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Bill Would Require Judges To Consider PTSD When Sentencing Vets

Assembly Dem Introduces Package Of Veteran-Focused Proposals

Brean Schossow/WPR

State Assembly Democrats have announced legislation directed at aiding veterans and increasing education.

One of the seven bills introduced Thursday by Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton, would require judges to consider post-traumatic stress disorder, along with substance abuse and mental health issues, as mitigating factors in sentencing veterans convicted of crimes.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Dave Flanagan joined Hesselbein for the announcement of the legislation Thursday. Flanagan, who is also a veteran of the Vietnam War, said he hopes the bill will call attention to the treatability of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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“As judges, when we sentence people, any person, a veteran or anybody else, we’re supposed to take into account the need to protect the public, the need to consider the character of the defendant and the need to, to consider the seriousness of the offense,” he said. “But, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin also tells us that we need to take into account the need for rehab. And that’s where this comes in.”

Hesselbein said she’s hoping for bipartisan support.

“These aren’t Democratic issues and these are not Republican issues,” she said. “These are truly red, white and blue issues for our veterans in the state of Wisconsin.”

The bills would be sent out for co-sponsorship Thursday, Hesselbein said. She added that she doesn’t think these bills will have fiscal impact.

Other veteran-focused bills introduced Thursday would do the following:

  • Waive Department of Transportation fees for disabled veterans applying for an initial operator’s license or motorcycle license.
  • Have the governor create a veteran’s education awareness week, specifically, the second week of November.
  • Require the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to accept all foreign language credits from the Defense Language Institute for those who completed courses there.
  • Require a technical college district to charge resident fees to veterans living in Wisconsin, regardless of residency, based on certain qualifiers.
  • Require regents and technical college district boards to create rules that allow for acceptance of course credits earned by veterans during military training that are “substantially similar” to course offerings offered at schools or that fall under standards set by the American Council on Education.
  • Create a task force to look at issues facing members of the military returning from war.