March 28, 2014 – For more than 50 years, the Wisconsin Joint Legislative Council has established special study committees for the purpose of examining complex issues with the goal of providing legislative solutions and guidance to the Legislature. These special study committees provide a unique opportunity for legislators and members of the public to work collaboratively and deliberatively in the development of legislative solutions to complex issues.
As attorneys, your knowledge and experience is extremely valuable. Please give serious consideration to volunteering to assist the Legislature with crafting solutions to these complex issues.
The special study committee topics and scopes for 2014 are:
- Adoption disruption and dissolution – The committee shall study the extent of adoption disruption and dissolution in Wisconsin and the efforts in Wisconsin to prevent it. The committee shall consider legislative options such as preventing disruptions and dissolutions and meeting the needs of adoptive children and parents if the occurs. The committee shall also consider options for tracing the number of and reasons for such adoption issues.
- Problem-solving courts, alternatives and diversions – The committee is directed to review the 50 plus courts currently in operation in Wisconsin that utilize nontraditional adjudication methods, the effect they have on recidivism, and the net fiscal impact of these courts. The committee shall examine courts, such as veterans courts, drug and alcohol courts, mental health courts, and drunk driving courts, in Wisconsin and nationally and consider: (a) effectiveness of existing problem-solving courts in Wisconsin in reducing recidivism, the costs to administer these courts, and the savings realized; (b) best practices of existing problem-solving courts, both in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and potential implementation of these practices at the state level; (c) efforts to establish problem-solving courts that serve multiple counties, impediments to these efforts, and potential changes to improve regionalization of such courts; and (d) appropriate role and structure of the state-level training and coordination.
- Review of criminal penalties – The committee is directed to review the penalties for misdemeanor and low-level felony offenses. The committee shall: determine whether current misdemeanor or low-level felony penalties are appropriate; whether any crimes should be classified; and whether any offenses are outdated or should be decriminalized.
- Review of tax incremental financing – The committee is directed to study and review the intent behind tax incremental financing (TIF) laws and how the TIF laws are utilized by cities, villages, towns, and counties. The committee shall also evaluate current TIF laws and recommend legislation that could improve their effectiveness and study how they impact a local governmental unit’s finances and property taxes; economic and community development; and job growth.
- Review of Wisconsin Technical College System funding and governance – The committee is directed to review the current governance model of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) in the interest of transferring governance responsibilities of local district boards to the state WTCS Board and examine the current funding model for the WTCS with a preference toward reassigning current local property tax revenue to a broader state tax source.
- Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program – The committee is directed to study the SAGE program; whether there are alternatives to current class size limitations that would allow schools to achieve the aims of SAGE; and whether the Department of Public Instruction should be authorized to waive the class size limitations in a school that implements alternative interventions, or to otherwise provide funds and assistance for alternatives to class size limitations.
- Transfer of structured settlement payments – The committee is directed to do the following: (a) review the current method by which structured settlement payments are transferred in Wisconsin; (b) examine statutes regulating the practice in other states and under federal law; and (c) recommend a statue for adoption in Wisconsin that governs transfers of structured settlement payments. The committee shall consider items such as standards for disclosure of information to structured settlement recipients by entities seeking to purchase future settlement payments, the ability of parents and guardians to enter into structured settlements on behalf of minor children, and guidelines for use by judges in approving the transfer of structured settlement agreements.
- State-Tribal Relations – The committee is directed to study issues relating to American Indians and the American Indian tribes and bands in this state and develop specific recommendations and legislative proposals relating to these issues.
Sandy Lonergan is the government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached at org slonergan wisbar wisbar slonergan org, or by phone at (608) 250-6045.
The study committees typically meet in Madison at or near the State Capitol. Once the committee chairs and members have had the opportunity to discuss the charge of the study committee, a more detailed meeting schedule will be established. As a general rule, beginning in late spring/early summer, the committees try to meet at least once a month in daylong meetings with the goal of concluding their work by the fall.
As members of the legal community many of you have special expertise in these topic areas, and as such are encouraged to volunteer to serve on one of these study committees. The Legislative Council staff is currently collecting names of citizen volunteers, and decisions regarding membership will be made in the coming weeks.
If you wish to submit your name for consideration for membership on one of these committees, please contact State Bar Government Relations Coordinator Sandy Lonergan at (608) 250-6045 or org slonergan wisbar wisbar slonergan org.