February 6, 2013
Milwaukee Courier

Legislatively Speaking: Beg Your Pardon: Independent Pardon Council

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

This week I introduced the Independent Pardon Council Act in the Senate.  After Gov. Walker’s rather public rejection of all pardons last year, I began to research the issue of pardons and what the Legislature can do to in this case.  The Constitution of Wisconsin grants exclusive power to pardon to the Governor.  It grants the Legislature the power to make laws regarding the application process. 

As a Senator, I am reluctant to make changes to the Constitution.  I have worked against amendments regarding marriage laws, voter ID, funding decisions, and executive power.  In this case, I found that amending the constitution to take the power to pardon away from the Governor to be unnecessary.  Rather the Legislature can do more to ensure that citizens’ application are reviewed and forwarded to the Governor.

That’s what the Independent Pardon Council Act will do.  The bill will establish a council of nine reserve judges who receive applications for pardon, review applications, and provide a recommendation to the Governor for approving or denying a pardon.  This new bill will ensure that every person who applies for a pardon in Wisconsin receives a recommendation for or against pardon when their application is submitted to the Governor for a final decision.

It’s incredibly important that these applications are reviewed.  Whether or not one agrees about the overall policy of pardoning, requesting a pardon is an act of petition to one’s government.  The citizens of Wisconsin, who apply, in my opinion, have a right to know their applications are reviewed and a recommendation is presented to the Governor. 

I believe that Governor Walker’s decision to completely ignore the pardon applications of Wisconsin citizens is just plain wrong.  There are cases where a pardon is appropriate and justified.  This new bill will give the Governor an informed recommendation about the pardon application.  If the Governor decides to or not to pardon a person will make the Governor accountable to the people of the state. 

In addition, adding a panel of judges’ voices to the pardon process actually creates better comfort and opinion for the Governor to act on.  When the Governor pardons someone, it can be because judges have made a solid recommendation.  It also always people that have applied to know something about why a panel of judges does not believe they should be pardoned.  That’s good information for someone seeking pardon.

Hopefully, the Independent Pardon Council will gain bipartisan support in the Legislature.  Please consider calling or email your Representative or Senator ask that they support the bill.  Only by working together can we make this new hope a reality.