Big Victories for Victims' Rights in 2019

2019 has brought a whirlwind of activity for Marsy's Law for Wisconsin's grassroots coalition. For all of you that have been following along with our efforts to strengthen the rights of Wisconsin crime victims, you'll know that this was a big month for our bipartisan legislation, and January has brought some huge successes – but also a small disappointment. 

Our grassroots coalition started the New Year with a full court press in the hopes that Marsy's Law for Wisconsin could be before state voters during the April 2, 2019 election. We all celebrated a huge victory in this effort when the Capital Times published a powerful editorial from editor emeritus Dave Zweifel advocating for advancing Marsy’s Law through the Legislature this month to put the issue before Wisconsin voters on this April’s ballot. 

Momentum continued when Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin was officially introduced for second consideration with more than 50 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle on the first day of the new legislative session. The proposal even received the support of Wisconsin’s new Attorney General, Josh Kaul. The legislation received a joint public hearing before committees in the Senate and Assembly just 2 days after introduction. At the hearing, survivors, advocates, law enforcement and other supporters delivered powerful personal stories in testimony for the proposal. About one week later, both committees voted favorably to advance Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin to the full Senate and Assembly.

Unfortunately, there simply wasn’t enough time to complete votes in both chambers in order to meet the deadline to have the proposal placed on this year's April ballot. We recognize what we hoped for would have been extraordinary.  Passing a bill through both houses of the Legislature during the first two weeks of the new session is just not something that happens often, if ever. 

While we are disappointed that Wisconsin crime victims will have to wait another year for equal rights, we know that this is in no way a defeat. Our grassroots coalition of victims, advocates, law enforcement, and other stakeholders continues to grow and is as strong as ever. We've already cleared huge hurdles in the 2019 legislative session and are excited to continue working with lawmakers to answer any remaining questions and move towards final passage. In particular, we look forward to working with new members who were not part of the nearly year-long process in 2017 that led to our hugely bipartisan passage on first consideration.

We are very grateful for all the support we continue to have from so many legislators, especially the bill’s authors – Senators Van Wanggaard and Tim Carpenter and Representatives Todd Novak and David Crowley – who have done amazing work on this effort to strengthen the constitutional rights of crime victims. We are also proud of all the survivors who are fighting to pass this proposal and the over 350 stakeholder organizations and individuals who have endorsed Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin.

Finally, we look forward to the ongoing opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges that Wisconsin crime victims face as we fight over the next year to finalize the votes in the Legislature and then work towards the ratification vote for Marsy's Law for Wisconsin in 2020. Since our launch in Wisconsin in 2017, as our grassroots coalition grew into the impressive force we have today, we've heard countless heartbreaking stories of survivors who were victimized and thrown into the legal process through no fault of their own. Many have experienced fear for themselves and their families. Others have gone through financial hardships as the result of these ordeals. So many more were afraid to even report the horrible things that had been done to them, concerned that our state's legal system simply would not have their backs. We're proud of the many survivors who--thanks to Marsy's Law--have found the strength to speak out about their experiences and help empower other victims to do the same. We've seen how powerful it is for victims to know that someone is in their corner, and that's exactly where we'll be over the next year as we continue the fight to make equal rights for crime victims a reality in Wisconsin.