Reynolds: Sexual harassment 'must stop'
Gov. Kim Reynolds says sexual harassment is not a partisan issue during her Condition of the State address at the Iowa Capitol. Brian Powers/The Register
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds drew a round of bipartisan applause Tuesday for denouncing sexual harassment as "a stain on our culture" in her first Condition of the State address.
"Throughout history, sexual harassment has been a stain on our culture, a destructive force — in politics, media and entertainment, in workplaces large and small, and in all facets of life," she said. "And it must stop."
Reynolds called sexual harassment an issue that has "captured the attention of the entire nation" as allegations of sexual misconduct continue to pile up against prominent and powerful men all across the country.
It's also an issue that has rocked Iowa politics. Last summer, a jury found in favor of a former Republican Senate staffer who was fired hours after filing a formal complaint detailing workplace harassment. Republican leaders in the Senate have faced criticism that they did not take Kirsten Anderson's complaints or the jury verdict seriously.
"I commend the number of women who have found the courage to speak out," Reynolds said. "As a woman, a mother of three girls, a grandmother, wife, sister, and daughter, I understand we’re at an unprecedented moment in time."
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said she thinks there is a change in public sentiment about issues of harassment, both within the Capitol building and across the country.
"This is an issue that's been brought out into light in a very, very real way," she said. "And I think everybody is sort of awakening that it's time to fix this and we are certainly doing our part here."
In her speech, Reynolds said harassment is an issue that supersedes partisanship, though it can't be addressed through legislation or rule-making alone.
"You cannot legislate kindness or respect or morality," she said. "They must be taught. And that means the solution starts with every individual, man or woman. It’s about showing respect to others. It’s about character and decency. And it’s about changing the culture once and for all."
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds addressed sexual harassment in her Condition of the State speech Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Here are some comments from state legislative leaders in response.
Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said she believes policy changes would help create a safer, more inclusive work environment. She previously outlined a number of those proposals in an open letter to Mary Kramer, who was brought in by Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, to advise the staff on addressing issues related to harassment.
Kramer is a former Iowa Senate president and U.S. ambassador who previously held executive human resource roles at Younkers department stores and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
“I was surprised that it took the governor this long to really make a stand on the sexual harassment issue, so I was glad to see that she had it an important part of her state of the state," Petersen said. "... I gave Ambassador Kramer a number of policy suggestions I believe we can implement to make our workplace safer and more inviting. Do I think it’s hard to implement policies? No. But you have to have the backbone to be willing to do so."
A new Iowa Poll takes a look at women in the workplace and their experience with sexual harassment. Michael Zamora / The Register