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Lawmakers to attend sexual harassment training: Committee seats at stake, Daudt says

Kurt Daudt. Special to Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Minnesota House members had better attend an upcoming all-day sexual harassment and bias training session — or they'll lose one of their most basic powers of influence: seats on committees.

That edict has come down from House Speaker Kurt Daudt, a Republican from Crown who has said the House will have "zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior" in the wake of the national #MeToo movement that cost two male lawmakers their seats.

"I have instituted a mandatory training — as mandatory as I can make it — for members of the (House)," Daudt recently told reporters. "All members will attend, on the second day of session (Wednesday), a full day of implicit bias training and sexual harassment training, and we're gonna have a bipartisan lunch in between."

Then Daudt explained he means business.

"If members choose not to participate in that, they will be removed from their committee assignments, and they can explain to their constituents why they don't serve on any committees in the House," he said. "That's about as firm as I can make it. ... I can't fire them."

Daudt said he plans to have staff members monitor the training rooms. People who check in only to leave after 10 minutes will be marked as having not attended and will be stripped of their committee assignments, he said.

A number of senators and Senate staffers on Thursday, Feb. 22, will attend a "Respect in the Workplace" training session. The Senate's current policy is that senators and staff must attend such a training at least once every five years. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said the Senate will revisit its sexual harassment policy, which hasn't been updated since the 1990s.

Gov. Mark Dayton is considering setting up a central office to handle sexual harassment complaints concerning the 33,000 state employees under his authority. House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said lawmakers should look into whether state laws are strong enough to protect private-sector workers from sexual harassment.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service