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Democratic legislators back bill giving attorney general power to launch civil rights investigations

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Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul

MADISON (WKOW) -- A trio of state Democrats unveiled legislation that would allow the Wisconsin attorney general to investigate civil rights violations.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul joined Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg) in introducing the bill at the Thursday press conference.

The bill would expand the power of Kaul's office.

"We must ensure that, for every Wisconsinite, our civil rights are more than simply rights on paper," Kaul said. "This legislation would significantly enhance the protection of our rights by authorizing the Wisconsin Department of Justice to take action when significant violations occur."

Johnson and Anderson both focused on how the bill would help address discrimination.

"All too often people of color are denied equal opportunity and protection under the law," said Johnson, who is Black. "While some would prefer to deny this reality, it still holds true - racism and discrimination is alive and well in the United States, making it harder for underrepresented communities to secure adequate housing, employment, or education."

Anderson, who uses a wheelchair, said Wisconsinites should not tolerate discrimination "on the basis of race, sex, disability, or immigration status."

"This legislation is nothing short of transformative," he said. "By giving the Attorney General’s office the authority to protect our civil rights in areas like housing, education, employment, and public accommodations, Wisconsinites can trust that discriminatory actions, even those taken by the most powerful amongst us, will be fully investigated and punished."

In a press release from the attorney general's office, the bill was summarized as allowing civil rights investigations and lawsuits in two scenarios:

  1. A person has engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates any of the rights secured by the United States Constitution or by the Wisconsin Constitution, or any right secured by the laws of Wisconsin relating to housing, employment, education, or public accommodations.
  2. A person has been denied a right secured by the United States Constitution or by the Wisconsin Constitution, or a right secured by the laws of Wisconsin relating to housing, employment, education, or public accommodations, and that denial raises an issue of general public importance.

Peter Culver

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