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Debate over Walker’s budget to begin with judicial issues (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The first votes to be taken Wednesday on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal include whether to give the state Supreme Court authority over an independent commission that investigates judges and eliminate a panel that provides research on judicial issues.

The meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee signals the beginning of its process to approve, alter or delete proposals Walker made in his two-year spending plan.

Once the Republican-controlled committee completes its work, likely at the end of May, the budget then goes to the Legislature for consideration before going back to Walker for final approval. Walker is expected to sign the budget in late June, just before the new fiscal year begins in July, and he is expected to focus even more time and energy on his expected presidential run.

One of the first issues facing the committee on Wednesday is Walker’s call to give the Supreme Court direct control over the state Judicial Commission, which investigates allegations of misconduct by judges and court commissioners. Three justices on the court have had complaints filed against them with the commission, which currently operates independently of the Supreme Court.

Both Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Annette Ziegler, along with the executive director of the commission, have objected to the move which neither the court nor the commission requested.

Walker’s office defended the proposal as helping to streamline operations.

The budget committee also planned to consider Walker’s plan to eliminate the Judicial Council, a 21-member panel that issues recommendations to the governor, Supreme Court and Legislature about court practices and procedures.

Abrahamson, as well as council chairman Thomas Bertz, have urged the Legislature not to eliminate the 64-year-old council. Walker’s budget would allow the Supreme Court to create its own council.

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