The Latest: Zepnick preparing for re-election bid
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Latest on Tuesday’s Wisconsin Assembly floor session (all times local):
A embattled legislator accused of sexual misconduct says he’s starting to plan a possible re-election campaign.
Two anonymous women accused Democratic Rep. Josh Zepnick of Milwaukee in a December Capital Times story of trying to drunkenly kiss them at political events in 2011 and 2015. Democratic leaders have demanded he resign but he has refused.
Zepnick told reporters Tuesday he’s starting to lay the groundwork for a re-election campaign. He says he doesn’t remember the 2011 incident. He acknowledged the 2015 incident took place but he only meant to kiss the woman on the cheek, it wasn’t sexual and it was a one-time mistake.
He added he’s “astonished” women don’t want to report sexual assaults immediately.
The state Assembly has unanimously approved mandatory sexual harassment training for members and employees.
The chamber adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for mandatory training at the beginning of each two-year legislative session on a 92-0 vote with no discussion. Currently the Legislature’s attorneys include sexual harassment training in orientation sessions for new state representatives and new senators but the training isn’t mandatory.
Speaker Robin Vos told reporters before the vote that even though the resolution calls for training to occur at the beginning of each session he will mandate the initial training period take place before the current legislative session ends. Vos has said he wants the Assembly to finish its work by March.
Tuesday’s floor session was the Assembly’s first since two anonymous women accused Democratic Rep. Josh Zepnick in a Capital Times newspaper story of drunkenly trying to kiss them at political events in 2011 and 2015. Zepnick has said the allegations are true.
Democratic leaders have demanded Zepnick resign but he has refused and showed up in his customary seat on Tuesday. He voted for the training resolution.
A state lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct is back in his seat for the first Assembly floor session since the accusations surfaced.
Two anonymous women accused Democratic Rep. Josh Zepnick of Milwaukee in a December Capital Times newspaper story of drunkenly trying to kiss them during political events in 2011 and 2015. Zepnick has said he did what the women alleged.
Assembly Democratic leaders have demanded Zepnick resign but he has refused. They have not allowed him to caucus with them.
Tuesday marked the first Assembly floor session since the story broke. One of the chamber’s first orders of business was voting on making sexual harassment training for state representatives and all Assembly employees mandatory.
Zepnick was in his customary seat toward the front of the chamber as the session began. He took the podium to speak on a resolution he co-authored honoring the late Robert Kordus, who served in the Assembly and on the Milwaukee Common Council in the 1960s and 1970s.
The rest of chamber listened in silence.
Assembly Republicans are promising to move quickly on a host of bills before the two-year legislative session wraps up.
Speaker Robin Vos, Majority Leader Jim Steineke and a number of other GOP representatives outlined the party’s priorities during a news conference Tuesday.
They said they want to pass a bill that would boost aid for rural and low-spending school districts, approve $6.8 million for an ad campaign to attract young people to Wisconsin, pass a bill promoting apprenticeships and pass 13 bills to overhaul the state’s foster care system. A commission studying how to overhaul school funding also will continue its work over the next few weeks.
Vos has said he wants the Assembly to finish its work by the end of February. Steineke said Tuesday Republicans plan to move aggressively. He said the chamber will convene next week as well as three or four times in February.
Assembly Republicans plan to announce their 2018 agenda before voting on making sexual harassment training mandatory.
Speaker Robin Vos planned to hold a news conference Tuesday to outline the new year’s agenda. The Assembly is scheduled to convene immediately afterward. The top item on the chamber’s calendar is a resolution that would require all Assembly members and employees to attend sexual harassment training.
Currently the Legislature’s attorneys include sexual harassment training during orientation for new Assembly members and new state senators but attendance isn’t mandatory. The resolution would require representatives and employees to attend sexual harassment training at the beginning of every legislative session.
The resolution comes the same day Rep. Josh Zepnick is expected to make his first appearance on the floor since he was accused of sexual misconduct.