By Associated Press - Wednesday, March 17, 2021

ATLANTA (AP) - More than a dozen Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday they are filing sexual harassment complaints, saying a male lawmaker’s joke on the House floor typifies a General Assembly that is hostile to women.

The lawmakers, mostly women, want the House Ethics Committee to review the matter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Rep. Kasey Carpenter, a Dalton Republican, made the remark Monday as the state House debated sedation during outpatient surgery.

“Is it not true that this bill will provide safety measures to ensure that Cardi B’s backside implants will be safe and ensure a lifetime of effectiveness?” state Rep. Kasey Carpenter, a Dalton Republican, said Monday, the day after the rapper performed at the Grammy Awards.

Carpenter apologized Tuesday before the House Tuesday.

“I can assure you I never wanted to come across that way, and I apologize if my words offended you in any way, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” Carpenter said.

Some Democratic House members said they often hear sexist comments in the 236-member General Assembly, where 78 women, or one-third, are female.

The General Assembly’s sexual harassment policy prohibits verbal harassment, including “sexually related comments or jokes.” All lawmakers are required to complete sexual harassment training.

“How many apologies do we have to accept before we are given a basic level of respect?” asked state Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, a Snellville Democrat. “I never thought after I was elected by my constituents that I would be here asking for safety in the workplace.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan of Carrollton asked Atlanta Democrat Jen Jordan last month where he should “stick it” when talking about inserting wording into a bill.

“I listened to it after the fact and I was upset with it,” Dugan said Tuesday, saying he apologized to Jordan. “The part that bothered me the most on that was that I embarrassed a friend of mine in public. There’s no words that I can say to convey how much that bothered me that I hurt her.”

Jordan said Dugan’s comment made her uncomfortable, but said she didn’t perceive it as malicious. Jordan said the Senate is “not a comfortable place to be a woman,” citing requests from senators who said she should smile more or bring her children to the floor.

“But I will say it’s gotten significantly better because we’ve elected more women,” Jordan said. “The more women you elect, it gets better, because it’s almost like we’re here to call them out and say ‘that’s not appropriate.’”

Georgia lawmakers enacted new sexual harassment guidelines two years ago after a lobbyist filed a complaint in 2018 against then-state Sen. David Shafer, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.

The lobbyist said Shafer retaliated against her and harassed her after helping her get a bill passed in 2011. Shafer, now chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, denied the allegation. It was dismissed by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Under the guidelines, all Georgia legislators must watch a training video and sign a form acknowledging the training.

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