After accusations, lawmakers calling for sexual harassment task force at State Capitol

They're asking Gov. Dayton and other leaders to act in a bipartisan way.

Following a round of bombshell allegations at the Minnesota State Capitol, a group of lawmakers is calling for the creation of a special task force on sexual harassment. 

This week, state Sen. Dan Schoen and Rep. Tony Cornish were accused of harassment by two of their colleagues, as well as a candidate for the state House. 

Friday's proposal – which was addressed to Gov. Mark Dayton and top legislative leaders – comes from the women who made the allegations, state representatives Erin Maye Quaid and Jamie Becker-Finn, and state House candidate Lindsey Port.

You can read their letter right here:

"We request that you come together in a bipartisan way to address the culture of the legislature and campaigns and create lasting change in our workplace," the statement reads.

To sum up, the lawmakers want state government leaders, with the help of party chairs on both sides, to create a panel that would do three things: 

1. Make a "clear process" for victims to report sexual misconduct, in a way that ensures "victim privacy and public transparency."

2. Create a comprehensive training program that sets out "clear expectations of professional behaviors" for lawmakers and legislative employees.

3. Create a nonpartisan system for "taking reports of sexual harassment and investigating those allegations," with a clear command structure of "appropriate legislators, managers and employers" to report them to. 

Further, those "legislators, managers and employers" would be "held accountable for taking prompt and appropriate action" when they receive complaints. 

The accusations

The allegations against DFL Sen. Dan Schoen were first revealed in a report from MinnPost's Briana Bierschbach published Wednesday evening.

According to the story, DFL candidate Lindsey Port said she was door-knocking with Schoen in 2015 when he made harassing comments and grabbed her buttocks.

Meanwhile, Rep. Erin Maye Quade said Schoen sent her unsolicited texts in late 2015 (before she was elected to the Minnesota House) about getting drinks or meeting up, despite her repeated refusals. 

On Thursday, a lobbyist told MPR and the Star Tribune – on condition of anonymity – that Republican Rep. Tony Cornishmade a comment about his erection to her during a private meeting four years ago, and sent suggestive texts.

Quade also made accusations against Cornish, providing the news outlets with texts in which Cornish said he was caught staring at her on the House floor – and telling her she looked "too damned good."

And this may not be the end of the story.

State Rep. Jamie Becker Finn has said "Sen. Schoen is not the only person in the Minnesota Legislature to act inappropriately towards women," a statement suggesting more accusations could be on the way. 

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