or misconduct, The Associated Press found in a 50-state review. At least 16 others in more than a dozen states have faced other repercussions, such as the voluntary or forced removal from legislative leadership positions. Others are under investigation.
The Maine Legislature has received two complaints of sexual misconduct or harassment against legislators since 2008, according to information obtained by the AP. Both complaints were against House members, and officials said there was no disciplinary action.
Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Nate Libby pushed for the change, and said that state legislative staff already faces stricter requirements.
“It is our responsibility as leaders and lawmakers to ensure that the State House is a safe and respectful environment for everyone, whether they are here to work, visit or testify before the Legislature,” Libby said. The lawmaker also has called for stricter anti-harassment training requirements for lobbyists and executive branch members.
Republican Reps. Jeffrey Hanley and Beth O’Connor voted against the change, and said they found additional training unnecessary.
“I don’t need instruction on how to behave as a gentleman,” Hanley said. He added that he found it unfortunate that lawmakers face criticism for not falling in line.
“We take a sworn oath of office to uphold moral conduct in this chamber and outside the chamber,” O’Connor said. “I think it’s a waste of time.”
In Washington, lawmakers also were dealing with legislation related to sexual harassment. The U.S. House on Tuesday passed legislation that requires lawmakers to reimburse the Treasury when settling sexual harassment claims rather than use taxpayers to foot the bill.
Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, said he supported the legislation that also made it easier for victims to report abuse. “There can be no tolerance of any kind for sexual harassment_period,” he said.