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Republicans say they won’t touch judicial panels (UPDATE)

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//April 15, 2015//

Republicans say they won’t touch judicial panels (UPDATE)

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//April 15, 2015//

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Committee members welcome the visitors at the start of the Joint Finance Committee public hearing at Brillion High School Wednesday, March 18, 2015, in Brillion, Wis. (AP Photo/The Post-Crescent, Dan Powers)
Committee members welcome visitors at the start of Wednesday’s Joint Finance Committee public hearing at Brillion High School. (AP Photo/The Post-Crescent, Dan Powers)

The Joint Finance Committee has approved a motion to delete Gov. Scott Walker’s budget recommendation to eliminate the Judicial Council.

The panel voted 15-1 on Wednesday to reject the proposal.

“Our attempt here is to both maintain the Judicial Council and to also have it funded a little differently,” said state Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, who introduced the motion.

The motion changes how the council is funded, making the program completely financed by the Supreme Court’s revenue from the Director of State Courts and State Law Library programs.

The Judicial Council’s staff attorney, April Southwick, declined to comment on the panel’s decision.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and council chairman Thomas Bertz had urged the Legislature to keep the council in place.

In other business, the panel also unanimously rejected Walker’s proposal to transfer the Judicial Commission’s funding to the state Supreme Court’s budget.

Both Abrahamson and Justice Annette Ziegler, along with the executive director of the commission, had objected to the proposal.

Also on Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Finance voted 12-4 along party lines to approve Walker’s proposal to consolidate and transfer the Law Library’s budget under the Director of State Courts.

“I know it’s the governor’s proposal but it doesn’t make sense,” said Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, who voted against the proposal. “There’s no basis for it. No one wants it. … It doesn’t save money. It doesn’t save efficiency.”

The committee also approved a motion to direct the Supreme Court to create a statewide coordinator of problem-solving courts.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach had proposed allocating $88,200 to the position by transferring money from the Department of Corrections’ appropriations but that motion failed to pass. Both Erpenbach and Taylor said they were concerned about instructing the State Courts to create a position but not giving them the money to pay for it.

State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said, citing the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, that if the State Courts cannot find the money to pay for the position, the chief justice can always request the committee provide that money.

Knudson also said that it was important to note that the State Courts will not be having the $11 million lapse it had in the last budget and that the courts would be getting $900,000 in standard budget adjustment.

“We’re just granting it to them” he said.

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