RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A bill mandating sexual harassment training for members of the Virginia General Assembly and their staff passed the House on Thursday.
HB 371 would mandate all members of both chambers and their full-time staff to undergo sexual harassment training once every two years.
Newly elected representatives and newly hired staffers would have 90 days to undergo training, unless they received the training within the previous year.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 88-10.
"We all know what sexual harassment is, we all know what to do if you have a sexual harassment complaint," said Del. Roxann Robinson (R), 27th House District.
A similar bill was proposed by the Democrats, except training would be overseen by the executive branch and would have outlined polices to report harassment as well.
"Today, you saw 10 Democrats who voted against continuing forward on this sexual harassment training, so I'm not sure why we can't agree on the subject matter," said Robinson.
Democrats like Del. Vivian Watts say this new legislation is too vague.
"It says that there is a problem, but it has no meat in how to deal with the problem, and secondly, it looks to a behind-the-scenes process to determine what we're going to do instead of an open, publicly accountable, transparent discussion," said Watts.
Republican House speaker Kirk Cox says this bill will protect women in the Capitol.
"We have solid policies. That doesn't mean we can't improve, and of course the training piece is very key," said Cox. "I said at the beginning that we want to make sure that women feel - and it's great, many more legislators, lobbyists etc. - they feel safe."
Watts says this legislation fails to address other forms of harassment, in and out of the work place.
"The normal policies carry religious and racial and ethnic issues as well," said Watts. "The Democratic concern is to protect the public equally."
Democrats and Republicans say despite their differences, both parties have the same goal in mind. The bill now moves to the Senate.
If the bill becomes law, it would take effect for legislative employees Jan. 1, 2019, and requires the sexual harassment training program to be implemented by July 1, 2019.
It would also require records pertaining to the training be maintained for five years.
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