Capitol Commentary

James L. Palmer, II
WPPA Legislative Lobbyist

Election Wrap-Up

As you all know, the 2004 election cycle has come to a close. During this last election season, the WPPA Political Action Committee (PAC) endorsed a total of 79 state candidates, of which 40 endorsements went to Republicans and 39 went to Democrats. In the State Assembly elections, 33 Democrats and 32 Republicans were endorsed by the WPPA. Of those 65 State Assembly candidates, 60 were elected. In the State Senate elections, 8 Republicans and 6 Democrats were endorsed by the WPPA. Of those 14 State Senate candidates, 12 were elected. These results reflect the even-handed and rational approach employed by the WPPA PAC as it considered which candidates would best serve the WPPA’s membership.

The Republicans improved their majority in both houses of the state legislature, where they now hold a 60-39 member lead in the Assembly and a 19-14 member lead in the Senate.

Looking Ahead: The WPPA Adopts a Legislative Report Card

Now that the elections are behind us, it is time to look ahead to the next legislative session. At the 2004 WPPA Convention, the Board of Directors formally adopted a public affairs platform for the first time in its history. The platform is a declaration of principles and policies that the WPPA’s legislative staff will pursue in the upcoming year. It allows the Board of Directors and the general membership to establish directly the WPPA’s legislative priorities. Also, the platform will work to generate a greater sense of “ownership” in our legislative goals, provide invaluable guidance to our staff, and inform members and potential members of the benefits of the public affairs services they can expect to receive. The platform is available on the WPPA’s web site and has been published in the Wisconsin Police Journal.

During the last election cycle, countless candidates consulted our web site to familiarize themselves with our platform. This is a good indication of the value of the WPPA’s support and is a testament to the Board of Director’s progressive decision to increase our impact on political and legislative matters.

When the platform was established, the Board of Directors envisioned that it would be used to develop an annual report card of legislators’ votes on bills of importance to the WPPA membership. I am pleased to report that the Board of Directors has formally adopted a legislative scorecard for use in this session. The report cards will make state lawmakers more accountable and will aid the state and local PACs as they consider political endorsements.

According to the new policy adopted by the Board, it will be the responsibility of the WPPA legislative staff to identify items of legislation that impact Wisconsin’s law enforcement community generally, and the WPPA’s membership specifically. Preliminary positions on those bills will then be made by the WPPA legislative staff and Executive Director. At the next Board of Directors and Legislative Committee meetings, following the development of preliminary positions, those positions will be considered for ratification. All positions so ratified will then be included on the legislative report card. Legislation will be weighted by the WPPA Legislative Committee, and legislators will be evaluated using the criteria in the table, below:

WPPA Legislative Scorecard — How Legislators Will Be Scored

Co-sponsoring legislation which we support 1
Co-sponsoring legislation which we oppose -2
Committee votes for legislation which we support 1
Committee votes against legislation which we support -2
Committee votes for legislation we oppose -1
Committee votes against legislation we oppose 1
Floor votes for legislation which we support 2
Floor votes against legislation which we support -2
Floor votes for legislation which we oppose -2
Floor votes against legislation which we oppose 2
Procedural votes which bar floor consideration of legislation we support -2
Procedural votes against barring floor consideration of legislation we support 2
Procedural votes which bar floor consideration of legislation we oppose 2
Procedural votes against barring floor consideration of legislation we oppose -2
Offering amendments which we find detrimental to legislation we support -2
Offering amendments to improve legislation we oppose 2

Failure of a committee to consider legislation we support will result in a 1 point deduction to each member of the committee.

Leadership Criteria (for Majority party leaders and committee chairs)
Failure to schedule legislation which we support -2
Failure to schedule legislation which we oppose 2

Legislators will be eligible for an automatic WPPA PAC endorsement for their reelection to their elected office following a legislative session in which they receive a score of 70 percent or better. Legislators who receive a score of 90 percent or better will be eligible for the “WPPA’s Law Enforcement Advocates Honor Roll.” The legislator with the highest overall score will be eligible for the “Legislator of the Year” award.

The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004

On July 22, 2004, President Bush signed H.R. 218, or the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004, into law. Under it, active and retired law enforcement officers who meet certain requirements and possess the appropriate credentials, are authorized to carry concealed firearms anywhere in the United States. The state Law Enforcement Standards Board (LESB) is currently struggling with several issues relating to this new law.

First, Wisconsin state law presently does not give state or local officials the authority they need either to establish appropriate firearm standards for retired individuals or to evaluate or certify the qualifications of such civilians under those standards. Second, the state lacks a uniform standard for continuing firearm training or qualification. Such continuing firearm standards are the responsibility of the employing agency. According to Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager, while the LESB could establish a recommended state standard for annual firearm training and qualification for active officers, it lacks the power to create a mandatory standard. Fourth, even if a recommended standard were created, it still would not provide an adequate basis for implementing the new law’s requirements for the training and certification of retired officers. Professionally-oriented training may not be appropriate for retired officers who no longer have law enforcement powers, and such a program is likely to be more burdensome than would be a program better adapted to the needs of civilian retirees. Fifth, the federal law provides that retirees are to meet the training and certification requirements at their own expense, but no state or local official or entity in Wisconsin possesses the authority to collect any fees connected with this training.

These problems, including a host of others dealing with individual liability, as well as state and local government liability issues, will need to be addressed through legislation. The WPPA is following the matter closely, and has been working with the LESB as it considers the proper course of conduct. While it appears clear that some standards are better than none, the WPPA wants to make sure that all of its members’ interests are appropriately protected.

WPPA Issue Watch

In December, the WPPA notified Wisconsin’s lawmakers of our new legislative scoring procedure (see above), and invited legislators to offer bills that we have supported in the past. Two lawmakers have already signed on to WPPA issues: Senator Cathy Stepp (R-Racine) has agreed to sponsor our arbitration of discipline bill, and Senator Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire) has agreed to sponsor our bill giving jailers protective status.

In January, Governor Jim Doyle and the legislature will begin working on a new two-year state budget. The WPPA will follow closely those items impacting the economic security of local public employees, such as changes to shared revenue, a potential tax freeze, and a constitutional amendment arbitrarily limiting state and local government spending. While everyone is concerned about the problem of increasing property taxes, we at the WPPA will work hard to make sure that our members aren’t detrimentally affected as a result of tax reforms or budget cuts.

That said, we will also work on a wide variety of other issues, like establishing arbitration of discipline for municipal law enforcement officers, increasing military service credits under the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), providing jailers with protective status, and creating binding arbitration for agencies serving a population of less than 2,500. I encourage anyone who would like to discuss our legislative agenda, or anyone with ideas for new legislation, to contact me at the WPPA office in Madison.

As the WPPA continues to strengthen its presence at the State Capitol in Madison, your interest and involvement are more important than ever. Wisconsin’s law enforcement community deserves the lion’s share of credit for maintaining this state’s outstanding quality of life, and, in representing your interests, the WPPA will not allow our lawmakers to forget the efforts of those who struggle to keep our communities safe.

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