By Gretchen Schuldt
Republican legislators are proposing to block from voting more people with felony records. The bill is heavily weighted against people struggling with poverty. Also introduced recently were more bills calling for new or harsher penalties.
The sponsors of the individual bills are shown in the table at the bottom of this post.
Senate Bill 69 /Assembly Bill 76 – Disenfranchising more people
A bill that would likely disenfranchise thousands of additional people convicted of felonies is garnering opposition from a variety of civil rights and voting organizations.
State law now restores voting rights to people with felony records after they complete their terms of incarceration and probation, parole, or extended supervision. The Republican-sponsored bill would require that a person with a felony conviction also "must have paid all fines, costs, fees, surcharges, and restitution, and have completed any court-ordered community service, imposed in connection with the crime," according to the Legislative Reference Bureau summary.
The bill also would require the state Elections Commission to notify those affected when their voting rights are restored. Currently, the Department of Corrections provides the notification.
All Voting Is Local Action, ACLU of Wisconsin, Common Cause in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Conservation Voters, and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign have registered against the measure. The Democracy Campaign called it a "modern-day poll tax."
Senate Bill 72/Assembly Bill 78 – Increasing penalties for crimes against adults at risk
An "adult at risk" is defined in Wisconsin statute as "any adult who has a physical or mental condition that substantially impairs his or her ability to care for his or her needs and who has experienced, is currently experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation."
This bill would increase the penalty for any second-degree sexual assault against an adult at risk from a maximum of 40 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine to 60 years in prison.
The bill also would allow increased penalties for other crimes against adults at risk. If the penalty is a year or less in prison, it could be increased to two years. A maximum penalty of up to 10 years could be increased by four years, and a maximum of more than 10 years could be increased by up to six years. Penalties that now apply to physical abuse of an elder person would apply to abuse of an adult at risk.
All of the increased penalties would apply whether or not the perpetrator knew the victim was an adult at risk.
The bill also would allow freezing the assets of a person accused of a financial crime against a person at risk. Assets worth the full amount of the amount at issue could be subject to the freeze "for purposes of preserving the property for future payment of restitution to the crime victim."
The bill also would allow an adult at risk seeking certain types of restraining orders to appear in court by phone or by audiovisual means rather than in person.
Senate Bill 73/Assembly Bill 79 – Prostitution surcharge
Judges would impose a $5,000 surcharge on people convicted of patronizing or soliciting prostitutes, pandering, or keeping a place of prostitution, under this bill. The money would be used for treatment and services for sex-trafficking victims and for law enforcement related to internet crimes against children. The bill does not indicate how the money would be divided between those categories.
Senate Bill 101/Assembly Bill 68 – Higher penalty for drug-induced homicide
The Assembly's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has recommended approval of this bill, which would raise from 40 years to 60 years the maximum prison time for making or supplying certain drugs that lead to the death of another person (known as the "Len Bias" law). The vote was 13-2, as follows:
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