Wisconsin Lawyer: Practice Tips: Looking for Info on Wisconsin Legislation:

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    Practice Tips: Looking for Info on Wisconsin Legislation

    Grab a cup of coffee, boot up your computer, and connect to the Internet to visit these preferred and helpful Web sites, including the updated Wisconsin Legislature site.

    Carol Schmitt

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 79, No. 5, May 2006

    Looking for Info on Wisconsin Legislation

    Grab a cup of coffee, boot up your computer, and connect to the Internet to visit these preferred and helpful Web sites, including the updated Wisconsin Legislature site.

    by Carol J. Schmitt

    The Wisconsin Legislature Web site is the definitive location if you are looking for Wisconsin legislative materials such as acts, proposals, statutes, regulations, and Administrative Code sections. However, if you are searching for drafting records, briefs, fiscal analyses, or subject papers, there were few, if any, Web sites containing these documents, until now.

    This article looks at some of the major changes and updates to the Wisconsin Legislature Web site, and introduces researchers to additional sites, such as the U.W. Law Libraries link for legislative drafting records, the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, and the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau. (For an earlier discussion of conducting Wisconsin legislative research, please see "Using the Wisconsin Legislature Web Site," by Amy Gannaway, 77 Wis. Law. 37 (Dec. 2004).)

    Major Changes to Wisconsin Legislative Web Site
    (www.legis.state.wi.us)

    Item/Changes

    OLD site:
    Location/tab/link name

    NEW site:
    Location/tab/link name

    Tab name changes

    Legislative Activity
    Joint Committee
    Service Agencies

    Legislation
    Joint Legislative Committee
    Legislative Service Agencies

    Retrieve by proposal number

    Right-hand side of screen Left-hand side of screen

    Current legislative sessions

    Use "Legislative Activity" link or fill in form to search for proposal Use "Legislation" tab along left-hand side or fill in form
    Previous legislative session

    Use links within the "Legislative Activity" link or use "Folio Search"

    Use "Searchable Infobase" link
    Folio searching Required navigation to the "Folio Search" link is at the bottom of the page or under the "Legislative Activity" link

    1) Click on "Searchable Infobase" link (tips and techniques in the December 2004 Wisconsin Lawyer article apply

    2) Can be linked to from "Legislation" tab on left-hand side of screen, then select "Legislative Documents"

    Wisconsin Legislature Web Site

    The Wisconsin Legislature Web site

    • The types of material located under the "Legislative Activity" link have changed. On the old Web site, this link contained access to bills, indexes, calendars, and acts. On the new Web site, the "Legislative Activity" link is a heading solely for the schedules and calendars for the current legislative session. Under this new link, you will find the calendars for the Assembly, the Senate, and legislative committees. The "Spotlight" link also is located under this heading.
    • "Folio Searching" also has had a name change. On the old Web site, to perform a search for legislation by keyword or phrase, researchers navigated to the "Folio Search" link at the bottom of the page or under the "Legislative Activity" link. On the new Web site, the "Folio Search" has been renamed "Searchable Infobase." This is a more straightforward designation for the kind of searching (keyword) that is allowed. The Folio Search interface is still used, so to gain searching tips and techniques, see the December 2004 Wisconsin Lawyer article. The table below illustrates most of the other major changes to the Legislature Web site.

    In addition to the resources available from the Wisconsin Legislature Web site, three more resources and Web sites worth mentioning are: 1) the Legislative Drafting Records database at the U.W. Law Library Web site; 2) the Legislative Reference Bureau Web site; and 3) the Legislative Fiscal Bureau Web site.

    Legislative Drafting Records Web Site

    A complete legislative research project should include a review of the legislative drafting records. The drafting records are the written materials, such as letters or memos, used or created by the drafting attorneys when writing legislation. The drafting records often contain that golden nugget of information that can help researchers determine the reasoning behind a particular proposal or amendment. Reviewing drafting records often is a very labor-intensive task, involving a trip to the Legislative Reference Bureau (or Marquette University Law Library) to look at sheets of microfiche or rolls of microfilms. However, reviewing recent drafting records has become much easier, thanks to a joint endeavor of the U.W. Law Library and the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB).

    The Wisconsin Legislative Drafting Records database, created by the U.W. Law Library, contains scanned images of legislative drafting materials from the 1999-2000, 2001-02, and 2003-04 legislative sessions. You can search the database by keyword or browse the records by session, legislative branch (assembly or senate), or topic. Records are available in PDF format. A handy "quick guide" provides database contents, search tips, commonly used abbreviations, and other helpful information.

    Legislative Reference Bureau Web Site

    The LRB Web site, at www.legis.state.wi.us/lrb/index.htm, is another useful resource for legislative research. The LRB is a nonpartisan entity that provides legal, research, and library services to the Wisconsin Legislature and the public. The LRB maintains a comprehensive collection of library materials and government documents. Additionally the LRB publishes reports on legislation and government issues and is responsible for the Wisconsin Blue Book.

    One useful resource available on the LRB Web site is "A Guide to Wisconsin Legislation," at www.legis.state.wi.us/lrb/pubs/wb/98wb8.pdf. This document, created by former LRB legislative analyst Peter Cannon, does a wonderful job of describing the legislative process and the documents used in the research process.

    Join Practice Management elist

    State Bar members can share information, ask questions, and connect with a panel of experts when tackling business and technology aspects of their practice on the State Bar's practice management electronic list, Practice411.

    Practice411 cosponsors are the Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP), the Law Practice Managment Section, the General Practice Section, the Solo and Small Firm Committee, and the Wisconsin Association of Legal Administrators.

    LOMAP, the Bar's newest member service, provides an array of law practice management resources to help State Bar members more efficiently and effectively practice law.

    Subscribe. To subscribe, send an email, from the address where you wish to receive your messages, to: wisbar join-Practice411 elists org elists join-Practice411 wisbar org (leave the subject line and the body blank) or go to the Law Practice Management tab and select Practice411.

    For more information, contact the State Bar at (800) 728-7788 or (608) 257-3838.

    Under the "LRB Publications" tab, www.legis.state.wi.us/lrb/pubs/index.htm, researchers will find a comprehensive listing of full-text publications, arranged by subject heading. Many of these publications can be of great assistance in research. Items available include links to the Wisconsin Blue Book where researchers can find biographies of Wisconsin governmental officials, and links to podcasts (MP3 audio files) on various aspects of the legislative process. Other links include the "Legislative briefs" link, which contains summaries of individual acts (not including the budget bill); and "Wisconsin briefs," where researchers will find links to additional topical documents created by the LRB, such as background information on SeniorCare. Clicking on "Tap the Power" will deliver a variety of annotated bibliographies on topics related to your research interest. Under "Wisconsin at a Glance" are links to "informational maps" (for example, County Sales Tax Revenues 2001-2003).

    Legislative Fiscal Bureau Web Site

    The Legislative Fiscal Bureau is a nonpartisan service agency established by Wisconsin statute that performs duties associated with the state's fiscal affairs. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau provides fiscal information and analyses, reviews of existing or proposed programs and budgets, and recommendations to the Legislature and legislative committees.

    Just as on the LRB Web site, the "Publications" tab of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's Web site is probably the site's most useful feature. Under this tab, researchers will find revenue estimates for recent legislative sessions, analyses of past state budgets, and miscellaneous documents.

    The Fiscal Bureau has made available a comprehensive collection of papers on topics of interest from recent and previous budgets (2005-07 Budgets); a cumulative listing of papers on topics covered by the biennial budgets from 1999 forward (Budget Papers); and summaries of proposals for the last three legislative sessions (Bill Summaries).

    Conclusion

    The Web continues to change the face of legal research. More and more resources that previously were limited to print formats are now accessible via the Internet. The task for researchers is to learn who provides the information and how to navigate the Web pages. Websites of the Wisconsin State Legislature and other state government agencies have made the legislative research process easier.

    Carol J. Schmitt is the law library manager for Boardman Law Firm LLP, Madison, and a member of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin.




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