South Dakota Senator bringing two items to fight sexual harassment and assault to upcoming planning session

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Sexual Harassment is coming to the forefront across the country. In government, 20 statehouses are experiencing allegations of misconduct. This includes South Dakota, with former lobbyist Tiffany Campbell accusing former Senator Gene Abdallah of inappropriate comments, which he forcefully denies. For Senator Stace Nelson, he hopes to change how complaints are handled during the upcoming planning session in January.

"I want to bring a rules proposal change that would affect the legislature and how they are dealing with the complaints coming forward. Keep them from doing a pocket veto," said Stace Nelson, Republican Senator for District 19.

Nelson's proposal would create a mandatory reporting requirement to the entire legislative body. Right now, a member can report harassment to the presiding officer of the house to which they belong, and if the situation doesn't get resolved, they then can take it to the Executive Board of the Legislative Research Council.

"I'm going to do my best to highlight the problems out there and provide solutions and strengthen laws and legislative rules to make sure these laws aren't aided because of 'lax' of rules and procedures," said Nelson.

Along with strengthening anti-harassment rules, Nelson wants to strengthen how the courts prosecute sexual assault.

"Five years ago, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the way rape charges were written were not with exact verbiage in the statute," said Nelson. "And this has to deal with underage victims or intoxicated victims. The prosecution has to show the suspect knew the victim was intoxicated or incapacitated or underage."

Stance says that's almost impossible to prove, and will be proposing a bill for a third time, that he says will better help victims get justice.

Two former legislators say that protection starts with awarness.

"We need to reset and talk about it," said Jacqueline Sly, former Republican Representative. "And then we need to be moving into what we are going to do about it, how are we going to establish those lines."

"Tell people to call their Senators and Representatives, tell them their thoughts, tell them what they would like to see and follow info on the state website," said J.P. Duniphan, former Republican Representative.