The Wisconsin Assembly is "in a better place" to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said Tuesday.
"Our goal is to make sure that this is a healthy and safe place where people are comfortable working and that if there is an issue that they have a clear path to let somebody know and that there’s accountability with that," Hintz said in an interview. "I don’t think it’s a one-time fix. I also don’t think it’s a reactionary fix."
Hintz and his colleagues in Assembly Democratic leadership called swiftly for Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, to resign earlier this month after two women accused him of kissing them without their consent at political events in 2011 and 2015.
Zepnick has said he will not step down. He said he regrets his behavior, but is being treated unfairly by those moving to punish him.
"Our leadership has taken action," Hintz said Tuesday. "We thought Josh should resign. I acted decisively to remove him from his committees and take away his staff. He's no longer caucusing with us. But we’re not going to go into the details on anything else right now."
Hintz said he is confident from conversations with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and human resources manager Amanda Jorgensen that they will work "continuously" to enhance training in the Assembly and make clear to lawmakers and staff how to report incidents if they occur.
Hintz said he's also spoken with Democratic leaders in other state Legislatures, all of whom are considering the same issues as a growing number of victims come forward with their stories of sexual harassment, assault and other misconduct.
"I think it presents an opportunity, but I think we want to do it deliberately and we want to listen, take concerns into account and make sure we’re establishing policies that best address what is a pretty complicated issue," Hintz said.