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  • September 30, 2011

    Special session on jobs will include tort proposals

    Gov. Scott Walker called the Wisconsin Legislature into special session on Sept. 29 to consider a number of bills, including four tort reform measures. Learn what's in store for this special session.

    Special session on jobs will include tort   proposalsOct. 5, 2011 – Gov. Scott Walker has called the Wisconsin State Legislature into special session on Sept. 29 to consider a list of bills, including four tort reform measures, intended to promote job growth.

    “In traveling the state, I’ve listened to the concerns of job creators and those still looking for work.  The one thing that I hear more than anything else is that employers and workers want a sense of certainty.  That is the main goal of this special session – to create as much certainty as we can for employers and workers at the state level so that they can create jobs,” Walker explains. "By calling another special session we show that jobs remain at the front of our agenda.”

    The four tort-related bills have not been introduced, but the Governor’s Office released the following bill summaries:

    LRB 2670 – Relating to factors for determining the reasonableness of attorney fees (Rep. Vos and Sen. Zipperer):

    • Requires a court to consider certain factors to determine reasonable attorney fees.
    • Factors include, but not limited to the following:
      • amount involved in the dispute;
      • actual outcome of the dispute;
      • novelty and difficulty of the questions involved; and
      • complexity of the case
    • Would limit attorney fees to three times the award with certain limiting factors and exemptions including whether nonmonetary relief is awarded or in cases involving both compensatory damages and nonmonetary relief.

    LRB 2890 – Relating to providing immunity from liability to drug and device manufacturers and sellers under certain circumstances (Rep. Kooyenga and Sen. Zipperer):

    • This bill provides immunity to manufactures and sellers of medical devices/drugs from lawsuits if their product received approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration at the time the device/drug left the control of the manufacturer or seller.
    • Also provides immunity from liability to a manufacturer or seller of a drug/device for any claim based on the failure to warn of the risk of the drug/device if labeling was made available to the consumer, the person who prescribed the drug/device, and the labeling was in compliance with established FDA standards.
    • Legislation covers defects in design, which undergo a strenuous FDA approval process.
    • Does not cover defects that occur in the manufacturing process.

    LRB 2939 – Relating to duty of care owed to trespassers (Rep. Williams and Sen. Galloway):

    • Current law in WI does not hold property owners and outdoor employers liable for trespassers who are injured on their property through no fault of the property owner.
    • Under the Third Reinstatement of Torts spreading across the country, landowners have a duty to exercise reasonable care to all entrants on property, including unwanted trespassers.
    • This bill would preempt courts in WI from adopting this Third Reinstatement.
    • Current law in WI would be protected.

    LRB 2966 and LRB 2838 – Relating to interest rates on judgments in certain civil actions (Rep. Paul Farrow and Sen. Rich Zipperer):

    • Currently, Wisconsin allows interest on judgments involving the recovery of money at the rate of 12 percent per year from the date of entry judgment. This is one of the highest interest rates in the country and was established in the 1979-1980 legislative session.
    • Changes the interest rate on judgments for the recovery of money in certain civil actions to an annual rate of 1 percent plus the prime rate in effect on the day the judgment is entered.
    • Improves the legal climate for job creators.

    The Governor’s Office released the following list of other bills called for in the special session:

    Access to Capital

    Assembly Bill 20 – Rep. Barca and Sen. Lassa, allowing refunds for the early stage seed and angel investment tax credits and making an appropriation.

    Assembly Bill 90 and Senate Bill 40 – Rep. Clark and Sen. Lassa, entrepreneurial tax credit access grants, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation.

    Assembly Bill 179 – Rep. Weininger and Sen. Cowles, authorizing the creation of a multi-jurisdictional tax incremental financing district.

    Assembly Bill 211 – Rep. Molepske, Rep. Williams and Sen. Lassa, an income and franchise tax credit for investments in a community development financial institution.

    LRB 1875 – Rep. Petryk, Bernier and Larson and Sen. Leibham, small business loan guarantees by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

    LRB 1877 – Rep. Nerison and Sen. Schultz, changes to agricultural production and loan guarantee programs administered by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

    LRB 2861 – Sen. Wanggaard and Rep. Marklein, creation of the Wisconsin Next Generation Reserve Board and Wisconsin next generation reserve fund, authorizing the State of Wisconsin Investment Board to provide certain advice, services, facilities, and loans to state agencies and others, and making appropriations.

    Regulatory Streamlining

    Wetland and Habitat Restoration – Sen. Kedzie and Rep. Mursau, Changes to wetland water quality certifications which will help streamline the permitting process while maintaining protections for our most valuable wetland resources.

    LRB 1446 – Sen. Kedzie and Rep. Mursau, information required to be published on the Department of Natural Resources Internet Web site; identification of areas of significant scientific value for purposes of regulating the placement of deposits and structures on the beds of navigable waters and the removal of materials from the beds of navigable waters; requirements for the placement of certain piers and wharves; repair and maintenance of boat houses and fixed houseboats; permit exemptions for land grading activities and for persons who place piers and wharves in navigable waters; placement of fill or structures within a bulkhead line; procedures for issuing individual permits, contracts, and general permits and contracts for structures, deposits, and other activities in or near navigable waters; expedited procedures for plan approvals for dams and for water and sewerage systems; and granting rule-making authority.

    LRB 2769 – Rep. Strachota and Sen. Zipperer & Galloway, various duties of the Department of Revenue, including issuing declaratory judgments, conducting audits and assessments, asserting liability, allowing claims for refunds, awarding the costs of litigation, imposing penalties related to a taxpayer’s negligence, and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority.

    LRB 2854 – Gov. Walker, the film production services tax credit application fee.

    Workforce Development

    Assembly Bill 97 – Rep. Ripp and Sen. Lassa, advanced manufacturing skills grants for technical colleges.

    LRB 2221 – Rep. Radcliffe, authorizing a school board to grant a vocational high school diploma.

    Tax Relief

    Assembly Bill 145 and Senate Bill 102 – Sen. Leibham and Rep. Klenke, authorizing the Public Service Commission to approve temporary electric rates to promote economic development.

    Assembly Bill 220 – Rep. Murtha and Sen. Moulton, an income and franchise tax credit for workplace wellness programs, granting rule-making authority, and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority.

    AB 277 and SB 203 – Rep. Strachota and Sen. Wanggaard, adopting federal law as it relates to excluding from an employee’s income certain payments from an employer related to medical care.

    Senate Bill 171 – Sen. Taylor and Rep. Toles, exempting from income taxation certain employer-paid fringe benefits for mass transit expenses.

    Transportation and Infrastructure

    Assembly Bill 252 and Senate Bill 195 – Rep. Petrowski and Sen. Lazich, seasonal weight limitations for certain vehicles transporting agricultural crops.

    Assembly Bill 253 and Senate Bill 189 – Rep. Petrowski and Sen. Lazich, the maximum permissible length of vehicles carrying poles, pipe, girders, and similar materials on highways.

    Assembly Bill 254 and Senate Bill 190 – Rep. Petrowski and Sen. Lazich, the maximum permissible length of single vehicles operated on a highway without an overweight permit.

    LRB 2900 – Rep. Petrowski and Sen. Lazich, permits for overweight vehicle combinations transporting sealed containers or vehicles in international trade.

    LRB 2901 – Rep. Petrowski and Sen. Lazich, annual or consecutive month permits for certain overweight vehicle combinations transporting agricultural commodities.

    This article is adapted from a report that originally appeared in Rotunda Report. Rotunda Report is the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Government Relations e-newsletter that highlights legislative, judicial, and administrative developments that impact the legal profession and the justice system. It is published twice a month and is distributed free to attorneys, public officials and others who help shape public policy in Wisconsin.


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