April 10, 2023 – On April 5th, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) held their first of four scheduled public hearings at the Waukesha County Expo Center. JFC members heard from hundreds of citizens on issues ranging from school funding, shared revenue, mental health funding, District Attorney and State Public Defender shortages, and more. The public hearing process is the start of a three-month budget review process that the legislature undertakes.
The Republican lead majorities in the Senate and Assembly have already indicated that they will scrap Governor Tony Evers’ proposal and build their own budget, making these public hearings more meaningful as they give citizens a forum to express their desires on funding topics.
Three Remaining Public Hearings to be Held
Three additional hearings are scheduled and will all run from 10am to 5pm. The locations and details are:
Tuesday, April 11 – Eau Claire
UW-Eau Claire, Davies Student Center
Ojibwe Grand Ballroom (Third Floor)
77 Roosevelt Ave., Eau Claire
Wednesday, April 12 – Wisconsin Dells
Glacier Canyon Conference Center
Sandstone Meeting Room
45 Hillman Road, Wisconsin Dells
Wednesday, April 26 – Minocqua
Lakeland Union High School
9573 State Highway 70, Minocqua
As with the last few budget cycles, the committee also has a dedicated email address and website where citizens can submit written comments:
Tips and Suggestions for State Bar Members on How Best to Engage in Advocating on Budget Proposals
The budget’s public hearing process is an opportunity for the public and members of the State Bar to express their support or concerns on specific items contained in the Governor’s budget proposal. Because the budget is such a large and wide-ranging policy document, keep in mind as you prepare any comments, whether written or oral, that it is important to keep messages short and to the point.
Cale Battles, is a government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. He can be reached by
email, or by phone at (608) 250-6077.
While testifying in person or submitting comments to the Joint Finance Committee is an excellent avenue to share what matters to you, the best way to have your voice heard is by engaging your elected legislator. You can do this through a personal phone call, an in-person meeting, sending an email, or writing a letter. This spring several legislators have already held or will be holding local listening sessions. These listening sessions are often published in the local newspapers, on social media, or locally at various locations.
For State Bar members, the State Bar’s
Advocacy Center makes contacting your legislators as easy as possible. With just a bit of information and only a few minutes, members can submit comments on one the State Bar’s current advocacy campaigns on Supporting Investments in the Justice System, Civil Legal Needs Funding or Expungement Reform. Members can also compose their own message of support on any issue currently in the legislature or any other concern they may have.
Additionally, the State Bar’s Advocacy team has created a
Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit to assist members on best practices for navigating through the legislative process. If members are looking for more issue-based information on justice issues or funding, there are
policy position fact sheets that summarize issue areas. Many legislators are often unfamiliar with particular topic areas as they cover hundreds of issues through the legislative session. With only 10 of the 132 legislators having a background as attorneys, it is becoming more and more important for State Bar members to provide legislators with their personal and professional experiences with your practice or in our courts.
A few other tips when contacting legislators:
Get to Know Your Legislator – Developing a good relationship with your elected official will help when contacting them when you support or oppose a legislative issue.
Effective Communication – Personal stories and individual experience is always the most effective way to get your message seen and read. Making a brief phone call, requesting a quick personal meeting or writing a personal letter/email are always best practices. Our State Bar Advocacy staff is always available to walk you through this process, facilitate or attend meetings, and serve as a resource to members.
Stay Informed of Developments – Subscribe to the State Bar’s
Rotunda Report and
Inside Track, join the State Bar’s Advocacy Center, follow
@SBWRotundaRpt on Twitter and always feel free to contact State Bar Public Affairs staff with any questions.
If members have questions on specific budget items or on how they can best contact their elected officials, please contact one of the State Bar’s Government Relations Coordinators, Lynne Davis at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or Cale Battles at
email@example.com, or the State Bar’s Grassroots Coordinator Devin Martin at
What Happens Next in the Budget Process?
Once the public hearings are complete, voting on individual provisions of the budget will begin in early May, with a possible final committee vote in early June. The Legislature will then debate and vote on the proposal in late June or possibly into July.
What You Can Do: State Bar of Wisconsin Advocacy Network
State Bar members are encouraged to send a message to their lawmakers expressing support on legislative topics which positively affect the legal system using the
Advocacy Network. Pre-written email messages are editable to suit your own thoughts and opinions, and will help to demonstrate the breadth of support for policies that prioritize access to justice. You can also "Choose Your Own" to craft messages to any of your elected officials, from President of the United States down to your local municipal officials.
Don't forget to
subscribe to the Rotunda Report and follow us
on Twitter to stay informed and get involved in the legislative process.