Legislative Reforms

When the details began to come out on the abuses perpetrated by Milwaukee County District Attorney, John Chisholm, Special Prosecutor Fran Schmitz, and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board using the John Doe laws, legislators called for several reforms: John Doe reform, Government Accountability reform and Campaign Finance reform.

In the fall of 2015, the Wisconsin Legislature passed bills addressing these issues.

State Representative Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon) and State Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) introduced a reform bill (Assembly Bill 68/Senate Bill 45) in early 2015.

The bill limits John Doe investigations to certain crimes committed by an on-duty law enforcement officer, corrections officer, or state probation/parole officer. It would continue to allow the judge to impose a secrecy order, but it is only in effect for the judge, prosecuting attorney, law enforcement or anyone involved in transcribing any court actions. It also limits an investigation to a six-month time period, but can be extended for additional six month periods if a majority of District Chief Judges vote to extend it. The same method would be used to add additional crimes to the investigation. There are ten district chief judges in Wisconsin.

The bill was passed by the Senate and Assembly on October 21, 2015. It was signed into law by the Governor on October 23, 2015.

In the fall of 2015, State Representative Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) and State Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) introduced legislation (Assembly Bill 388/Senate Bill 294) that would dismantle the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB).

The bill breaks the GAB into two separate entities, the Elections Commission and the Ethics Commission. It makes the Elections Commission a partisan board with two members of each party and two former municipal or county clerks appointed by the Governor. The administrator of the Elections Commission is appointed by a majority of the commission and approved by the Senate. The administrator would serve a four-year term. It also restricts the ability of either commission to launch an investigation.

The Assembly passed the bill on October 21, 2015.

Also in the fall of 2015, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) introduced comprehensive legislation (Assembly Bill 387/Senate Bill 292) that implemented campaign finance reform.

The bill increases campaign finance limits and clearly defines what is “express advocacy.”

The Assembly passed the bill on October 21, 2015.


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