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Second Chance bill running out of chances

By: Eric Heisig//March 10, 2014//

Second Chance bill running out of chances

By: Eric Heisig//March 10, 2014//

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A bill that would move many 17-year-old, first-time offenders out of the adult court system may not pass before the legislative session ends next month.

An email attributed to a Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, stated that she didn’t think AB 387 would get to the floor before the session ends in early April. The measure, which is dubbed the “Second Chance Bill,” would move 17-year-olds who do not commit a violent crime out of the adult court system, and would make a conviction less likely to affect future chances at employment, school and loans.

In November, the bill passed out of the Assembly’s corrections committee, which is chaired by its sponsor, Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay. But it has since languished in the Assembly’s rules committee, which is responsible for scheduling when bill gets to the floor.

Bies said Monday that he was disappointed to hear that Vos’ office didn’t think the bill would pass. He said he has continued to work on the bill – which has bipartisan support – and mentioned it on a radio show Monday morning.

“We’ve jumped through every hoop possible,” Bies said. “I’ll still try to change [Vos’ mind]. I don’t know what I need to do, but I’ll try to figure out some angle for it.”

State Bar President Pat Fiedler, who has been an active proponent of the bill, said he is meeting with Vos’ office Wednesday, however, to discuss bringing the bill to the full Assembly for a vote.

The bar spent 336 hours lobbying for the bill’s passage in 2013, more than any other bill or issue in the current session. And Fiedler has given multiple interviews on what he sees as the importance of the bill, and has testified in front of the Assembly’s corrections committee.

“I always remain optimistic on anything,” Fiedler said. “I hope this bill has a fair chance to at least get voted on.”

In addition, the bill has received heavy support from the State Public Defender’s office, judges and former governors.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is against the bill. He said the current system works well. And the Wisconsin Counties Association opposed the bill because the counties may have to incur the extra cost of housing and trying juveniles.

The Senate version of the bill passed out of the Committee on Transportation, Public Safety, and Veterans and Military Affairs in January. It was referred to the Senate’s finance committee last month and has not moved since.

The Senate’s version also includes an amendment that allocates $2.5 million to offset some costs that counties will have to incur by putting 17-year-olds back in the juvenile justice system. The bill is expected to cost counties up to a total of $10 million more a year.

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