Posted at 5:30 p.m. on November 12, 2019 The Brillion News MADISON – On Tuesday, November 12, the State Assembly voted to approve Assembly Bill 470, authored by Representative Ron Tusler, R–Harrison, Senator Jerry Petrowski, R–Marathon, and Representatives Paul Tittl, R–Manitowoc and Tip McGuire, D-Kenosha. The bill permits the creation of up to 12 new circuit court branches, four in 2021, four in 2022, and four in 2023. “New circuit court judges are direly needed,” said Tusler. “The last time circuit court judgeships were created was in 2007, and workload has only increased in the last decade.” The bill allows the Director of State Courts to create an additional branch in a county if 1) the county board has passed a resolution supporting an additional branch; and 2) the county will have appropriate facilities in place by May 31st of the year in which the branch is created. A county may also be required to apply for a Drug Treatment Court or Treatment Alternatives and Diversion Program grant if it does not already have such a program. All judges will be elected in the spring election of the year the new branch is created. Since 1989, Tusler said 33 bills have been introduced creating additional circuit court branches. Only nine of those 33 bills have been enacted, the most recent being in 2007. Different from past attempts, the proposal passed by the Assembly leaves the discretion to the Director of State Courts to determine which counties are most in need of a branch, not the Legislature. “Determining which counties are most in need of a judge is difficult, which is why this bill puts justice first by authorizing the Director of State Courts to make these decisions and take into account the intangible factors we legislators cannot,” according to Tusler. The Wisconsin Courts System periodically conducts a study of judicial workload. There are many nuances and intangibles not captured by the study, such as: the presence of municipal courts in a county; the presence, utilization, and functions of court commissioners; how charging decisions affect caseload; and the cost and time of travel for judges when there are substitutions or recusals, especially in rural areas. “I am thrilled this bill cleared the Assembly and is one step closer to becoming law,” Tusler said. The bill now heads to the Senate for a vote before being presented to the Governor for his signature. That could come next spring.
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Posted at 1:30 p.m. on November 11, 2019 The Brillion News APPLETON – A plan by ThedaCare to build a $144 million orthopedic clinic and surgery facility, announced last week, is drawing sharp criticism from a group fighting “big medicine” in the area. The Fox Valley Health Care Transformation Initiative (FVHCI) was started over 2½ years ago to fight ThedaCare’s plans to replace its Neenah and Appleton hospital to build a new mega-hospital in the I-41 corridor. Now the FVHCI is accusing ThedaCare of trying to put down competing outpatient services. The FVHCI said big health care corporations can put up new, unnecessary facilities, driving up the price of health care. “ThedaCare proposes adding 25 new inpatient beds in the proposed facility when no hospital in the area has an occupancy rate much above 50 percent,” the FVHCI statement said. The group said that Wisconsin has some of the nation’s highest outpatient costs – more than three times greater than Medicare pays for.
Posted at 1:15 p.m. on November 6, 2019 The Brillion News MADISON – A bill that would make it a felony to trespass on pipeline property or damage gas, oil, and water pipelines was approved Tuesday by the state Senate and now goes to Democratic Governor Tony Evers. The measure, Assembly Bill 426, was introduced in September with bipartisan support, but frequently criticized by environmental groups and Indian tribes. Supporters say the bill is necessary to discourage vandalism that damages or disrupts the delivery of oil, gas, and water, as well as protect pipeline workers who could be injured or worse from job-site vandalism. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said supporters include a host of powerful special interests, including business and manufacturing groups, unions, construction, the oil and gas industry, agriculture, railroads, and utilities. The measure’s key supporters include Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Wisconsin Laborers District Council, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, and the American Petroleum Institute. Opponents say the bill would quash legitimate protests like the Standing Rock protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline two years ago. They also say the proposal could inhibit hunting and recreation and activities by landowners on land that pipelines cross. The proposal exempts people participating in lawful protests, union organizing, and picketing. Opponents also say the proposal is an ALEC-inspired bill similar to those introduced in about 20 other states in recent years. ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is a pro-business bill mill created in the 1970s to unite powerful business interests with mostly GOP and conservative state legislators around the country. They meet to develop “model legislation” that state policymakers can tweak and introduce in their home states. “While advertised as an effort to protect Wisconsin’s infrastructure, the real impact of this bill would be to criminalize peaceful protesters and suppress the freedom of speech,” said Chris Ott, ACLU of Wisconsin executive director. “The Constitution firmly protects protests even when – and especially when – they stir anger, challenge government policy, and express dissatisfaction with the status quo. Anti-protest bills like AB 426 threaten these fundamental rights by criminalizing peaceful demonstrators for making their voices heard.” AB 426 is an expansion of a law passed in 2015, which made it a felony to interrupt or impair services provided by an energy company. The new bill expands those provisions to specifically include companies that operate a gas, oil, petroleum, refined petroleum product, renewable fuel, or chemical generation facility. But supporters, like Democratic Sen. Janet Bewley, of Mason, say the plan approved by the legislature exempts union organizing and striking, which are provisions ALEC would not support. The bill carries penalties of up to six years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine, or both. These penalties would match penalties in current law for people convicted of trespassing and damaging utility property and operations.
~ Source: Wisconsin Democracy Campaign,m ACLU of Wisconsin