Government and Political Roundup: Assemblywoman reveals she was raped as a child
As the result of an intense political debate, voters around Wausau are learning today that their new state representative was raped as a child. Democrat Mandy Wright revealed her ordeal on the Assembly floor last night, just before majority Republicans approved a bill that requires abortion candidates to get ultrasounds. The bill allows exemptions in cases of rape, incest, or when a mother's life is threatened. To get the exemptions, victims would have to file complaints with police - something Wright said women should not have to do. Wright noted that a large percentage of rape victims never go to the police, just like her family didn't do when she was repeatedly raped by a cousin at age-eight. Wright said her parents protected her, and she told her fellow lawmakers quote, "You are re-victimizing me and thousands of families across Wisconsin." The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network says about half of all sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement. The Assembly sent the ultrasound bill - and the reporting requirement for exceptions - to Governor Scott Walker. He has promised to sign it. Wright replaced fellow Democrat Donna Seidel in the Assembly in January. Wright said she felt compelled to share her experience, because she does not want other women to have to disclose their trauma to get adequate health care.
Alleged domestic abusers could have more of their past used against them under a bill approved by the Wisconsin Assembly yesterday. It's one of three domestic violence measures that received bi-partisan support, and were sent to the Senate on voice votes. One bill would let juries hear about a defendant's domestic incidents dating back 10 years - even if the person was not charged in all of them. De Pere Republican Andre Jacque said victims endure an average of six physical abuse incidents before they call police - and those incidents can provide solid evidence against an alleged abuser. Milwaukee Democrat Fred Kessler, a former judge, said the bill allows hearsay evidence without proof of an arrest - and that could violate defendants' Fourth Amendment rights. Jacque said his bill would give judges leeway in deciding what evidence gets admitted. He also authored the other bills which were approved. They would establish statewide police training standards for handling domestic abuse cases - make police file reports to prosecutors about all domestic violence calls, even if no arrests are made - and keep restraining orders in place in cases where new judges are assigned. All the measures are designed to address the aftermath of the Radcliffe Haughton-Brookfield spa murders from last fall. Haughton killed himself, his estranged wife, and two other women after police refused to make arrests in over two dozen domestic abuse calls at his family's home in Brown Deer.
Governor Scott Walker says he never routinely checks to see whether his state government appointee candidates signed the 2011 recall petitions against him. The Republican Walker refused to confirm-or-deny yesterday that Joshua Inglett had his appointment as a U-W student Regent withdrawn because he signed the petition. The governor simply said he had other candidates, and would name a replacement soon. Inglett, an engineering physics student at U-W Platteville, was named Monday by Walker to a two-year term as a student member of the university's policy-setting body. Right Wisconsin-Dot-Com reported on Wednesday that Inglett signed the recall petition. Later on Wednesday, Inglett said a Walker aide called to ask if he signed. He said he did, and a few hours later, he was told his appointment was rescinded. Inglett said he was questioned extensively before his nomination, and the subject of the recall never came up. G-O-P Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he should have brought it up anyway. Inglett said he answered every question he was asked by Walker's people, and he objects to being portrayed as someone who was not forthcoming. He told a reporter quote, "I felt my character had been attacked." Platteville chancellor Dennis Shields defended his honor student, and said he was still proud of him. Moderate Senate Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center and Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton both asked Walker to reconsider, and appoint Inglett anyway. Erpenbach said it looks as if the governor keeps a black-list in his office and quote, "It's McCarthyism."
State Assembly members shared impassioned family stories before approving three bills to restrict abortion rights. All Republicans voted yes and all Democrats voted no yesterday, as the house sent Governor Scott Walker a bill to make abortion candidates get ultrasounds so they can see the fetuses they want to give up. Opponents say the bill would shut down the Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, because it forces abortion doctors to have admission privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their clinics. The Appleton clinic does not have such doctors. The Republican Walker has said he would sign the measure. Assembly Republicans also sent two other abortion bills to the Senate. One would let religious groups opt out of requirements to include contraceptives in their employee health plans. Democrats said it's wrong to equate contraceptives with abortion, saying the drugs work to prevent babies from being conceived in the first place. That bill also prohibits the use of tax money to pay for abortion coverage in public employee health plans. The Assembly also agreed to ban abortions for women who simply object to the unborn child's gender. During yesterday's debate, Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer twice ordered the spectator galleries to be cleared, after visitors broke house rules by applauding Democrats' speeches.