Look at some of the most controversial non-fiscal proposals discussed by the Wisconsin Legislature this session, and there is one name consistently attached to them: Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum.
The freshman lawmaker made waves with a proposal in April to require food stamp recipients to use photo IDs for their purchases, and in May, he launched the push for a 20-week abortion ban later signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker.
His latest proposal would require school boards to designate school restrooms and locker rooms for use by one gender exclusively. In other words, transgender students would be required to use facilities designated for their biological gender, not the gender with which they identify.
Kremer has known each of these proposals would be contentious, but he doesn't think any of them should be. To him, they're common sense.
"I'm not here to maintain a job, I'm just here to get things done," Kremer said. "I have no problem taking on big ideas. I like jumping into things. I love to learn new things in new jobs, and I've always jumped in feet first."
Kremer and Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, sent a memo to legislators Tuesday afternoon seeking cosponsors for the bill.
Kremer said he thinks the bill will provide privacy, dignity and safety for all students, regardless of their gender identity. He added that he thinks it could even prevent discrimination and bullying aimed at transgender students.
"To put it plainly, no student of any gender should be made to feel uncomfortable or threatened in the most private places in our schools," Kremer and Nass wrote in their memo. "This bill reinforces the societal norm in our schools that students born biologically male must not be allowed to enter facilities designated for biological females and vice versa."
Kremer, who has three daughters, said he teaches them that if a man walks into the restroom while they're in there, they should get out immediately. It's not easy to tell at first whether the person entering a bathroom is a transgender student or not, he said.
"You don’t know if they're up to no good or not," he said. "This opens up a real good window for sexual predators if they want to take advantage of it."
The bill would require a school board to provide "reasonable accommodations" for a student to use a single-occupancy changing room or restroom if the student's parent or guardian submits a written request to the school board indicating the student identifies with another gender. For example, a transgender student could be allowed to use a faculty restroom.
School boards would also be allowed to temporarily designate a student restroom or changing room for special events.
Under the bill, students and parents would be able to file a written complaint if they feel a school district is violating the bill's requirements. The school board would be given 30 days to investigate and make an effort to resolve the complaint.
The state Department of Justice would be required to defend a school board in a lawsuit filed by anyone who believes the policy is discriminatory.
The proper approach for students who feel they need different restroom accommodations, Kremer said, is to do so quietly and privately.
But not everyone feels that way, and the backlash against his bill began just hours after his memo was released.
"They think it's mean-spirited," he said. "I don't think that — if someone comes to the school district and has a problem like this, it doesn't have to be a big public announcement to the world. If they really are concerned about this and they do identify as someone else, I don't see why they'd like to make a big stink about it. If you're making a big deal about it ... you obviously are inviting harassment and bullying already. Why would you not want to avoid that and go quietly to the district and make other arrangements?"
The impetus for the bill, Kremer said, was a situation within his district, in the Kewaskum School District, in which a student who was born female but identified as male had been using men's restrooms.
He's been working on the proposal for a few months, he said, and has spoken with the DOJ, several school districts and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, and studied examples in other states. The DOJ is prepared to defend the law, he said, but WASB was hesitant to support the proposal.
Kremer said he hasn't spoken with anyone who identifies as transgender or any members of the LGBT community about the bill, but he said he did speak with someone whose sister was born with a chromosomal defect.
Megin McDonell, interim executive director of Fair Wisconsin — a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights advocacy organization — said the proposal is an unnecessary solution in search of a problem.
"It singles out, isolates and stigmatizes transgender students, who often already face harassment and exclusion at school. It also undermines the advances many school districts across Wisconsin, and the nation, have made allowing students to use facilities and participate in sports and activities consistent with their gender identity," McDonell said, adding that the organization's "number one priority" is to defeat the bill.
In Kremer's eyes, the biggest hurdle is moving it through the Senate. He said Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, who leads the Assembly Committee on Education, has told him he would be willing to give it a hearing.
Kremer said he brought up the bill with GOP leadership and with the governor's office several months ago, when Walker was still a presidential candidate. He asked them to let him know if they had any concerns or if he should hold off on introducing it. He didn't hear any concerns, he said.
"Republicans like Jesse Kremer and Steve Nass have already inserted themselves into women's gynecological examination rooms and now they want in our teenagers' bathrooms. It's disgraceful, it's deceitful and it's beyond big government — it's the definition of 'Big Brother,'" said Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now.
Spokeswomen for the governor's office and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said she hadn't a chance to discuss the measure with him yet, but that she didn't believe he'd seen it yet.
Kremer knows there will be backlash, but he cited a 2014 CBS News poll that found 59 percent of people polled believed students should use facilities assigned to their birth gender.
Young people are much more likely to support transgender people using a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. A Huffington Post/YouGov poll conducted in February showed that 54 percent of people ages 18-29 supported it, while 31 percent of those polled over age 65 said the same.
News media have reported on the suicides of two transgender Wisconsin high school students in the past six months, including one from West High School in Madison.
Because of that, Brian Juchems, senior director of education and policy at the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools, said the timing of this legislation is particularly insensitive.
Working with schools around the state, Juchems said the number one issue that comes up is how to support and include transgender students.
"Wisconsin educators are looking for guidance on how to support and include transgender students," Juchems said. "This bill is not that guidance. It singles out and stigmatizes a group of students."
Juchems said the schools ought to look for guidance on these issues from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, which has drafted policies regarding transgender students with the Shorewood and Menasha school districts.
If passed, the legislation could face a legal challenge.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights said the federal Title IX law covers discrimination based on sexual identity. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. DOJ have said discrimination against transgender people — including imposing bathroom restrictions — is a form of sex discrimination covered under the Civil Rights Act.
In June, the U.S. Department of Justice argued a transgender student from Virginia should be allowed to use the restroom designated for the gender with which he identified. In its decision, the DOJ said singling out the student would result in "isolation and exclusion."
And in July, the U.S. DOJ entered a settlement agreement with a California school district, which resulted in a decision to treat a transgender student who identifies as male just like any other male student attending the school.
Several other states have considered similar laws, including Nevada, Minnesota and Kentucky. Cases in Maine and Colorado have upheld transgender students' rights to use the bathrooms assigned to the gender with which they identify.
The debate isn't exclusive to schools — several states are considering similar laws for all public restrooms.