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Lawmakers want to test GPS restraining orders (UPDATE)

Lawmakers plan to use counties as testing grounds before implementing statewide Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to use GPS devices to track people who have been put under a restraining order.

Co-chairman of the state’s Joint Finance Committee, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said Thursday he supports the principle behind the governor’s proposal, which is contained in the state’s 2013-15 budget draft. But, he said, there are still too many unanswered questions to roll out the proposal statewide.

Instead of putting $3 million toward GPS tracking over the next two years, the lawmakers approved Nygren and co-chairman Sen. Alberta Darling’s motion to spend $250,000 on testing the proposal in some counties. Municipalities could apply to land some of the test site money.

Thursday’s motion to change Walker’s proposal also calls for an ongoing study looking at the effectiveness of GPS for correctional purposes to also consider the effectiveness of using it to track people who are subject to a restraining order and have not violated that order.

And it would add $1.5 million over the next two years to the Department of Children and Families’ appropriation for grants to fight domestic abuse.

Nygren noted that the governor’s proposed budget would spend money on two projects meant to fight domestic abuse: a Family Justice Center in Milwaukee, which would receive $9 million from the state, and a Domestic Abuse Intervention Services Facility and Shelter in Madison, which would receive $560,000. Nygren said money is also needed for similar projects in more remote parts of the state.

The committee approved Nygren and Darling’s plan 15-1.

Although voting in favor of the motion, state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, questioned whether the proposed GPS tracking would encroach on privacy.

“I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to have another group of people in our country, in our state, on GPS,” he said.

State Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, said that the governor’s proposal would have changed the law to allow GPS tracking of people under restraining orders. He questioned how a test of the proposal could be run if the law weren’t changed.

A representative of the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau asked that the state Department of Justice come up with administrative rules under which the GPS testing would be run and then present those rules to lawmakers for approval.


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