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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 78, No. 3, March 2005

    Legal News & Trends

    Governor presents no tax increase budget

    Emphasizing the themes of improving education, preserving health care, creating jobs, and pro-tecting taxpayer dollars, Gov. Doyle presented his ideas for addressing the $1.6 billion deficit in the 2005 - 07 state budget in his address to the GOP-controlled legislature on Feb. 8.

    To avoid raising taxes, Doyle proposed transferring $250 million from the Transportation Fund and $180 million from the Patients Com-pensation Fund while counting on an anticipated $1.1 billion in additional revenue due to a growing economy.

    The governor vowed to hold the line on property taxes by investing $380 million to fully fund shared revenue and $850 million to restore the state's commitment to two-thirds funding of school costs. As a counter to the GOP-backed three-year property tax freeze, Doyle recommends a two-year property tax freeze that would limit the amount a community can raise taxes due to inflation and a percentage of new growth.

    Here are some other budget highlights affecting the profession:

    State Attorneys. Consolidate attorneys from 17 different state agencies to a single office in the Department of Administration and eliminate some redundant positions.

    Tax-delinquent Attorneys. Add law license to the list of professional credentials that may be denied or revoked for tax delinquency.

    Consumer Protection. Consolidate the consumer protection regulation function in the Department of Justice, which will locate the decision to prosecute consumer protection cases in one agency.

    Court Interpreter Costs. Provide $303,000 in FY06 and $536,900 in FY07 to counties for reimbursement of court interpreter costs in criminal, juvenile, mental health, and civil cases, regardless of indigence. Recommend requiring the court to provide, in all criminal and civil proceedings, an interpreter for a party or witness who has limited English proficiency, regardless of indigence.

    Seniors/Health Care:

    • Preserve eligibility and benefits for Medicaid, BadgerCare, and SeniorCare.
    • Implement the BadgerRx prescription drug program for persons who lack drug coverage.
    • Increase funding for the Community Integration Program so more low-income seniors can stay in their homes rather than reside in nursing homes with the goal of reducing the nursing home population by 25 percent over the next eight years.
    • Provide additional funding to expand the use of elderly benefit specialists at the county level to assist persons age 60 and over in obtaining benefits for which they are eligible.

    Corrections/Justice:

    • Cut probation time for nonviolent misdemeanors by half, so that probation officers can spend more time with serious offenders.
    • Create new alcohol and drug abuse treatment facilities at Taycheedah and Racine Correctional institutions.
    • Expand the capacity for the Earned Release Program by 200 beds.
    • Direct the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission to report back to the Legislature by the end of 2005 on proposed alternative dispositions for nonviolent offenders who are drug or alcohol dependent.
    • Provide significant funding for expanding local housing and treatment options to offenders at risk of being revoked to prison for technical rule violations.
    • Provide an additional $1.7 million annually for AODA treatment for offenders on probation, parole, or extended supervision.
    • Increase the crime lab and drug enforcement surcharge from $7 to $8 to provide for additional DNA analyst positions to address the backlog at the state crime labs and enhance the use of DNA evidence.
    • Create a child abuse prevention and child mental health surcharge on felony and misdemeanor convictions to support child sexual abuse prevention strategies such as (a) identification and intervention with potential child sexual abuse perpetrators and (b) promoting adult responsibility for protecting children from child sexual abuse.

    Governor proposes state funding for civil legal services to indigent persons

    In the proposed 2005 - 07 biennial state budget bill (2005 Assembly Bill 100), Gov. Doyle appropriates $500,000 to the Office of Justice Assistance in the state Department of Administration in Fiscal 2007 and directs that office to pay that amount to the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF) to be awarded as grants to programs that provide civil legal services to indigent persons. (You can find this 1,000-plus page document at www.legis.state.wi.us/2005/data/AB-100.pdf.)

    Keep up-to-date on legislation

    LLANTo receive weekly updates on legislative issues, such as the state budget summary in this issue, join the Lawyers Legislative Action Network (LLAN), the State Bar's free legislative grassroots program. LLAN is a network of State Bar members who desire to be informed and active in the legislative process as it affects the practice of law, the courts, and our system of justice. For more information or to join LLAN, contact jwestphal@wisbar.org.

    The grants may be used only for civil legal services in the following areas:

    1. serving as guardian ad litem for cases with the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare of the Department of Health and Family Services;
    2. coordinating insurance benefits for medical assistance recipients;
    3. assisting Wisconsin Works participants in applying for Supplemental Security Income program benefits;
    4. obtaining and enforcing child support, including legal services related to domestic abuse;
    5. developing discharge plans for mentally ill inmates and assisting those inmates in their community integration planning; and
    6. providing ancillary services to juvenile offenders.

    WisTAF was created by the supreme court to allocate the money received from interest on lawyers' trust accounts to programs that provide civil legal services to the poor. (Note: On Jan. 12, the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted a WisTAF petition imposing a $50 annual assessment on all active-licensed Wisconsin lawyers. The assessment will appear on dues statement for Fiscal 2006.)

    U.W. Law School student and graduate earn prestigious fellowships

    For the first time in more than a decade, two national Skadden Fellows were chosen from the U.W. Law School in the same year. These highly sought-after annual awards fund the public interest work of law students who show exceptional promise. Fellowships were granted to U.W. Law School student Samantha Webb Kading and 2004 graduate Jessica Shoemaker.

    "This is a testament to our excellent students and the faculty who teach and inspire them," says Kenneth B. Davis Jr., dean of the Law School. "I know that the work Samantha and Jessica will do with their Skadden Fellowships will be a true credit to the U.W. Law School and an invaluable benefit to the people they assist." Kading is sponsored by U.W. - Madison's Land Tenure Resource Center and will work with Wisconsin's 11 Native American tribes on the issue of fractionation, occurring when land is divided among heirs of succeeding generations until each owner holds only a tiny interest. She will educate landowners in the affected communities on the benefits of consolidation through estate planning. Shoemaker will work with the Farmers' Legal Action Group Inc., a nonprofit law center in St. Paul, Minn., to provide counsel to low-income family farmers. She will work to ensure that farmers have access to legal services in times of distress so that they are able to keep their land. Because the focus of the Skadden Fellowship is service, applicants must submit proposals for a public-interest project and gain sponsor-ship by an organization. The Skadden Fellowship Foundation, called "a legal Peace Corps" by the Los Angeles Times, pays selected fellows a salary of $37,500 to work with their sponsoring organizations to provide legal services to disadvantaged groups nationwide.

    Fellowships are granted for one year, with the expectation of renewal for a second year. For more information about the foundation, visit www.skadden.com.




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