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Racial disparities task force was supposed to have bills introduced by January. So far, nothing

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Speaker's Task Force on Racial Disparities, created days after unrest last summer in Kenosha, has yet to put forward any recommendations, let alone bills.

When the task force's creation was announced last September, Co-Chair and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said he expected to have bills introduced by the start of this legislative session in January.

Steineke said Friday the process has moved along more slowly than he expected.

"I really did think it would move along a little faster," Steineke said. "But I've said all along I also don't want to rush this and I don't want to short-circuit the conversations we're having at the subcommittee level."

The task force's subcommittee on police standard met Thursday afternoon. The other co-chair, Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison), said the task force is covering so many different subjects in law enforcement alone, it is reasonable to expect the process of creating recommendations to last longer than six months.

"We cannot be surprised that a bipartisan effort is taking a much longer time," Stubbs said. "These are not issues we can rush."

Thursday's subcommittee meeting covered the topics of police data collection, specifically creating statewide definitions for 'use of force' and 'excessive use of force.' One possible recommendation would be having the state's law enforcement agencies track and report annual uses of force and incidents involving excessive use of force.

The subcommittee, which is comprised of both lawmakers and community activists, also discussed the possibility of ending no-knock search warrants and creating grant programs for community relations and crisis response initiatives.

Steineke said he expected the task force to release its first set of recommendations by "mid-April." Stubbs said Friday she hoped to have the first recommendations made public by "late April."

Steineke said he did not want the task force to initially propose bills itself because they could lead to amendments that disillusion members of the task force.

"We're asking [task force members] not to focus on actual bill numbers or specific bills," Steineke said. "Make it about the recommendation instead."

Both Steineke and Stubbs said they would then work with their caucuses to see which recommendations have enough bipartisan support to be drafted as bills that are sure to pass.

"We are all looking forward to recommendations by late April," Stubbs said. "And bills will shortly be following that deadline."

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A. J. Bayatpour

Capitol Bureau Chief

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