July 22, 2015 – After wrangling over a number of issues during the waning days of June, the Legislature passed, and Gov. Scott Walker signed, the biennial budget on July 12. The short delay was spurred by debate over transportation funding and other issues like prevailing wage reform and funding of the Milwaukee Bucks arena.
Several issues important to the State Bar made it into the final bill. These issues include funding of civil legal needs, pay progression for Assistant District Attorneys and Assistant Public Defenders and renewed support for the Wisconsin court system.
JFC Approves Changes to CCAP, Legislature Removes Them
In the final motion to approve the budget, the Joint Finance Committee included changes to the Consolidated Court Automation Program (CCAP) and to the state’s open records law. The proposed CCAP changes would have required removal from the website if the following occurred: all charges had been dismissed by the court prior to trial, all dismissed charges were offenses for which the maximum period of imprisonment was six year or less, none of the dismissed charges were for violent offenses as defined by s.301.048(2)(bm), an order had been issued by the court having jurisdiction to remove such information and the dismissed charges were filed when the person charged was under the age of 25.
During the floor debate the Legislature chose to remove the changes to CCAP and the open records law. Legislators have long been grappling with the public’s access to CCAP and how to protect individuals with dismissed charges or those that have been acquitted at trial. Currently, the State Bar is working with stakeholders on the issue and taking a closer look at the state’s expungement statute.
Fall Session Preview
With the budget out of the way, legislators will now turn their attention to the fall floor period. Issues that are already being mentioned as legislative priorities include changes to the John Doe legal process and reform of the Government Accountability Board.
The State Bar will focus on a number of issues, including possible fall legislation on the Second Chance initiative, which would return 17-year-old nonviolent, first time offenders to juvenile court for certain low level offenses. The organization will also concentrate on the Criminal Procedure Code rewrite, a long time project of the Judicial Council, which will also be considered in the fall.
Cale Battles is a government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. He can be reached at org cbattles wisbar wisbar cbattles org, or by phone at (608) 250-6077.
The Business Law section has a number of legislative proposals that will be introduced this session. The section has been working on codifying two proposed uniform laws on Limited Liability Companies and the Revised Business Partnership Act. Both of these acts will foster uniformity with other states and modernize current laws to assist in creating and growing existing Wisconsin businesses.
The Elder Law and Children in the Law sections continue to work on guardianship reform. The sections have worked together to remove juvenile guardianship provisions from Chapter 54 and 55 in order to add them to the children’s code in Chapter 48. The Elder Law section is also actively working to improve Chapter 54 and 55.
The first floor date for the fall session is set for Sept. 15.
The Rotunda Report article, "State Budget Provisions Include Pay Progression, Funding for Civil Legal Needs," lists a number of additional attorney-related budget items that were considered by the Joint Finance Committee at the end of May. When he signed the budget bill into law, Gov. Walker upheld all of the committee's final decisions on the budget provisions referenced in the article.