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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

State Sen. Van Wanggarrd, R-Racine, authored a bill to put restrictions on owning certain exotic animals. 

Senate hears testimony on public safety bills

A Senate committee heard testimony on three bills Thursday, including one measure that would extend the statute of limitations for most types of sexual assault.

The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee also heard testimony on bills that would more stringently regulate the possession of wild animals as pets and ban the sale of novelty lighters to minors.

Bipartisan sexual assault bill gets committee support

Under the proposal, authored by state Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, and state Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, the statute of limitations for second- and third-degree sexual assault would be lengthened from six to 10 years.

LeMahieu initiated the bill after a constituent wanted to press charges against a man who sexually assaulted her in college but couldn’t because the statute of limitations had expired.

“Victims of these crimes deserve more time to come forward,” LeMahieu said. “They suffer trauma and mental anguish that prevents them from [doing so].”

LeMahieu noted that the problem of sexual assault is prevalent in Wisconsin and the issue is particularly acute on college campuses, citing a recent UW-Madison survey which said that one in four female students experience sexual assault.

Kerkman noted that the measure was approved by an Assembly committee earlier in the day. It also has the support of members of both parties, state Attorney General Brad Schimel and advocacy groups across the state.

Wild animal ban meets opposition

A bill that would prohibit the possession of big cats, bears and crocodiles garnered more controversy, however. Private zoo owners said the bill as written is overly restrictive and would add an unnecessary burden, while animal rights supporters touted the bill as a means of preventing animal cruelty.

Bill author state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said his measure is a common sense way of protecting public safety.

“There are certain dangerous species that simply do not belong in homes,” Wanggaard said. “This poses a threat … and is draining already limited resources.”

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Wanggaard is offering an amendment that would allow facilities certified by the USDA, which would include some private zoos and animal parks.

Firefighters lobby for novelty lighter bill

The final bill taken up would ban the sale of novelty lighters to minors and prohibit the display of those lighters in public areas.

The bill comes after years of lobbying by fire chiefs statewide, with advocates for the bill saying that the design of novelty lighters, which come in the form of other objects or animals, encourage children to play with them.

State Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point and state Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, partnered with Pittsville Fire Chief Jerry Minor and several Pittsville school children, who lost a classmate to a fire involving a novelty lighter, to introduce the bipartisan bill.

An executive session has not yet been scheduled to vote on the bills.

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