February 28, 2015

Budget deletes UW sexual assault reporting requirement

A provision in Governor Scott Walker’s proposed 2015-2017 state budget would allow University of Wisconsin System campuses to stop reporting sexual assaults. The language is part of the governor’s larger proposal to grant greater autonomy to the UW. A summary of the governor’s budget compiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau noted that the language is just one of a number of changes included under a plan to create a UW System Public Authority.

“The bill deletes a number of current law provisions that require or permit the Board of Regents to take a specific action or specific actions. These deletions are described in the following section. In most cases, the UW System Authority Board of Regents would have the authority to take the actions described although the Board would no longer be specifically required or authorized to do so by law.”

The provision set off a flurry of criticism from Walker opponents on Friday.


“Scott Walker has never condemned Rush Limbaugh’s disgusting jokes about sexual assault — does his inexplicable plan to eliminate sexual assault reporting requirements mean he agrees with Rush that the victimization of women on college campuses isn’t an important issue?” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Communications Director Melissa Baldauff said Friday.

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said that changes to state statute were required to give UW System full authority status. “The UW System requested the deletion of provisions of duplicative reporting requirements as part of the move to the authority. In this case, UW System requested this report requirement be removed because there is already a federal reporting requirement related to sexual assault and harassment on campuses,” Patrick said.

“The state statutory changes in no way lessen our commitment,” said Heather LaRoi with the Office of University Relations. “They allow us to focus on one report. Many requirements proposed for removal from state statutes are duplicative of federal requirements and reporting standards we comply with and are deeply committed to.”

LaRoi noted that a new UW System Task Force on Sexual Violence and Harassment was appointed last fall as part of ongoing work to examine and strengthen efforts to address sexual violence and harassment on campus.

Patrick noted that Walker “has made protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault a top priority,” and pointed out that his last budget increased funding for sexual assault victim services and provided funding to support partnerships and state initiatives to shelter and protect victims of domestic abuse. “His recent budget proposal increases funding to continue protecting victims and their families,” she said.

Lawmakers push to eliminate waiting period to buy handguns

Wisconsin State Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin State Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Eliminating the waiting period for new handgun purchases gets a public hearing at the Capitol Thursday.

Rice Lake Republican Romaine Quinn sponsored the Assembly bill (AB-49). He says it brings the gun background check system into the 21st century. “The background system has not kept pace with the rapid technology and the progress we’ve made. With the technology available today … the vast majority of background checks are completed approximately in an hour.”

Quinn notes there’s no waiting period to purchase shotguns and long guns.

Racine Republican Van Wanggaard is the sponsor of the Senate bill (SB-35). He says a host of other items can be used as a weapon with no waiting period, including a baseball bat, steak knife or shotgun.

Tony Gibart with Domestic Abuse Wisconsin takes issue with that claim, saying eliminating the 48-hour waiting period would put victims at risk. “If we had to choose whether we would want an attacker to attack us with a firearm or some other weapon, I think we would all choose some other weapon because we all know instinctively that a firearm is more lethal.”

Gibart says family and “intimate assaults” involving fire arms are 12 times more likely to result in death than assaults without guns. Having a gun in the house of an abused woman increases her chance by five of being killed in a domestic homicide.

Wanggaard says only eight states, including Wisconsin, require a waiting period at the point of sale prior to transfer of a handgun.

Senator Johnson threatens subpoena over Tomah VA investigation

Tomah VA

Tomah VA

Senator Ron Johnson is threatening to subpoena an investigation file into the issues at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center if the VA won’t turn the files over.

Johnson is giving Acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin until 5pm this afternoon to turn over the document. In a letter obtained by Gannett, Johnson says that Griffin has repeatedly refused to cooperate with the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

A spokesperson for the VA says federal law prohibits them from turning over the file, because it contains personal medical records of veterans. She also says that talks with the Justice Department have confirmed their decision to hold the records.

Johnson launched a special investigation into the Tomah Center after a report that the facility was over-prescribing opiate painkillers for several years was released.


Walker says Act 10 protests prepared him to take on terrorists

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker used his remarks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. on Thursday to suggest that the people who participated in 2011’s Act 10 protests at the Capitol in Madison weren’t all that much different from radical Islamic terrorists.

Walker was asked how he would deal with the Islamic State, were he to be elected president.

“Sometimes people in the media don’t understand that as a governor, I should get a threat assessment from the FBI and from my adjutant-general,” Walker said. “For years I’ve been concerned about that threat not just from abroad but here on American soil.”

Walker – who noted that he has yet to declare that he’s a candidate for president – said he “wants a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil.” He said the next president needs to lead, and “send a message” to protect American soil and “freedom loving people anywhere else in the world.”

“We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” Walker said, drawing applause from the crowd. Walker was well received at the event, and was briefly interrupted by a “run Scott run” chant.

Wisconsin Assembly sets hearing on right-to-work bill (VIDEO)

Following passage of a right-to-work bill in the state Senate this week, an Assembly committee has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for next Monday at the Capitol.

State Representative André Jacque (R-De Pere), who chairs the Assembly’s Labor Committee, has currently scheduled about 10 hours for the public to speak. However, the De Pere Republican says that’s not a “hard and fast time.”

A hearing in the Senate earlier this week saw hundreds of people turn out to testify, many of whom were not given a chance to speak before the committee chair cut the hearing short after about eight hours. The chair of the committee, Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), cited concerns that protesters were planning to disrupt a vote on the bill at the end of the hearing.

Assembly Democrats on Thursday called on Republicans to allow for a full hearing on the bill and to allow everyone who shows up on Monday a chance to speak. State Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) says the hearing is “not just a checkbox that you tick off on the way to pass a bill…it’s actually supposed to inform legislators like us about how a proposed piece of legislation will impact the public.”

Jacque declined to say Thursday how long he might allow the hearing to go, only saying his biggest concerns is that it is “a hearing, not a filibuster.”

Majority Republicans currently plan to bring right-to-work legislation to the Assembly floor next week for a vote, after the Senate approved the bill Wednesday night.