The Latest: Sex offender placement decisions would change

The Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee holds a public hearing on the 2017-19 state budget April 21, 2017, at Marinette High School. (WLUK/Courtney Ryan)

MADISON (AP) -- The Latest on action by Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee (all times local):

4:05 p.m.

Wisconsin counties would have more of a say in where violent sexual offenders live once they are placed on supervised release under a proposal added to the state budget.

The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee approved the changes Tuesday.

Under the plan, the offender would be released to the county where they lived at the time they committed the crime. Local communities would be given more of a say in where released offenders live, including proximity to schools, day care, parks and churches.

Current prohibitions barring violent sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of any school, day care, youth center, nursing home, church or public park would not have to be followed.

A judge would still have the final decision on placement.


2:20 p.m.

The Legislature's budget committee has voted to change the process used to determine where to place sexual offenders in communities when they are ready to be released from prison.

The plan was added to the state budget Tuesday on a 13-3 vote, with Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland joining all 12 Republicans in support.

Committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren says the intent is to give the county where the offender is from more of a say on the appropriate place for the person to live once they are released.

Democratic Sens. Jon Erpenbach and Lena Taylor objected, saying more time and study was needed on the issue rather than just placing it in the budget.

Final placement of the sex offender would still be up to a judge to approve.


2 p.m.

The Legislature's budget committee approved increasing spending $6 million more to help victims of sex trafficking.

The Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday voted 12-4 to approve the funding, with Democrats against because they wanted to spend more.

The money would be used to provide out-of-home placements, services and treatments for children and young people who have been involved with sex trafficking. Current treatment capacity is not expected to be able to keep pace with demand under a new state law, taking effect May 29, that requires state child protective services agencies to investigate all child sex trafficking cases and provide services where needed.


11:55 a.m.

The Legislature's budget committee has approved adding five staff to the state Elections Commission, overturning a recommendation by Gov. Scott Walker.

The governor had wanted to cut six positions that had been paid for by federal funding that is running out. Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee argued for providing state funding for all six spots.

But Republicans who control the panel agreed to pay the roughly $304,000 a year to pay for five positions.

Democratic Sen. Lena Taylor, in arguing for the six positions the commission wanted, says "Let's not pretend to be with them, let's be with them fully."

She and others say not paying for a sixth position is setting the commission up to fail.

Republican Rep. John Nygren says the commission can always ask for more staff later.


11:25 a.m.

The Legislature's budget committee plans to reject a proposal from Gov. Scott Walker to create a new refundable tax credit for young adults leaving foster care.

Walker's budget included the tax credit for certain 18- to 21-year-olds who were previously in foster care but who aged out of the system once they hit 18.

Co-chairs of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee said Tuesday they plan to vote down the idea. Instead, they say the Assembly and Senate will form new task forces to study the foster care system. Rep. John Nygren called Walker's proposal a complicated process for a relatively small tax credit.

Walker proposed a credit equal to 125 percent of the federal earned income tax credit. About 2,600 people were estimated to qualify for the credit, costing the state about $724,000 a year. The maximum credit would be $652 but the Walker administration estimates the average would have been about $273.


11:10 a.m.

The Republican-controlled budget committee plans to add more staff to the Wisconsin Elections Commission than Gov. Scott Walker recommended.

Joint Finance Committee co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling said Tuesday that the panel will add five positions to the commission that oversees elections in the state. Walker had proposed not paying for six jobs that had been funded by federal money that is going away. That would have been a 19 percent cut in overall staff.

The Elections Commission had said the jobs are needed to ensure elections run smoothly in the state and to be in compliance with state and federal laws.

Rep. John Nygren says the Legislature is committed to having the commission succeed. The Legislature created separated elections and ethics commissions after eliminating the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board last year.


12:06 a.m.

Whether to cut staffing levels at the Wisconsin Elections Commission by 19 percent due to a loss of federal funds is up for a vote in a key legislative committee.

The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee was to vote Tuesday on whether to go along with Gov. Scott Walker's recommendation to cut six positions at the agency that oversees elections in the state.

The commission and local election clerks are urging the Legislature not to go along with Walker's proposed cut. The budget committee gets a chance Tuesday to restore the $364,000 annual cost for the jobs or approve what Walker wants.

The governor argues the commission can handle its workload without the positions.

But the Elections Commission says the jobs are needed to ensure elections run smoothly in the state.

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