- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 26, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Female lawmakers in Rhode Island say it’s deeply disappointing that the General Assembly didn’t address sexual harassment this legislative session.

Rhode Island largely failed to pass any laws this year to confront the issue, despite two reported cases of sexual misconduct at the statehouse and national conversations about the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

Female lawmakers told The Associated Press last week as the session ended that they were surprised their colleagues didn’t do more.

“It deeply saddens me that there was clearly no desire on the part of House leadership to address the issue,” said Democratic Rep. Teresa Tanzi.

Tanzi revealed in October that a higher-ranking lawmaker told her sexual favors would help advance her bills, setting off a more localized conversation about the topic in Rhode Island politics. She then led a legislative commission on how to strengthen protections for women and other protected classes.



That commission introduced a package of legislation in early June that included measures to extend the statute of limitations, mandate training for companies of a certain size and ban nondisclosure agreements that cover civil rights violations.

None of the bills got a vote on the House floor. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said they were raised too late.

“All of these bills were introduced late in the session and these are big policy decisions,” Mattiello, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We just ran out of time to give them the appropriate study this year.”

Democratic Rep. Robert Craven, who chairs the committee that held the bills, agreed.

“I’m not blaming anybody. I recognize the frustration, I empathize with them,” Craven said. “I’m frustrated only in the fact that we weren’t able to pass legislation to address the problem, but we will, I promise, address the problem.”

Tanzi said part of the reason the commission was delayed was that the legislation authorizing the task force wasn’t passed until March.

Rep. Susan Donovan, another Democratic representative, said other bills were being passed out of committee late.

“I don’t think it was too late in the session,” she said as lawmakers convened Saturday. “We’re here today.”

Tanzi has said the task force worked to find vetted compromises that were easy to pass. She said leadership could have found common-sense measures in the package “if there had been any will to get something done.” She said on Twitter Monday that “legislatively, 2018 was not the year of the woman, but electorally it will be.” She said she would introduce the legislation again next year if she’s re-elected.

Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, a Democrat who sat on the task force, thought the national conversations would have resulted in more urgency.

“I would think that that would have made a big difference to the assembly, and I think most of the membership would have voted for these bills,” she said.

The Senate passed a bill that would have required sexual harassment training at companies with four or more employees. It went further than a similar bill recommended by Tanzi’s commission, but it was not considered by the House.

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