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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    September 01, 2002

    Legislative Watch

    Several provisions of the budget reform legislation have an impact on the courts and public.

    Jenny Boese

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 75, No. 9, September 2002

    Budget Reform Legislation Enacted

    Several provisions of the budget reform legislation have an impact on the courts and public.

    by Jenny Boese

    On July 26, Gov. McCallum signed into law legislation to fix Wisconsin's $1.1 billion fiscal shortfall. His signature on the budget reform legislation (2001 WI Act 109) brought closure to an arduous six-month process on the bill. The final act included hundreds of provisions, many of interest to lawyers and the State Bar of Wisconsin. The State Bar thanks the many members of the legislature and the governor for their efforts on provisions intended to improve the effective and efficient administration of justice.

    State Public Defender Funding

    A unanimous, bipartisan compromise early in the legislative process of Act 109 resulted in an increase of approximately $9.7 million in funding for the Office of the State Public Defender. The $9.7 million will shore up the private bar line of the SPD's budget. This legislative agenda item has been a priority for the State Bar of Wisconsin and its Criminal Law Section.

    Medical Records Photocopy Fees

    Act 109 included language supported by the State Bar of Wisconsin and its Litigation Section to require the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) to promulgate a new rule on the fees that can be charged for obtaining photocopies of medical records, regardless of whether an action has been commenced.

    In essence, the enacted language requires the DHFS to create a new rule for fees based on an "approximation of actual costs," sets the ground rules for what the DHFS may consider in determining fees, and creates an advisory committee "composed of members who represent a balance of persons who maintain patient health care records and persons who request patient health care records." The advisory committee will assist the DHFS in determining the level at which fees will be set under the new rule.

    Court Filing Fee Increases

    Act 109 increases filing fees under Wis. Stat. chapter 814 for a variety of filings, as shown in Figure 1. The fees are projected to raise $8 million in revenue that will be deposited in the state's general fund but not earmarked for the court system.

    The State Bar of Wisconsin opposes filing fee increases, especially when those fees do not go to fund the court system itself, because higher fees place the courts out of the reach of the individuals of Wisconsin.

    Truth in Sentencing

    Act 109 includes provisions that substantially track the original recommendations of the Criminal Penalties Study Committee, chaired by Judge Thomas Barland, to implement the Truth in Sentencing law (TIS).

    Gov. McCallum exercised his veto pen on several provisions, including funding for support staff for the Sentencing Commission; standards of review on appeal (allowing the appellate court to reverse a sentencing decision under certain circumstances); and a sentence calculation provision that would have required offenders to serve extended supervision prior to parole when multiple sentences are imposed to run consecutively.

    The language as enacted allows for limited sentence modification after 75-85 percent of incarceration time with ability of the district attorney and victims of certain crimes to object, which then results in the denial of the petition. The Criminal Law Section supported the version of the TIS language that was forwarded to the governor.

    Additional issues in which the State Bar and its sections were involved are shown in Figure 2.

    Act 109 can be accessed online at

    Jenny Boese , State Bar of Wisconsin senior government relations coordinator, can be reached at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6045, or by email at

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