Yesterday, lawmakers in the State Assembly passed a bill that was first introduced less than two weeks ago. Parts of the bill are identical to rape kit legislation introduced last year, that had bipartisan support.
But the new bill has a few GOP “poison pills” that Assembly Democrats are unwilling to swallow.
One new component is the inclusion of a school voucher exemption, so students who are victims of sexual assault can switch to a private school. Another new component would require law enforcement to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the alleged rapist was undocumented.
Republican lawmakers say these provisions protect victims. While Democratic lawmakers say without the provision, the law could be in effect already.
Representative Melissa Sargent of Madison says that they tried as many ways as they could to get the bill to the governor’s desk. But she says that ultimately all their attempts were blocked by Republicans.
“[The bill was blocked] by the Republican members of the Assembly introducing this new, hyper-partisan piece of legislation. It really dismisses all of the work that had been done up until this point on the sexual assault kit legislation,” Sargent says.
Sargent voted not to pass the bill yesterday. She said she couldn’t vote for a bill that made a political football out of survivors. No Democrats voted yes.
Both bills were written by Representative David Steffen of Green Bay. He says he wasn’t trying to politicize the rape kits, but to get more GOP support.
“What I am aware of is had I not done something to incorporate the additional enhancements to this issue, that nothing would have gotten done,” Steffen says.
Stefen says he’s hopeful the bill will become law. But he intends to readdress the issue next session if it dies.
Representative Lisa Subeck of Madison sits on the Committee on Health, the committee who held a public hearing on the new bill. She calls this a bait and switch.
“Robin Vos, the Speaker of the House, has made it abundantly clear that he will do everything he can to stand in the way of the success of the administration, and that means sinking good legislation. That’s what happened here,” Subeck says.
The Assembly session is scheduled to end next week. The Senate is in session for another month, but Subeck says she doesn’t think the time frame makes any difference.
“I highly doubt that this bill is ever going to be taken up in the Senate. I think it was pretty clear that the Republicans’ intent was never for this bill to become law to begin with,” Subeck says.
Subeck says that she couldn’t support a bill that didn’t have the support of nurses, law enforcement, survivors, and community advocates. The bill from last year? That was written with input from all those groups.
Currently only one senator, Senator Andre Jaqcue of DePere has sponsored the new bill. The original bill passed the State Senate unanimously last year.