ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York lawmakers are considering changing state laws to address sexual harassment and misconduct in the halls of government, but those changes will likely be negotiated by four powerful men, the governor, the Senate co-leaders and the Assembly speaker.
"I always think women should be in every negotiation. We're 52 percent of the population of New York state so I don't see any reason for us to be locked out of the room," said state Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan.
Among those four men is Jeff Klein. The Independent Democratic Conference leader is himself facing a sexual misconduct allegation, which is under investigation by ethics regulators.
When asked if he was able to negotiate the budget considering the allegations against him, Klein said he called for an investigation into them early on and that "I expect to be vindicated."
“As far as the governor's proposal, I think it’s an important start. I think we have to strengthen our harassment laws and I intend to push to make that happen," Klein said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants more money to strengthen investigations by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a regulator that has been criticized as flawed.
"I would argue we should be providing independent counsel to do these kinds of investigations with timelines for making the recommendations and conclusions," Krueger countered.
Senate Republicans have their own package of proposals that they say go further than what Cuomo has proposed, which includes an end to confidential settlements as long as the identity of the survivor is protected.
"It not only handles the Harvey Weinstein predator people that are out there, but it protects everyday New Yorkers," said state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean. "It ends secret settlements and it also provides a definition of sexual harassment in state law.
While Cuomo has proposed some anti-harassment measures in his $168 billion budget plan, the issue could still be under discussion after the spending proposal is approved.
As for the larger issue, for women to have more influence in the negotiations, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic had this:
"Over the last year, we've seen thousands of women, millions of women mobilized in response to the historic indifference of men in power to deal with sexual harassment. That's changing," said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, D-Queens. "We really need to elect more women in powerful positions and leadership positions to address things like sexual harassment."
Albany is no stranger to sexual misconduct. In recent years before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, seven state lawmakers resigned or left office in disgrace after they were accused of harassment.