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  • Wisconsin Lawyer
    March
    31
    2008

    Legislative Watch

    Fred RisserKitty Rhoades

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    Legislative Council study committees are set to review Wisconsin's OPEN RECORDS LAW, public health system response to terrorism and public health emergencies, RELATIVE CAREGIVERS, MENTAL HEALTH PARITY, and other major issues and problems identified by the state legislature..

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 75, No. 7, July 2002

    Legislative Council Sets Study Committees

    Legislative Council study committees are set to review Wisconsin's open records law, public health system response to terrorism and public health emergencies, relative caregivers, mental health parity, and other major issues and problems identified by the state legislature.

    by Fred Risser & Kitty Rhoades

    Sen. Fred RisserSen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) and Rep. Kitty Rhoades (R-Hudson) cochair the Joint Legislative Council, whose primary responsibility is to establish study committees to examine major issues and problems identified by the Legislature. Rep. 
Kitty RhoadesThe Wisconsin Statutes specify that the president of the Senate and the speaker of the Assembly or their designees serve as cochairs of the Joint Legislative Council. Sen. Risser can be reached at (608) 266-1627. Rep. Rhoades can be reached at (608) 266-1526.

    Every two-year session, the Joint Legislative Council, a nonpartisan support entity to the Wisconsin Legislature, approves a slate of study committees to examine major issues and problems identified by the Legislature. The study committees are made up of legislators and citizens interested in or knowledgeable about the study topic. As cochairs of the Joint Legislative Council, we strive to ensure that the council chooses study topics that are timely, of interest, and important to the State of Wisconsin.

    The work of study committees is done primarily during the Legislature's recess (during the fall of even-numbered years). Study committees often will formulate legislative recommendations on the issues and, after approval by the Joint Legislative Council, those recommendations are introduced as legislation in the next legislative session. This biennium's slate of special study committees includes:

    • Review of Fireworks Law
    • Public and Private Broadband
    • Improving Wisconsin's Fiscal Management
    • Review of the Open Records Law
    • Relative Caregivers
    • Placement and Services for Persons with Disabilities
    • Public Health System Response to Terrorism and Public Health Emergencies
    • Mental Health Parity
    • Actions Affecting the Family
    • Recodification of Town Highway Statutes

    Review of Fireworks Law

    Cochaired by Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) and Rep. Stephen Freese (R-Dodgeville), the Review of Fireworks Law Committee will study issues surrounding the sale, possession, and use of fireworks in Wisconsin. The committee also will review current Wisconsin law regulating fireworks, including the interaction between state and federal law and the impact of the law on fireworks retailers, local units of government, the law enforcement community, the state economy, and the public and recommend improvements to the law.

    Public and Private Broadband

    Cochaired by Sen. Richard Grobschmidt (D-South Milwaukee) and Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Ashwaubenon), the Public and Private Broadband Committee will study the availability of broadband services and barriers to broadband deployment in Wisconsin. The committee also will determine appropriate state policy relating to digital divide and open access issues.

    Improving Wisconsin's Fiscal Management

    Cochaired by Sen. Robert Jauch (D-Poplar) and Rep. Donald Friske (R-Merrill), the Fiscal Management Committee is directed to examine ways for Wisconsin to improve its ability to manage its finances using modern financial management and policy practices in the context of the budget process.

    Review of the Open Records Law

    Cochaired by Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Rep. Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin), the Open Records Law Committee is directed to review the Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions in Woznicki v. Erickson and Milwaukee Teachers' Educational Association v. Milwaukee Board of School Directors and recommend legislation implementing the procedures anticipated in the opinions, amending the holdings of the opinions, or overturning the opinions. In addition, the committee is directed to recommend changes in the open records law to accommodate electronic communications and to consider the sufficiency of an open records request and the scope of exemptions to the open records law.

    Relative Caregivers

    Cochaired by Sen. Gwendolynne Moore (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake), the Relative Caregivers Committee is directed to study: 1) current law relating to relative caregivers under the Children's Code and under current law relating to guardianship and kinship care; 2) relatives who care for children under an informal agreement between the child's parent and the relatives and whether such relatives should be granted decision-making authority with respect to the child's care; and 3) third-party visitation law and enforcement of third-party visitation orders.

    Recodification of Chapter 55, Placement and Services for Persons with Disabilities

    Cochaired by Sen. Robert Wirch (D-Kenosha) and Rep. Suzanne Jeskewitz (R-Menomonee Falls), the Placement and Services for Persons with Disabilities Committee is directed to conduct a recodification of Wis. Stat. chapter 55. The recodification may include a review of court decisions relating to the chapter to determine whether the court decisions should be codified as is or with modifications. The committee also will examine the different interpretations of chapter 55 that have arisen over time and determine which practices could be applied statewide and examine areas of chapter 55 that are unclear or vague and require clarification.

    Public Health System's Response to Terrorism and Public Health Emergencies

    Cochaired by Sen. Judy Robson (D-Beloit) and Rep. Frank Urban (R-Brookfield), the Response to Terrorism and Public Health Emergencies Committee is directed to examine: 1) the capacity of the public health system, and the adequacy of state laws to enable that system to detect and respond quickly to a terrorist act or public health emergency; 2) the coordination of activities of the public health system with other systems involved in responding to a terrorist act or public health emergency; and 3) the adequacy and flexibility of resources available to these systems that can be used to detect and respond to terrorist acts and public health emergencies.

    Mental Health Parity

    Cochaired by Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Rep. Daniel Vrakas (R-Hartland), the Mental Health Parity Committee is directed to study the costs and benefits of providing parity in the insurance coverage of mental illnesses in Wisconsin. The committee will study the experience following the enactment of the federal mental health parity law and the experiences of other states that have enacted mental health parity laws, with a view toward developing legislation in this area.

    Recodification of Chapter 767, Actions Affecting the Family

    Cochaired by Sen. Mark Meyer (D-La Crosse) and Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), the Actions Affecting the Family Committee will conduct a recodification of Wis. Stat. chapter 767 relating to actions affecting the family. The recodification may include a study of possible reorganization of the chapter in a logical manner, renumbering and retitling sections, consolidating related provisions, modernizing language, resolving ambiguities in language, codifying court decisions, and making minor substantive changes.

    Recodification of Town Highway Statutes

    Cochaired by Sen. Roger Breske (D-Eland) and Rep. John Ainsworth (R-Shawano), the Recodification of Town Highway Statutes Committee is directed to recodify Wis. Stat. chapters 80 and 81 regarding town highways and any other matters contained within those statutes or related statutes. The recodification may include a study of reorganization of the chapter in a logical manner, renumbering and retitling sections, consolidating related provisions, modernizing language, resolving ambiguities in language, codifying court decisions, and making minor substantive changes.