Requests Leadership to Require Fiscal Estimates on Criminal Bills Before Hearings

(MADISON) - Senator Lena C. Taylor (D-Milwaukee), outgoing co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance, today called on the 2013 session leadership to repeal the exemption for fiscal estimates on criminal penalty bills presented to the Legislature.  Taylor wrote to the incoming Assembly and Senate leadership team to include the change that was originally authorized by law in 2001.  In that year’s budget, former Governor Scott McCallum and the Legislature agreed that all criminal penalty bills need fiscal estimates.  However since then the Legislature has refused to amend the joint rules to require the fiscal estimates.

“Every session the Legislature considers bills to change criminal penalties without full fiscal estimates at the public hearing.  Legislators need this information to make a better decision, and the citizens of Wisconsin deserve to know the costs of bills that they are testifying on at hearings.  12 years after we changed the law to say these estimates should be provided, the Legislature has not acted to change its own rules.  It’s time to get all the information on criminal changes before we take the votes in Madison.”  Senator Taylor commented on her request.

Taylor’s letter to the incoming leadership, including Assembly Speaker-Elect Rep. Robin Vos (R-Burlington) and Senate President-Elect Sen. Michael Ellis (R-Neenah) cited upcoming OWI legislation as one example of criminal penalty changes that could escape the fiscal estimate requirement.  Taylor wrote: “In this coming session, there has been already indication that major changes to criminal penalties will be considered.  Legislators from both houses have indicated changes to OWI criminal penalties will be proposed which could easily cost this state hundreds of millions dollars.  It behooves us to provide for full fiscal estimates for these bills before the public hearings in standing committees so that we and the public may know the cost implications of our ideas.” 

The rule change would be accomplished early in the session as the Senate and Assembly vote on proposed rules as drafted by the legislative leadership.  Taylor is hopeful that leadership will include the repeal but is prepared to offer an amendment to the rules for consideration by each member if not included in the leadership package.