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Political debate could delay helping victims of sexual assault

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A partisan debate at the state capitol could delay helping victims of sexual assault as lawmakers plan to wrap up their legislative session next month.

The debate is around dueling proposals both aimed at preventing a backlog of rape kits. But a new proposal introduced by Assembly Republicans loops in divisive language about immigration and school choice. 

The Republican-backed proposal would require police to notify federal immigration officials if an attacker is in the country illegally and give victims of sexual assault the option to leave their school and attend elsewhere through the school choice program.

Democrats argue these new measures are designed to fail as sexual assault survivors and groups spoke in opposition to them last week at a committee hearing. 

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) called out Republicans for adding in “poison pills.”

“The action will ensure that nothing, nothing happens this session on testing rape kits,” said Hintz. “That is a decision the Speaker has made denying justice to victims and keeping rapists at large."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) called Hintz claims exaggerated and argues the additional measures added to the bill were necessary to gain more support.

“Rep. Hintz job is to be a bomb thrower...and create division where none should really exist,” said Vos. 

“We prefer to do it in a more comprehensive way… usually, those are the ones more people support."

Attorney General Josh Kaul has been pushing legislation to layout new procedures when collecting and storing rape kits for over year. 

He alleges Republicans know the new provisions on immigration and choice provisions are opposed by Governor Tony Evers but added them regardless.

Republicans are poised to pass their proposal in the Assembly tonight but with lawmakers planning to wrap up this session by mid-March, it’s unlikely any action for victims will be approved by then.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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