House votes to mandate sexual harassment training at General Assembly

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia House of Delegates passed legislation mandating that members and full-time staffers go through sexual harassment training every two years. However, some Democrats said the legislation fell short of the “comprehensive” approach they had proposed.

The chamber passed HB 371 88-10, with only a handful of Democrats voting against it in protest. Del. Roxann Robinson (R-Chesterfield) said the passed legislation shows Republican members of the house are taking seriously the nationwide movement surrounding sexual harassment.

“I want to make sure all my colleagues and all the staff in the legislative branch are protected because they’ve had the education, they’ve had the training,"  Robinson said. "They know what is and is not sexual harassment. It’ll be defined. What do you do if you’re a victim of it.”

Del. Vivan Watts (D-Fairfax), the longest-serving woman in the House of Delegates, said the Republican legislation falls short. She said the mandated training would be nothing more than an “online module” and that the state’s sexual harassment training course has not been updated in several years.

“It doesn’t say at all what that training is going to be. The policy is just a nebulous policy that’s going to be developed through the system,” Watts said.

Watts criticized Republicans who during debate on the bill Wednesday said Watts was trying to create a “gotcha” moment by proposing amendments to the Republican measure.

Robinson said she thinks both parties are taking the sexual harassment training issue seriously, but just have different approaches to how the training should be run.

If passed through the Senate and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, the training would begin in January of next year.