Attorney General Josh Kaul, left, and rape survivor
Jacqueline Jaske, call on Republicans to pass a bill
designed to prevent the backlog of kits containing
evidence from sexual assaults at a Capitol news
conference on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Madison,
Wis. The Senate passed the bill in October, but it's
gone nowhere in the Assembly.
MADISON — A bipartisan
bill with broad support designed to prevent future
backlogs in testing of evidence collected following a
sexual assault will likely pass the Legislature sometime
next year, a key Republican lawmaker said Tuesday after
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul and advocates
pressed for action.
Rep. Joe Sanfelippo,
chairman of the Assembly Health Committee that has the
bill, said he planned to hold a hearing on it and expected
it would be pass before the end of session next year. The
Senate passed it in October, but the measure has
languished in the Assembly. That inaction led Kaul and
advocates to call for action Tuesday.
“This should be an
embarrassment this bill has not passed,” said Jacqueline
Jaske, a rape survivor and an advocate for victims who
joined Kaul at a Capitol news conference. “Is there
anyone who opposes what this bill is all about?”
Sanfelippo said he had
reservations about putting the procedures in law and
believed Kaul could do now what the bill proposed but said
there is pressure to pass it “because it looks good from
a political standpoint.”
“I can’t see why
anybody would vote against it,” Sanfelippo said. A
majority of Assembly members are co-sponsors.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers
has said he would sign the bill into law once it passes.
The proposal was developed
by lawmakers, victims’ rights advocates, members of law
enforcement and others after years of discussion and
criticism of the state’s rape kit testing backlog. It
would set new timelines and protocols for nurses, victims
and members of law enforcement with the goal of preventing
backlogs in the evidence that can be used to identify
suspects in sexual assaults.
Wisconsin’s rape kit
testing backlog has been a hot political issue for years.
Victim advocate groups nationwide have been pushing since
2014 for Wisconsin and other states to analyze the kits in
the hopes of identifying serial offenders. The sexual
assault kits contain samples of fingernails, skin or other
material collected by medical professionals that can be
analyzed for DNA.
Kaul made the backlog a
central issue in his 2018 race against then-Attorney
General Brad Schimel, a Republican, arguing he didn’t do
enough to complete testing on the kits.
Schimel secured a $4
million federal grant to start testing Wisconsin’s kits
in 2015 but the work didn’t begin until 2017. Two months
before the 2018 election Schimel announced that 4,100 kits
had been tested. Kaul announced last month that testing
had been completed on all 4,471 kits designated for
analysis. The work has resulted in a dozen criminal cases
The bill establishes
requirements and timelines for health care professionals
dealing with sexual assault victims. Under the bill, if
the victim wants to report the sexual assault to law
enforcement, the health care professional must notify
police within 24 hours of collecting the kit. If the
victim doesn't want to report it, the kit must still be
sent to the crime lab for storage within 72 hours. It
would be stored there for up to 10 years.
Once a law enforcement
agency has been notified that a kit has been collected, it
must take possession within 72 hours and send it to a
state crime lab for testing within 14 days. The state
Department of Justice also would be required to track the
number and nature of offenses involving sexual assault
In reversal, Gov. Evers
releases day's worth of emails
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers
released a day's worth of his emails to a newspaper,
after initially saying state law prohibited him from
Evers fulfilled an open records request made by the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for all emails he sent and
received on Nov. 12. The three emails he provided were
copies of two press releases and his daily schedule, the
newspaper reported Wednesday. The Associated Press made
a similar request for a single day's emails but has not
yet received a response from Evers.
Evers released the day's worth of emails to the Journal
Sentinel after denying a similar request from a WITI-TV
reporter in October. Evers said then he rejected it
because the reporter's request was not limited to a
specific subject. Open records advocates had criticized
him for that position.
Evers' legal counsel said the office was releasing the
governor's emails from a single day because it was
making an exception to a portion of the public records
law that says a request for records "is deemed
sufficient if it reasonably describes the requested
record or the information requested."
Evers and his legal team contend that portion of state
law requires requests for emailed communication to
include a specific topic and until last week said emails
wouldn't be released without one.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of
Information Council, said the state's public records law
says each request for records must be received by
government officials "with a presumption of complete
public access." Denying access to public records
"generally is contrary to the public interest, and only
in an exceptional case may access be denied."
Lueders said nothing in the law requires the governor to
withhold records and that Evers' reasoning for switching
course leaves open the door to deny the same kind of
request in the future.
"It’s troubling that rather than say this is the law and
we are going to obey it, they say we’re right and we're
doing all we can, but out of the kindness of our heart
we’re going to release the records," Lueders said. “It
preserves their ability to selectively say no to
somebody else in the future.”
Gov. Walker open to seeking office after 2025
MADISON — Former
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker says he won’t
run for office again before 2025, but he “wouldn’t
rule anything out” after that.
Walker also says he
hopes Rebecca Kleefisch, his former lieutenant
governor, runs for governor in 2022. He says she would
be a “hell of a great governor.”
Walker commented on his
political future Tuesday during an event at the
Milwaukee Press Club. Walker was governor for eight
years before losing last year to Democrat Tony Evers,
ending his 26-year run in elected office.
Walker says he
wouldn’t run for office until his commitment to
serve as president of the Young America’s Foundation
is complete after 2024. He starts in that job in 2021.
Walker says he’s not
ruling anything out after that.
The 52-year-old Walker
says, “I’m 22 years younger than the president, so
I definitely have time.”