January 27, 2016

Bills on the move
By Sen. Lena Taylor

You know me. I’m gonna work it right till the very last day of this Legislative Session.

With just six weeks left in our legislative calendar, bills are flying faster than lightning.

This week alone, two of my bills received a public hearing and a third passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

With all my legislation, I work to make laws that will make people’s lives better. After all, I am here to serve. Two areas I believe we can change for the better are reforming our education system and our corrections system. Here are three bills that are on the move that you should keep an eye out for in the next six weeks.

  • Victim Notification of Revocation – This bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday is headed to the full Senate. The bill requires the state to notify victims of a crime if their violator’s probation or parole has been revoked. In 2012, there were 15,969 violent crimes reported in Wisconsin, including murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery. There were another 139,102 property crimes reported in 2012 in Wisconsin, including theft, burglary and arson.

Current law allows crime victims to be notified when their offender is released on parole or probation, but does not permit them to be notified if that person’s probation or parole is revoked.

The trauma every victim goes through is different. But far too many experience emotional trauma when their victimizer is released from prison. This bill is one of two victim rights bills I’ve introduced. The second bill will give victims information about the programming their victimizer is undergoing while in prison. I believe these two bills together will help victims emotionally recover.

  • DNA Expungement – It’s no secret that Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate of black men in the entire country. Wisconsin’s 13% incarceration rate of black men is nearly double the national average. In Milwaukee County, nearly 1 in 8 black men of working age have spent time behind bars. About half of black men in their 30’s and early 40’s in Milwaukee County have spent time behind bars and two-thirds of them come from the six poorest zip codes in Milwaukee.

But it goes well beyond the incarceration rate. It starts with police contact. Back in 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reviewed nearly 46,000 traffic stops and found that a black driver was seven times more likely to be stopped than a white driver. It’s easy to see how more police contact leads to more arrests which leads to more incarcerations.                                       

In Wisconsin, when you are booked and your DNA is forcibly taken from you, that DNA can legally stay on file with the police department, even if charges are dismissed or you are found not guilty. I introduced this bill because I believe if you are innocent, our government has no business keeping your DNA on file. If they aren’t going to make all Wisconsinites put their DNA on file, then to keep only people who were wrongfully detained in the first place is unfair. And to do so knowing the racial disparities in our system is just racist.

My bill has a bipartisan list of cosponsors and I hope that it will soon get a vote in committee and make its way to the Assembly floor.

  • College Application Week – I never thought college was in my reach. Had it not been for my mother, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a mother pushing them to apply for college. In fact, with rising costs of tuition, many students face sticker shock and just never apply. In 2014, only 68.4% of high school graduates went to college. That’s the lowest figure in a decade. We need to reverse this trend. It is expected that application fees in the UW System will reach $50 next year. That’s $200 to apply to four different schools.

My bill creates a one week period where every Wisconsin high school student may apply to any UW System or Wisconsin technical college free. For many, a college degree is the hope they need to make a brighter future for themselves. I believe high school students should have the choices in deciding which Wisconsin public institution of higher learning they want to attend.    

It is my hope these bills will improve the lives of all Wisconsinites, particularly people living in the Milwaukee area. To join me in supporting these bills, please sign up for my email list by emailing me at Sen.Taylor@legis.wi.gov, follow me on Facebook @SenLenaTaylor and follow me on Twitter @SenTaylor.