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A second ‘second chance?’

The State Bar spent $219,603.25 on lobbying in 2013. They spent 5,452 hours advocating for their many positions, firmly putting them near the top of the heap in terms of time spent.

What’s more interesting, though, is how their lobbyists actually spent that time.

More than any other bill, lobbying records show the bar put much of its resources behind Assembly Bill 387, a bipartisan measure that would have moved many 17-year-old, first-time offenders out of the adult court system. The bill was passed out of the Assembly’s corrections committee in November, but never got to the floor for a vote.

Records show that the bar put 336 hours into lobbying for the bill between July and December. That was about 18 percent of the total time spent lobbying in that six-month period, and more than any other subject or bill they pushed for during the session. Other pushes – such as a proposal to change the state Constitution to have state Supreme Court justices run for single 16-year terms  – didn’t get nearly as much attention.

Bar President Patrick Fiedler said the effort the bar put behind the bill is “something I’m proud of,” and added that the time he put into it wasn’t counted in those reports.

Now, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Fiedler was happy to speak about the proposed measure – dubbed the “Second Chance Bill” – if you asked him (and I did, several times). He wrote editorials, made television and radio appearances, and testified in front of committees about how important he felt the bill was.

And State Bar staff members also were visible at Assembly and Senate hearings, and they highlighted it in just about every Rotunda Report email that was sent out in the past several months.

And even though the bar’s efforts did not ultimately lead to a new law, I don’t think the bar is going to let it go away.

A March 21 statement attributed to Fiedler said the bar will “urge” Gov. Scott Walker to appropriate money for the project during the next biennial budget. That money would ostensibly go toward offsetting any costs the counties would have to bear if the bill passes, which was a major sticking point in the discussions surrounding the bill.

Fiedler, whose term as president ends June 30, said bar President-elect Bob Gagan is passionate about the issue, as well.

“I personally feel very strongly about what a good piece of legislation it is,” Fiedler said. “If [Gagan] asks me to assist in continuing to promote it, I will do so.”

In other words, legislators should expect a few more calls come January.

Note: The number of hours spent between January and March – when the Legislative session ended – will not be posted until at least July. And lobbying reports did not breakdown how much time the bar spent on it between January and June 2013, since state law does not require disclosure if an organization spends less than 10 percent of its time on a bill or subject.

About Eric Heisig

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