June 2005

On May 18, the Assembly Committee on Corrections and the Courts conducted a hearing on Assembly Bill 225.  Introduced by State Representative Stephen Freese (R-Dodgeville) and State Senator Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire), AB 225 would specifically classify county jailers as protective occupation participants for purposes of the Wisconsin Retirement System.

County jailers in Wisconsin currently endure substantial training requirements, and are forced to confront an extremely dangerous work environment.  In fact, the training standards for county jailers, who do not receive protective status, are identical to those of state prison guards, who do enjoy this classification.  Moreover, no one has disputed the fact that the job of a county jailer is at least as dangerous, if not more so, than that of a conservation warden, state forest ranger, field conservation employee, state motor vehicle inspector, or many of the other employees currently receiving protective status in Wisconsin.

Opponents of AB 225 are quick to point out that this bill represents an unfunded mandate with a fiscal impact of $2.3 million annually.  What this fiscal impact fails to consider is the indeterminable cost savings that the property taxpayer would receive for lower workers compensation claims, lower staffing turnover in our county jail facilities, and earlier employee retirements.

Undeniably, AB 225 is a mandate.  This bill mandates equal treatment for those dedicated men and women who help maintain the quality of public safety in this state.  AB 225 represents a measure that is long overdue.

I am pleased to report that on June 1, the Assembly Committee on Corrections and the Courts voted to approve AB 225.  The results of the vote were as follows:

Voting For: Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay), Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin), Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh), Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford), Donna Seidel (D-Wausau), Sheldon Wasserman (D-Milwaukee), Sondy Pope-Roberts (D-Verona), Joseph Parisi (D-Madison)
Voting Against: Carol Owens (R-Oshkosh), Daniel LeMahieu (R-Oostburg),

This bill must now be considered by the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems before it can go to the full State Assembly for a vote.   The members of that committee are Representatives Daniel Vrakas (R-Hartland), Suzanne Jeskewitz (R-Menomonee Falls), and Mary Hubler (D-Rice Lake), as well as Senators Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), Cathy Stepp (R-Sturtevant), and Robert Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie).

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