January 11, 2011

Read Senator's letter to Senate leadership

 

Senate Rejects Fiscal Estimates on Crime Bills

Taylor to Work with Republican Leader to Address Costs of Crime Bills

(MADISON) Senator Lena C. Taylor (D-Milwaukee) expressed frustration today at the rejection of a rule change in the Senate to address the costs of crime bills pending in the Legislature.  Taylor authored the rule change which would have repealed the fiscal estimates exemption for any criminal penalty bill.  The rule change, recommended by Taylor’s non-partisan Special Committee on Criminal Justice Funding & Strategies, was rejected in an 18-14, party-line vote with the majority party Republicans voting to reject the change.

“I am disappointed that the Senate has failed to repeal this exemption.  Since 2001, state law has required fiscal estimates for criminal penalty bills; a mandate that the Legislature has continued to ignore,” Taylor commented.  “These fiscal estimates would give the Legislature a valuable tool, both for deliberation and to determine fiscal impact of criminal penalty bills.  Criminal Justice experts agree that any change in criminal penalties can cost or save the state money.  This rule would give that information to legislators before changes in the law are made.”

Taylor has been a leader on criminal justice matters including the funding and costs of the system in Wisconsin, and has sat on the Legislative Council Criminal for Justice Funding and Strategies Committee and has co-chaired the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties.  Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), before moving rejection of the proposed change, addressed the Senate and pledged his desire to continue work with Taylor to tackle this problem and provide solutions to the Legislature. 

“In these tough economic times, we need to invest our dollars wisely in the Justice System.  Legislators need to fully understand the fiscal impact of any bill that costs money to the taxpayers,” Taylor continued.  “I look forward to the work that is laid before Senator Fitzgerald, myself and others important stakeholders, to change the Legislative culture of enacting crime bills without full information about the cost and impact on the state’ s justice system”

Taylor serves on the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties and the powerful Joint Committee on Finance, which must approve spending appropriations to fund the criminal justice system.  A copy of the special committee’s recommendation to make the rule change in attached.