Wisconsin budget committee approves changes to release of sexually violent offenders
By Jessie Opoien, The Capital Times
Violent sex offenders being released back into the community could no longer be sent to another county under a provision added to the state budget by the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday.
Counties would have more flexibility to determine where an offender would be placed under the motion, authored by Reps. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, and Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point. The motion is based on legislation drafted by Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point.
The other Democrats on the Republican-led committee objected to the proposal's inclusion in the budget, arguing it was a policy change that should go through the legislative hearing process. Shankland joined Republicans in voting 13-3 to approve the measure.
The provision would eliminate current law that mandates placement be more than 1,500 feet from those locations.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said the proposal put some members of the committee in a "really bad spot," having to vote on it without constituent feedback.
Committee co-chairman Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said he has heard from constituents in his district looking for more local input into where offenders are placed. Nygren said he asked Born to work on the proposal after legislators including Born and Shankland had introduced earlier bills addressing the issue.
The measure isn't perfect, Nygren said, but it takes a step to address a challenging issue.
"This motion is bringing the voice closer to the people that are affected," he said.
The measure comes after years of debate over best practices for placing sex offenders back in the community. Current law says a sexually violent offender must be placed in his or her county of residence unless the court has "good cause" to select another county.