May 9, 2019 – In their first meeting, the Joint Finance Committee began their budgetary work by advancing a motion to remove more than 130 fiscal and non-fiscal provisions from Governor Evers’ proposed 2019-2020 budget. It passed 11-4 along party lines. The removed provisions span a range of issues, including Medicaid, marijuana, right to work laws, and state minimum wage. Also included in the motion was a provision dealing with juvenile court jurisdiction, which was supported by the State Bar.
Since 1996, Wisconsin has treated 17-year-olds as adults when accused of or convicted of a crime. Wisconsin is among only four states (the others are Michigan, Georgia, and Texas) that retain similar laws or are not in the process of increasing the age to 18. The State Bar of Wisconsin supports returning original jurisdiction of 17-year-old juveniles to the juvenile justice system. The adult criminal justice system is neither adequately equipped nor designed to handle juveniles, while the juvenile system has specific programming designed to address issues which are unique to youth.
Within the Evers budget (Assembly Bill 56, Senate Bill 59) was a proposal that would have returned 17-year-olds to the juvenile justice system if the alleged violation is a nonviolent offense and the person has not been previously convicted of a crime or adjudicated delinquent. A similar proposal was introduced in the 2017-2018 session as Assembly Bill 660/Senate Bill 550, but the bill did not pass the legislature despite the fact that it had no registered opposition.
The removal of this provision does not mean that the long-running effort to return 17-year-olds to the juvenile justice system is dead. It is still possible for lawmakers to introduce a separate bill that would accomplish the same things.
Other Legislative Updates:
Expungement reform (AB 33) will be voted on by the Assembly on May 15th. Send a message to your lawmakers encouraging them to vote for it today.
A proposal in the budget to increase the private bar rate from $40 to $70, with a provision for indexing it to inflation thereafter was retained. The GOP criminal justice package, which had a parallel proposal to increase the private bar rate, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
There is still plenty of work to be done to craft a budget that can satisfy the Republican majority and Governor Evers. The Joint Finance Committee will hold additional executive session on the budget over the next month.