Capitol Commentary

James L. Palmer, II
WPPA Assistant Executive Director & Director of Governmental Affairs

New Law Allows Local Law Enforcement to Retain Drug Money

On January 4, Governor Jim Doyle signed a bill allowing local law enforcement agencies to retain the money they seize in drug cases. Under the statutes prior to the enactment of this new law, any money seized in a drug case had to be deposited in the school fund. Under Act 91, a law enforcement agency that seizes money in a drug case may retain 70 percent of any amount that does not exceed $2,000 and 50 percent of any amount in excess of $2,000. This money can then be utilized to cover the costs of investigation and prosecution, as well as other costs relating to a forfeiture proceeding and sale.

The WPPA supported this legislation since its introduction last year as Assembly Bill 40 by State Representative Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay), and State Senator Alan Lasee (R-De Pere). I have already heard from members who work in drug units that this law will not only help blunt reductions in state and federal funding, but that it will provide an incentive for local law enforcement agencies to make smaller seizures that they ordinarily would not have under the prior law.

The Taxpayer Protection Amendment

On February 9, Republican legislative leaders unveiled a 2,500-word constitutional amendment that would tie state, school, and local government tax and fee collections to factors ranging from inflation to population growth, and, for cities and villages, to new construction. The complex, nine-page proposal is based largely on the taxpayer’s bill of rights, or TABOR, a similar constitutional measure that was unsuccessful in the 2003-2004 legislative session.

With some exceptions, the new measure would limit certain revenues for counties, municipalities, school districts, technical colleges, and special purpose districts to the lesser of either (1) the three-year average increase in inflation (using the Milwaukee-Racine Consumer Price Index) or (2) the two-year average increase in state personal income.

In addition, the state, counties, technical college districts, and special purpose districts would be allowed to increase their revenues by an amount equal to the percentage increase in their populations. School districts would be allowed a percentage increase equal to the preceding three-year average increase in enrollment. Finally, cities, towns and villages would be allowed a percentage increase equal to 60 percent of their growth in new construction. The revenue limits could only be exceeded with the approval of taxpayers at a referendum, but could be permanently lowered by a simple majority vote of the appropriate governmental body.

The Taxpayer Protection Amendment must be approved by lawmakers in two legislative sessions, as well as by voters in a referendum. The measure could go to voters as early as April of 2007.

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association opposes the Taxpayer Protection Amendment, as it would detrimentally impact all of Wisconsin’s public employees, especially those employed in the public safety sector. When confronted by stringent spending limits or tax freezes, many local officials tend to respond in one of two ways. Often, officials will specifically target police and fire services for cuts, and then use the public safety concerns that result from those cuts to garner public support for spending or tax increases. More commonly, local elected leaders impose flat rate reductions to all of their municipal departments. This may sound fair, but because police and fire services represent a majority of most local budgets in Wisconsin, these services are disproportionately affected. The result is that fewer officers are left on the streets to maintain public safety.

More WPPA Associations Becoming Politically Active

The WPPA continues to hear from local associations who are interested in what they can do in their communities to impact their local elections. For those WPPA members who may not be aware, the Board of Directors has established as a priority the organizational objective of encouraging and assisting our local association affiliates in the formation of local political action committees, or PACs.

Although some of our members have been hesitant about becoming involved in their local elections, it is becoming apparent to me that many members are beginning to realize that, if they don’t like the decisions made by their local elected officials, there IS something they can do to change the people who make those decisions. I would be happy to meet with you and your members to discuss how to establish a local PAC. I can walk you through the registration and reporting process, as well as talk about those things you can do to impact local election results. While money can always play a role in political campaigns, many of the members with whom I have met are always pleasantly surprised to learn about all the things they can do that don’t require money.

In February alone, I met with our Hudson and Marinette County local associations, who are now in the process of setting up their own local PACs. Don’t hesitate to contact me at the WPPA headquarters in Madison if you would like to learn more about this process, and what we can do to assist your association.

Concealed Carry Legislation Update

On January 31, the Wisconsin State Assembly failed to override Governor Doyle’s veto of legislation that would have allowed Wisconsinites to carry concealed weapons. The Assembly fell two votes short of the 66 required to override a gubernatorial veto, with State Representatives Terry Van Akkeran (D-Sheboygan) and John Steinbrink (D-Pleasant Prairie) voting against the override after voting for the bill when it was approved in that house of the state legislature on December 13, 2005.

Dubbed the “Personal Protection Act,” Senate Bill 403 would have permitted people to carry a concealed weapon if they completed a 22-hour training course. The permit would have been good for five years, and further training would have been needed to renew the permit. The bill also provided specific training and certification standards to enable retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons in compliance with a federal law that was enacted in 2004.

Senate Bill 403 would have banned people from carrying concealed weapons into child care centers, churches, college campuses, domestic violence centers, health care facilities, nonprofit organizations that serve children, and youth sporting events. Businesses wanting to prohibit concealed weapons on their property would have had to verbally inform their customers of the restriction, in addition to posting signs at their entrances. Amendments approved late last year lowered the allowable blood alcohol concentration for those carrying a concealed weapon to 0.02, created a 100-foot safety zone around schools, and made the filing of a false application a felony.

While the amended bill would have enabled officers to check the concealed carry permit database when stopping the driver of a motor vehicle, officers would not have been allowed to check the database when making other types of calls, such as a disturbance at a home. In addition, police officers who revealed the names of permit holders, built a list of permit holders, or used excessive force in stopping a permit holder could have been charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

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