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Bar approves $4 dues increase (UPDATE)

The Wisconsin Bar Board of Governors has approved a $4 increase in yearly dues for the state’s lawyers.

The board at Friday’s meeting approved its budget for the coming fiscal year, which includes the $4 increase. The change will take effect July 1.

The bar last increased its dues by $30 in 2014, bringing the total to $254 per year. That amount goes up to $490 when mandatory court assessments are included.

But those who opposed the dues increase didn’t let the vote go forward without a fight.

Public member James Wenzler made a motion, seconded by Governor Doug Buck, to eliminate the $4 dues increase by filling the gap with money from the dues stabilization reserve.

Before the vote, Secretary Mary Lynne Donohue voiced her opposition to the motion, saying failing to increase dues would be fiscally irresponsible.

“When you don’t invest in what you are responsible for, things tend to go to hell,” she said.

Buck countered that in the four years he has been on the board, dues increased by a total of $34, which he said is significant.

“There had never been a discussion over that time of what programs could be eliminated in order to balance the budget,” he said. “With all due respect, I don’t feel like we need (the strategic planning committee) to tell us what could or could not be cut.”

The motion failed on 30-12 roll call vote.

A motion that did pass Friday was an amendment to the budget that keeps the reimbursement rate for volunteers at 100 percent of the IRS rate by transferring $25,182 from the dues stabilization reserve. Governor Nick Zales made the motion, which was seconded by Governor Andrew Chevrez.

“I just cannot say how important it is to treat our volunteers well,” said Zales.

The motion was approved by simple majority of the board.

About Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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