January 17, 2008

 

Judiciary Committee Signs Off on Four Bills

MADISON – On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, and Housing recommended passage of Senate Bills 292, 103, and 321, and Assembly Bills 8 and 224. 

Senate Bill 292 criminalizes human trafficking and trafficking of a child, providing substantial punishments for both.  Presently, neither act is directly punishable by state law.  Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), the Chair of the Committee, noted that, “This legislation is long, long overdue.  It’s been talked since before I started in the Legislature and I’m just glad we’re finally doing something about it.”

Senate Bill 103 closes a legal loophole barring prosecution of first degree child sexual assault.  Under current law, first degree child sexual assault is recognized as a crime, but the state cannot prosecute perpetrators.  Said Taylor, “I’m surprised we even had to address this issue.  It’s just inexplicable that the state didn’t identify it sooner.”

Senate Bill 321 expands the group of people who may retain the services of a public defender.  Currently, many individuals making less than $50 per week fail to meet the indigency requirements for obtaining a public defender.  By adjusting the definition of ‘indigent’ for court purposes, Senate Bill 321 allows a greater number of economically disadvantaged people access to affordable legal representation. “There are so many great things about this bill,” said Taylor. “It opens up the justice system to more people and it saves our taxpayers money by reducing the cost of state-funded representation for indigent defendants.  It’s truly a win-win and I’m proud to be a cosponsor of it.” 

Assembly Bill 8 prohibits taking pictures in public locker rooms.  A growing number of internet websites feature photographs taken in places where the photographed individuals have reasonable expectations of privacy.  To protect that right, Assembly Bill 8 precludes use of a camera, camera phone, or recording device in certain settings. 

Assembly Bill 224 increases whistleblower protections for members of the healthcare industry.  The bill allows healthcare professionals to report negligent medical practices without fear of retribution. “Doctors already have this protection, but the healthcare industry is so much more than just doctors,” Taylor said. “We need to make sure that everyone in the system is made responsible for the welfare of patients.”

Senate Bills 292 and 103 and Assembly Bill 224 all received unanimous approval, going through on 5-0 votes.  Assembly Bill 8 was approved on a 4-1 vote, and Senate Bill 321 was approved on a 3-2 vote.  The next meeting of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, and Housing will be on January 29th.