Gov. Walker signs sexually violent persons bill into law

By Maria Szatkowski, WSAW

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- On Wednesday, Gov. Scott Walker signed 41 bills into law, including one that places sexually violent people on supervised release back into their home county. But, he also partially vetoed the bill that allowed SVPs to live closer than 1,500 feet away from places like schools, child care facilities, parks and churches.

"We're making sure that the counties are each involved in their own situations, instead of just using that old good cause rule to ship everybody out into rural Wisconsin," said Republican Rep. Scott Krug, of Nekoosa. Rep. Krug co-authored the bill with several legislators, including Republican Sen. Patrick Testin of Stevens Point.

As of Wednesday, once SVPs are released, they will now be placed back into their home counties. Before, they were mainly placed in rural areas in the state, which angered local residents. But one stipulation, a veto by Walker, keeps the 1,500-foot perimeter from any public place.

"I think the veto does make that challenge a little harder to navigate, but I don't think it's going to be impossible to still have in-county placements, which is what the main part of the bill was, to make sure that every county takes care of their own situations instead of shipping out to other counties," said Rep. Krug.

"This is going to create even more of a problem because the law says they're required to be in their home counties, but that they're also imposing those setbacks and the county can't decide where to place them," said Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland, of Stevens Point.

But with the distance requirement, counties will not be able to place SVP's where they would like to. Ideally, close to jails.

"That's why law enforcement have asked for the rules related to exactly where a SVP should be placed should be taken out entirely, so every community can decide for themselves exactly where exactly the right place to put them," said Rep. Shankland.

While they're glad the bill is now law, legislators are concerned about the 1,500 foot perimeter, especially in urban counties where there may not be many places that aren't that distance from a public space.

"That's why the urban counties have been shipping their SVP's to rural counties," said Rep. Shankland.

"It'll make it really difficult to do placements for placements for Milwaukee County offenders back into Milwaukee County, because that 1,500-foot rule is going to be a challenge for big, urban areas like Milwaukee," said Rep. Krug.

But this is not the end, both lawmakers say there's still more work that needs to be done.

"I'll keep working on that law, in hopes that we can fix some of the problems and hopefully, in the future, protect our community members while ensuring stays constitutional," said Rep. Shankland.

"Oh it's never the end of it till we're satisfied," said Rep. Krug.

NewsChannel 7 did reach out to Gov. Walker's spokesperson and asked what advice he received to come to this decision. While they did not directly answer the question, they did say:
"Governor Walker chose to partially veto Assembly Bill 539 in order to improve the process of placing sexually violent persons while maintaining and strengthening current law which prevents any sexually violent person from being placed within 1,500 feet of schools, child care facilities, public parks, churches, or youth centers. Without the veto, the 1,500-foot rule would have been eliminated."