January 29, 2008
‘Making Justice Work Day’ at the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, and Housing
MADISON – On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, and Housing convened to hear testimony and vote on a total of 12 bills. The bills covered a variety of topics, ranging from jury instructions to municipal court judgments to providing notice for judicial injunctions. The lengthy schedule prompted Committee Chair Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) to label the hearing as ‘Making Justice Work Day’ in the Committee.
“It was definitely the busiest Committee meeting I’ve ever been a part of,” said Taylor. “What was really impressive wasn’t just the number of bills, but the breadth and significance of all the topics they dealt with. Getting it all in during one hearing wasn’t easy, and I applaud all of the Committee members for their diligence.”
Taylor stepped down from the chair to testify on behalf of four bills that she authored—Senate Bills 319, 382, 406, and 407. Senate Bill 319 requires that juries be informed of the legal consequences of a given finding. Senate Bill 382 requires certain sex offenders to register their e-mail accounts and websites with the State Sex Offender Registry. Senate Bill 406 seeks to increase the use of parenting plans. And Senate Bill 407 allows municipal courts to order community service as an initial judgment.
“These bills are the products of months of work in this and other committees,” Taylor said. “Some of them protect our children; some strengthen our families; and some protect our legal process. All of them serve the interests of justice around the state.”
The Committee heard testimony on 10 bills and signed off on two, Senate Bills 350 and Senate Bill 403. Senate Bill 350 is a technical revision to the rules for the Department of Health and Family Services. Senate Bill 403, also known as the LITE-House Act, is a provision to protect property tax exemptions for low-income housing provided by religious and benevolent organizations. Taylor is the Senate author of the LITE-House Act.
“A recent court case has put low-income housing around Wisconsin at risk,” Taylor explained. “The LITE-House Act makes sure that the organizations that provide low-income housing are able to continue doing God’s work without being unduly charged for it. This bill creates a narrow exemption that makes sure we don’t discourage people from helping needy families find housing.”
In addition to Senate Bills 319, 382, 406, and 407, the Committee heard testimony on Senate Bills 124, 364, 384, 418, 419, and 420 during the hearing, which lasted for over two hours. The next meeting of the Committee is tentatively scheduled for sometime in early February.