Reps in the News: Kitchens Supports Criminal Justice Reform Package

Representative Joel Kitchens

Rep. Kitchens supports a package of initiatives that is expected to improve various aspects of the state’s criminal justice system, from access to a fair trial to the re-entry of former offenders into the workforce.

“One of my top priorities as a legislator is to provide our law-enforcement agencies and courts with the tools they need to ensure our neighborhoods are safe,” Kitchens said. “The proposals we announced this week will help accomplish that goal because they will allow for us to be tough, yet also smart on crime.”

Assembly Republicans are asking Gov. Tony Evers to include the following recommendations in his state-budget request to the legislature:

• Quicker access to a fair trial: fund new assistant district attorney (ADA) positions, increase pay for ADAs and state public defenders (SPD), and increase the private bar rate for county-court appointments and SPD appointments.

• Expand Treatment Alternatives and Diversion programs to help offenders who suffer from alcohol and drug issues.

• Invest in retaining correctional officers.

• Promote the successful transition of former offenders back into society through expanded worker training, re-entry programs and health initiatives.
The GOP Assembly reform package has already received the backing of numerous local district attorneys, public defenders, judges and members of law enforcement, as well as the State Bar of Wisconsin.

Gov. Evers is scheduled to deliver his budget address on Feb. 28.

Source: Kitchens press release

Attorney General Josh Kaul

Kaul issued the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s proclamation on declaring a national emergency: “President Trump’s emergency declaration is a blatant attempt to circumvent the system of checks and balances prescribed by the United States Constitution. I fully expect that it will be blocked by the courts.

“If it becomes clear that federal funds that should be distributed to Wisconsin will instead be diverted as a result of this manufactured emergency, the Wisconsin Department of Justice will take appropriate action.”

Source: Kaul press release

Governor Tony Evers

In an about-face from the state’s previous practice of not pardoning criminal offenders, Gov. Evers has vowed to consider restoring to felons rights that were taken away because of convictions.
Pardons are often given after a person has completed a sentence, said Mark Osler, professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. They remove some of the restrictions of the conviction: for example, reinstating a person’s right to vote, possess a firearm or serve on a jury.
Evers told Madison TV station WKOW that he would consider pardons recommended by the Pardon Advisory Board, which reviews applications submitted by felons seeking clemency. That’s a shift from the previous administration, which issued no pardons and left the advisory board empty. Members of the Pardon Advisory Board have yet to be appointed.
Source: WPR

Senator Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Baldwin has reintroduced bipartisan legislation to help craft breweries create jobs and grow the Made in Wisconsin economy. The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act would permanently cut taxes and modernize outdated regulations for brewers, cider makers and distillers to promote job creation in each industry.

“Wisconsin craft-beer makers are small businesses that create jobs and help grow our economy, so we need to make it easier for them to invest in workers and grow their business,” Baldwin said. “This bipartisan legislation provides permanent tax relief for craft brewers so they can continue moving our Made in Wisconsin economy forward.”

The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act helps to ensure the continued growth of America’s craft-beverage industry by reducing excise taxes, compliance burdens and regulations for brewers, cider makers, vintners and distillers. Each beverage class faces its own challenges, and this legislation takes a tailored approach to promoting job creation in each sector. As a result, the entire craft-beverage industry supports this comprehensive bill.

Craft-beverage tax provisions were temporarily enacted in 2017 but are scheduled to expire at the end of 2019. This legislation would permanently establish reduced taxes and reduced regulatory burdens for craft-beverage producers.

In 2016, the brewing industry alone contributed more than $350 billion to the U.S. economy, directly and indirectly employing about 2.23 million Americans.

Source: Baldwin press release

Senator Ron Johnson

Sen. Johnson introduced a bipartisan amendment to the Natural Resources Management Act that would delist the gray wolf in western Great Lakes states, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, as well as Wyoming, under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The amendment would allow the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop a wolf population management program.

“Four years ago, an activist federal judge ignored recommendations from wildlife experts and President Obama’s Department of the Interior to delist the gray wolf as an endangered species in the western Great Lakes. It is past time for Congress to act on what we have heard from state DNR experts, Wisconsin farmers, ranchers, loggers and sportsmen for years: Gray wolf listing decisions should come from wildlife experts, not from courtrooms,” Johnson said. “This amendment allows wolf-management plans that are based on federal and state wildlife expertise to move forward without legal ambiguity.”

Johnson’s amendment is co-sponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

Source: Johnson press release

President Donald Trump

The Space Force just took a big step from sci-fi-sounding dream toward reality. President Trump signed Space Policy Directive-4 (SPD-4) on Feb. 19, ordering the Pentagon to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States military, to go along with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

But the Space Force still has a big hoop to jump through: Congress must approve the creation of any new military branch.  

The main goal of the Space Force is to secure and extend American dominance of the space domain. Such reasoning has drawn opposition from various quarters.

“President Trump has called space a new warfighting domain. Space is important to militaries, that’s true, but it is only a small piece of what happens up there,” Laura Grego, a senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security program, said in a statement.

“Eighty percent of the nearly 2,000 satellites are civilian, providing critical communications and economic services for humanity’s well-being,” Grego added. “We need to take care of space. If concentrating authority in a space force creates an incentive for nations to build space weapons that increase the likelihood of conflict, it would be a profoundly bad idea.”