By Jason Stein
Assembly representatives will have to take mandatory sexual harassment training under a measure passed by lawmakers Tuesday.
Assembly Resolution 22 was approved unanimously Tuesday and takes immediate effect. The action comes amid growing concerns about sexual misconduct in the fields of politics and business and would require training for lawmakers and their staff in the Assembly at the start of each two-year legislative session.
Tuesday's sexual harassment proposal follows disclosures that there have been at least four sexual harassment complaints in the Legislature over the past decades -- two in the Senate and two more in the Assembly. In one case, taxpayers shelled out $75,000 to resolve a sexual harassment and racial discrimination claim made by an aide to then-state senator and now City of Milwaukee Treasurer Spencer Coggs.
The Senate and Assembly have declined to release information about the other three complaints and internal investigations, saying they are withholding it to protect victims' privacy.
That includes the investigation into former Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer, a Republican who in 2014 was convicted of two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree sexual assault.
Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) said Tuesday that she's still working on a policy that would provide transparency for the public without harming victims.
"In my opinion, you have to disclose and you have to protect victims and there's a way to do it," Taylor said.
In addition, two unnamed women recently accused state Rep. Josh Zepnick (D-Milwaukee) of drunkenly kissing them without their consent in 2011 and 2015.
On a voice vote Tuesday, the Assembly also approved Assembly Bill 653, which would require mammogram providers to tell women if they have what is known as "dense tissue" in their breasts. The breasts of these women have more connective and fibrous tissue, which can make it harder for mammograms to detect cancerous tumors.
The proposal requires providers to give women a notice explaining that they can talk with their doctor about what the condition means and whether they need additional cancer screening.Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) said nearly 4 in 10 women are believed to have dense breast tissue.
"The goal is to really increase the woman's awareness of this issue and discuss it with her doctor," Rohrkaste said.
Lawmakers delayed a vote on Assembly Bill 603, which would make it a misdemeanor to impersonate another person on social media to defraud or harass another person. This practice is sometimes known as "catfishing" and under the bill it could come with a fine of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail.
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