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  • July 17, 2013

    Legislation Affects Publication and Citation of Statutes and Regulations

    Enacted legislation and statutory updates will be published electronically and more quickly, according to two attorneys with the Legislative Reference Bureau. In addition, lawyers can cite electronic publications as prima facie evidence of the law.

    Michael Duchek & Bruce Hoesly

    Working on laptop on capitol stepsJuly 17, 2013 – Recently enacted laws, 2013 Wisconsin Acts 5 and 20, made a number of changes that affect the publication of statutes and acts of the Wisconsin Legislature, as well as publication and distribution of the Wisconsin Administrative Code and Register.

    The following article highlights some of the major changes, including the electronic publication of new laws and administrative rules and their effective dates.

    Electronic Publication of Wisconsin Statutes 

    Act 20 establishes a legal requirement for the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) to electronically publish updated versions of the Wisconsin Statutes and Annotations on the Internet and allows the LRB to publish the statutes in other electronic formats as well.

    Act 20 requires the LRB to include with electronically published statutes information indicating the currency of the electronic update and a certification that the LRB has verified that the statutes are correctly published, similar to the requirement for the printed statutes. Act 20 does not affect the biennially printed volumes of the statutes.

    The Revisor of Statutes Bureau (which was merged into the LRB in 2008) first electronically published the statutes in 1991 on CD-ROM format and began publication of the statutes on the Internet in 1996.

    Over time, the LRB and the Legislative Technology Services Bureau (LTSB) have made significant improvements to the presentation of the statutes on the Internet and the LRB has published updated versions of the statutes on the Internet with greater frequency, as often as daily, to incorporate new enactments.

    This past year, the LRB began publishing the statutes as eBooks, which can be downloaded for viewing onto e-readers, smartphones, and other portable devices. 

    Publication and Effective Dates of Wisconsin Acts 

    Act 5 eliminates the role of the Secretary of State in designating publication dates for acts. Instead, the law provides that the publication date of an act is the day after its enactment (usually, the day after the enrolled bill is signed by the governor) and requires the LRB to publish each act on its date of publication.

    Bruce Hoesly (U.W. 1984) is the revising attorney at the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and serves as the editor of the Wisconsin Statutes and the Administrative Code and Register.   

    Michael Duchek (U.W. 2008) is a legislative and assistant revising attorney for the LRB who drafts legislation and assists with statutory revision.  The LRB provides nonpartisan, professional, and confidential bill drafting, legal publishing, research, and library services to the legislature and the public.

    Act 5 further provides that, unless otherwise expressly provided in an act, the effective date of an act is the day after its date of publication. 

    Act 20 clarifies that the LRB must publish acts on the Internet on their dates of publication and provides that, similar to its authority regarding statutes, the LRB may publish acts in other electronic formats as well. 

    Electronic Publication of the Wisconsin Administrative Code and Register  

    Effective Jan. 1, 2015, Act 20 eliminates state-sponsored printing and the subscription service for the Wisconsin Administrative Code and the Wisconsin Administrative Register and makes Wisconsin the tenth state to move to an electronic-only code and register.

    The electronic register will be published every Monday on the Internet (currently, the register is published twice a month) and will include a more standardized and expanded selection of documents and materials required under the rule-making process.

    The code updates that will be published in the register will consist of PDF files that are indistinguishable from those printed and distributed in the current printed register, so that individuals who wish to maintain paper copies of the code can print out their own update pages.

    Act 20 also requires the LRB to maintain the full code on the Internet (as the LRB currently does) and allows the LRB to publish the code in other electronic formats as well. The LRB and the LTSB are working to develop electronic subscription methods to notify subscribers of changes to rules affecting particular agencies or individual rules or groups of rules, which will be in place by Jan. 1, 2015.

    The Wisconsin Administrative Register is the publication in which new administrative rules and revisions to existing rules promulgated by state agencies are published. The register also contains notices of proposed rulemaking, notices of public hearings relating to proposed rules, and certain other information about proposed rules.

    Final administrative rules are compiled in the Wisconsin Administrative Code, and updates to the code are included as part of the register. Both the code and register are currently printed and distributed to certain statutorily specified recipients, and the Wisconsin Department of Administration offers a paid subscription service for the register and updates to the code.

    Citation to Electronic Publications as Evidence of the Law 

    Act 20 provides that statutes, acts, and administrative rules (the code and register) published by the LRB on the Internet or in other electronic formats may be cited as prima facie evidence of the law, just like printed statutes and acts. This gives these electronic publications the same legal status as their printed counterparts. 

    Electronic Archives 

    Act 20 requires the LRB to maintain archives of electronically published statutes and acts, as well as the administrative code and register, so that they may continue to be accessible to the public.

    Feedback Welcome 

    The LRB and LTSB continue to work on expanding electronic access to various sources of Wisconsin law. We welcome any questions or input from the legal community and the public and encourage feedback about electronic publication, eBooks, and any of the changes described above. Email or call (608) 266-3561. Visit us on the web at

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