Responding to the national #MeToo movement, the Connecticut Senate Democratic Caucus on Tuesday afternoon proposed a Time’s Up Act — a legislative package that the caucus described as the “largest overhaul of Connecticut’s sexual assault and sexual harassment laws in modern history.”
The Time’s Up Act seeks to reform Connecticut’s sexual harassment laws by bolstering protections for victims and increasing penalties for offenders. But State Sen. Republican Pro Tempore Len Fasano ’81, R-North Haven, was not pleased that Republicans were left out of the process.
In a statement provided to the News, Fasano said the plan should have been done as a bipartisan effort. He said the Democrats are more focused on “grabbing headlines” than “actually making a difference,” criticizing Democrats for releasing the plan without making “any effort to work with the other caucuses.”
“It’s disappointing to see a lack of effort to work with their colleagues together on an issue as important as sexual harassment prevention,” Fasano said in the statement.
The Time’s Up Act would require increased sexual harassment training and education in Connecticut workplaces, the elimination of secret settlements for harassment cases, increased financial penalties for offenders and a strengthening of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, among other changes. Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, who was heavily involved in making the legislative package, told the News she thought the original laws were “too loosely defined.” On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee will vote on whether the bill will be drafted for a public hearing.
In a press release, many members of the Democratic caucus, including Senate Democrat Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said the decision to propose such an overhaul is a result of the “national reckoning” over sexual assault.
“If your kids are like mine, they spend a lot of time in the care of other adults,” Duff said in the release. “Connecticut should conduct a thorough review of and potentially expand its list of mandated reporters of sexual assault committed against minors and enact penalties against those who are mandated reporters and fail to report.”
Osten said the catalyst for the proposed overhaul was the “increase in cases brought into the public eye.” She said the publicity the #MeToo campaign has created around issues of sexual harassment and assault led to an “open awareness of the long-term impact” of unresolved sexual harassment cases.
The Connecticut State Senate is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, the first time this has occurred since 1893. As a result, the past year has featured more bipartisan efforts, especially with regard to the state’s 2017 budget. In late January, there was bipartisan agreement to review sexual harassment policies, with all four legislative caucuses signing a letter addressing their concerns to the Office of Legislative Management.
But Fasano said that although both parties worked together to call for the review of sexual harassment policies, no Democrat mentioned the overhaul the caucus unveiled on Monday. Fasano did not comment specifically on the content of the act itself, but he criticized the Senate Democrats for not speaking out against Gov. Dannel Malloy’s early-release program, which allows prisoners to get released early if they participate in certain classes and programs aimed to improve their chances at rehabilitation after prison.
“At the same time, Senate Democrats are saying they want to make Connecticut safer for women, Fasano said, “Connecticut’s Democrat governor is proposing legislation that would let sex offenders out of prison early and cap the amount of years those offenders could be on parole.”
The last comprehensive rewrite of the state’s sexual harassment policies took place in July 2014.
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