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  • Rotunda Report
    June 26, 2013

    State Budget Will Have Varying Impact on Attorneys

    June 26, 2013 – Assembly Bill 40 – more commonly referred to as the “budget bill” – passed through both legislative houses last week with only a few technical changes to the governor’s original proposal. Now the bill heads to Gov. Walker, so he can potentially veto provisions, change and omit words and ultimately sign the bill into law.

    The budget passed the Senate early last Friday by a narrow margin of 17-16, with Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) and all Senate democrats voting against the bill.

    Earlier last week, Assembly Republicans put forward a technical amendment that took a day and a half to craft and was considered to be non-substantive. After a little over an hour of debate, the Assembly passed the budget on Wednesday, with Democrats saying the plan was so bad that it wasn’t worth submitting the over 200 amendments they had prepared. The Joint Finance Committee’s proposed budget included items ranging from legalizing bail bondsmen to collecting DNA upon arrest. Three Assembly Republicans voted against the spending plan: Reps. Steve Nass, Howard Marklein and Steve Kestell.

    Several of the provisions outlined in AB 40 – if signed into law by the governor – will directly affect attorneys and their practice.

    Bail Bondsmen: Coming to a City Near You

    As it stands, the plan laid out in the state budget calls for implementation of a bail bondsmen pilot program in five counties over five years, including Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha, with full adoption by the rest of the state automatically at the end of that period. All 47 judges in Milwaukee County and all 10 state chief judges have come out against the provision, saying that it harms victims and the court’s money collection process.

    Under the plan, judges will have the ability to opt out, but the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Criminal Law Section does not think this goes far enough and opposes this proposal in its entirety, stating that the initiative “is not good business for Wisconsin, victims or public safety.” District Attorneys, Public Defenders, Clerks of Court and victims groups also oppose these provisions. Gov. Walker does have the ability to veto this piece of the budget, which is what he did in 2011.

    DNA Collection Slides Past Legislature

    A budget provision will require Wisconsin to join more than two dozen states that allow for the collection of DNA at the time of arrest. The plan allocates $6 million to expand current DNA collection practices to include anyone arrested on a felony charge, and anyone convicted of a crime. Currently, only individuals who are convicted of felonies and certain sex-related misdemeanors are required to submit DNA samples under Wis. Stat. § 973.047.

    The Joint Finance Committee said it would wait several months before rolling out this new program in order to fully comprehend a pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Shortly after the committee passed this provision, the Court ruled in Maryland v. King that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime.

    Katie StenzKatie Stenz is the public affairs coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached at, or by phone at (608) 250-6145.


    Justice System Attorneys to Receive Long-Awaited Pay Progression

    After a few motions during various Joint Finance Committee meetings, the committee chose to add language to the state budget to provide pay progression to attorneys who have dedicated years of their careers to serving the justice system. Now, assistant district attorneys, deputy district attorneys, assistant attorneys general and public defenders can all expect to see a boost in their salary sometime over the next year.

    Private Bar Deficit Gets Attention

    The outstanding structural deficit in the State Public Defender’s (SPD) private bar appropriation will be fixed. The SPD will now be able to pay members of the private bar for work they have completed. Prior to the fix, private attorneys who represented those in need at the request of the SPD were forced to wait for several months for reimbursement.

    Court Still Expected to Lapse Nearly $12 Million

    In his proposed budget, Gov. Walker recommended a $17 million lapse to the court system, which was carried over from the 2011-13 budget. The Wisconsin Supreme Court stated that the lapse represented the largest cut ever to the court system’s budget, and would affect its county financial partners, the services it provides online, and the services it provides to courthouses throughout the state. The Joint Finance Committee voted to reduce the lapse by $5.2 million, leaving the courts with an $11.8 million funding gap.

    Assembly Revises Estate Recovery, Divestment Language

    The State Bar’s Elder and Family Law Sections worked tirelessly to educate legislators on the negative effects of the proposed Medical Assistance budget language. Both lobbying sections are pleased the Assembly chose to include this new item in the technical amendment: “Estate recovery and divestment provision approval.” This addition stipulates that the Department of Health Services may not implement any of the provisions relating to estate recovery or divestment without approval from Joint Finance. 

    The two sections actively opposed elements of the governor’s budget bill on the grounds that the provisions would negatively affect their clients. The Family Law Section and the Elder Law Section took issue with the governor’s proposed changes to Medical Assistance (MA), specifically relating to marital property, trusts, real estate transfers, estate recovery, divestments and spousal impoverishment.

    Gov. Walker is expected to sign the 2013-2014 budget into law by the end of June. Subscribe to the Rotunda Report for coverage from inside the Capitol.


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