September 14, 2017 – The Wisconsin Legislature returned to the state Capitol this week to take final votes on the state’s biennial budget and to finish work on legislation intended to attract electronics manufacturer Foxconn to Wisconsin. The budget and the Foxconn agreement occupied much of the Legislature’s attention during the late summer months and has impacted the start of the fall legislative floor period, which was scheduled to begin Sept. 12. It is anticipated that once final votes occur on these two issues, the Legislature will begin voting on additional items as early as next week with a more aggressive floor schedule in October.
The one possible holdup with moving forward on legislative items this fall is news that Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) is still working to secure the necessary 17 votes to pass the biennial budget in the Senate. Any further delay in passing the budget could potentially cause lawmakers to refocus their efforts towards getting a final agreement passed. A full recap of budget and possible vetoes from Governor Walker will appear in a future edition of Rotunda Report.
Expungement and Practice Sections Issues
Among the issues that the State Bar will be following closely are two legislative proposals dealing with expungement of criminal records. Assembly Bill 93/Senate Bill 53 authored by Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) and Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) and Assembly Bill 331 authored by State Representative David Steffen (R-Green Bay) and State Representative Even Goyke (D-Milwaukee) both deal with the issue of requesting expungement at the time of sentencing. The somewhat competing bills do have differences specifically regarding the timing and number of times a person can request expungement. The State Bar is on record supporting both proposals and will continue to monitor their status.
The State Bar’s section lobbying program will also be busy throughout the fall and into next spring. Multiple lobbying sections have proactive legislation that is currently being either studied or drafted.
The Business Law Section has a number of legislative proposals that will be introduced this spring. The Section has been working on codifying proposed uniform laws on Limited Liability Companies, Limited Partnerships, the Statutory Trust Entity Act, and Benefit Corporations. These proposals will foster uniformity with other states and update current laws to assist in creating and growing current Wisconsin businesses.
The Elder Law and Children & the Law Sections continue to work on guardianship reform. The Sections have worked together to remove juvenile guardianship provisions from statutory Chapters 54 and 55 in order to add them to the children’s code in Chapter 48. The Elder Law Section is also actively working to improve Chapters 54 and 55 and is in the process of suggesting changes to the Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act.
The Real Property, Probate, and Trust (RPPT) Section will propose changes to the Transfer on Death and Transfer by Affidavit statutes. Members of RPPT are also working on the adoption of the Uniform Powers of Appointment Act and some follow-up to the Uniform Trust Act that passed with the Section’s support as 2013 Wisconsin Act 92.
The Family Law Section is working on a proposal allowing for modification of legal custody or physical placement orders contingent upon a future event as well as a proposal on parent relocation for separated couples. Continue to follow the Rotunda Report for updates and further details on these Section proposals as they progress through the legislative process.
Summary of Legislative Bills of Interest Being Considered by Legislature
Currently, there are hundreds of legislative proposals moving through the legislative process. Below is a short summary of proposals from the Legislative Reference Bureau Bill Analysis that might be of interest to State Bar members. Some of these proposals are supported by either the State Bar’s Board of Governors or by one of the Bar’s 13 active lobbying practice sections.
- Assembly Bill 117 – Allows a full-time district attorney, deputy district attorney, or assistant district attorney to provide legal services to a person of limited means or to a charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, or education organization if the attorney provides the services without fee and the services are not in conflict with the interests of the district attorney's county. (State Bar supports)
- Assembly Bill 275 - Prohibits an adult from knowingly permitting or failing to take action to prevent the illegal consumption of alcohol beverages by an underage person on property owned and occupied by the adult or occupied by the adult and under the adult's control. This prohibition applies regardless of whether the property is covered by an alcohol beverages license or permit. (No position)
- Senate Bill 101 - Makes the transfer by affidavit procedure for a small estate, which is an estate that does not exceed $50,000 in value, available to a person who is named in a decedent's will as the personal representative. Two amendments were added to the legislation that would not allow real property to be transferred to a person named in a will to act as personal representative and that the person who holds the decedent’s assets may not transfer the assets until 30 days after the day on which the affidavit is received. (No position)
- Senate Bill 285 - Allows shareholders of a business corporation to participate in shareholders' meetings by means of remote communication, without being physically present at the meeting. (No position)
- Assembly Bill 37 - Increases to $100 per hour the amount a private attorney is paid for time spent related to State Public Defender-assigned cases. (State Bar supports)
- Assembly Bill 115 – Gives authority to the departments of administration, children and families, workforce development, justice, and health services to allocate federal grant money for civil legal aid. (State Bar supports)
- Assembly Bill 116 - Creates an Interagency Legal Aid Coordinating Council (council) in the Department of Administration for the purpose of facilitating discussion about how access to civil legal services may fit into, serve, or further the missions, responsibilities, and goals of the agencies. (State Bar supports)
The Legislature’s fall session floor period is scheduled from Sept. 12 through Sept. 21, Oct. 10 through Oct. 12, and Oct. 31 through Nov. 9. The Legislature will then sprint to the finish during the spring floor period starting Jan. 16, 2018.