Rotunda Report: Legislature Sprints Toward Finish of 2019-20 Session:

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  • Rotunda Report
    February
    14
    2020

    Legislature Sprints Toward Finish of 2019-20 Session

    Cale Battles

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    The government relations team has been active in advocating for both important State Bar priorities and for the State Bar's Practice Sections that participate in the lobbying program.
    Wisconsin Capitol building at dusk

    Feb. 14, 2020 - The Wisconsin Legislature, with only a few session floor days remaining in February and March, has maintained a frenetic pace of committee work by legislators to get their priorities and business done before the 2019-20 session is adjourned at the end of March.

    Since the start of the New Year, there have been over 180 committee hearings where either public hearings or executive sessions (committee votes) were held. Legislative leaders in the Assembly have indicated the possibility of adjourning in February, which has created additional pressure for legislators to pass their bills before the session ends.

    The government relations team has been active in advocating for both important State Bar priorities and for the State Bar’s Practice Sections that participate in the lobbying program.

    State Bar Priorities Gaining Momentum, While Expungement Reform Stalls

    The issue of expungement has received considerable attention by legislators the past two sessions. For the 2019-20 session, Assembly Bill 33 authored by State Representative David Steffen (R-Green Bay), Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and State Representative Even Goyke (D-Milwaukee) passed the Assembly by a wide bipartisan vote, but has languished in the Senate. The State Bar is continuing to encourage members to contact state senators to request they take a vote on this important legislation before the session ends. Members are encouraged to visit the State Bar’s Advocacy Network to learn more about the issue and be directly connected to their state senators.

    Cale Battlesorg cbattles wisbar Cale Battles, is a government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. He can be reached by org cbattles wisbar email, or by phone at (608) 250-6077.

    The State Bar continues to advocate on a number of other issues that will impact the justice system and funding. In September, the Justice Support Initiative was introduced and continues to progress through the legislative process. Two of the Justice Support Initiatives have received positive votes by each of the respective legislative chambers. Assembly Bill 501/Senate Bill 468 provides pay progression for State Public Defender (SPD) Staff Attorneys. The Senate already voted unanimously to approve SB 468.  The legislation would fix an imbalance created in the 2019-21 budget where state prosecutors received pay progression, while SPD staff attorneys did not. Assembly Bill 470/Senate Bill 458 would create 12 new circuit court branches and continues to move through the legislative process. AB 470 passed the Assembly last fall with a 94-1 vote. The bill as amended calls for the new circuit court branches to be phased-in over a three year period starting in 2021 (four branches each year until 2023) and allocated by the Director of State Courts with a focus on establishing drug courts.

    Fixing the ghostwriting legislative change that was adopted by the legislature in the 2017-18 has also been a priority for the State Bar. Assembly Bill 705/Senate Bill 698 was an attempted fix by the legislature that would require an attorney to provide a name and state bar number on ghostwritten documents only if an opposing party requests it in a contested manner. The State Bar opposes the legislative effort and supports Supreme Court Petition 19-16 that would reinstate the ghostwriting rule. (For additional information: Ghostwriting for Pro Se Litigants: Supreme Court Weighing Petition)

    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 that might be of interest to State Bar members. The proposals listed 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 25/Senate Bill 29 – allowing district attorneys, deputy district attorneys and assistant district attorneys to engage in private practice of law for certain civil purposes. Bill status: both bills have received positive committee votes and await floor action. (State Bar supports)

    • Assembly Bill 30/Senate Bill 34 – creating a procedure for granting certificates of qualification for employment for persons convicted of a crime. Bill status: AB 30 passed the Assembly on February 11 and awaits a vote in the Senate. (Civil Rights and Liberties Section supports)

    • Assembly Bill 41/Senate Bill 49 – preventing prosecuting of a person under the age of 18 with committing an act of prostitution (referred to as safe harbor legislation). Bill status: Senate amended and passed SB 49 on a 19-14 vote and awaits a vote in the Assembly. (Children and the Law Section supports)

    • Assembly Bill 47 – guardianship of children. Bill status: Passed Assembly on a voice vote and awaits Senate floor action. (Children and the Law Section Supports)

    • Assembly Bill 58/Senate Bill 62 – allows personal service to satisfy the notice of claims statute as an alternative to certified mail. Bill status: Act 29. (Litigation Section supports)

    • Assembly Bill 59/Senate Bill 63 – permits email as an alternative method to serve certain documents in ongoing litigation. Bill Status: Act 30 (Litigation Section supports)

    • Assembly Bill 95 - modifications to legal custody or physical placement contingent upon a future event. Bill Status: Passed Assembly on a voice vote and awaits Senate committee action. (Family Law Section supports)

    • Assembly Bill 100 - judicial notice of certain court records relating to domestic violence or child abuse. Bill Status: Passed Assembly on a voice vote and awaits Senate committee action. (Family Law Section supports)

    • Assembly Bill-166/Senate Bill-158 – determination of paternity based on genetic testing. Bill status: Act 95 (Family Law Section supports)

    • Assembly Bill 287/Senate Bill 254 - certifications for advance directives and findings of incapacity related to powers of attorney for health care. Bill status: signed into law as 2019 Wisconsin Act 90. (Elder Law and Special Needs and Real Property, Probate and Trust Sections opposed)

    • Assembly Bill 293/Senate Bill 317 - online notaries public and electronic notarizations. Legislation would adopt the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts and would allow for remote and electronic notarization of certain documents.  Bill status: Passed Assembly on a voice vote and awaits Senate floor action. (Real Property, Probate and Trust Section supports)

    • Assembly Bill 444/Senate Bill 403 -free expression within the University of Wisconsin System. Bill status: Passed Assembly on a voice vote and awaits Senate floor action. (Civil Rights and Liberties Section opposes)

    • Assembly Bill 481/Senate Bill 429 - financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. Legislation would allow financial institutions to delay transactions and refuse to honor durable power of attorney documents for any individual that is over the age of 60. Bill status: Passed Assembly on a voice vote and awaits Senate floor action. (Elder Law Section opposes)

    • Assembly Bill 482/Senate Bill 428 - financial exploitation of vulnerable adults with securities accounts, violations of the Wisconsin Uniform Securities Law. Legislation is mirrored after AB 481/SB 429, but applies the delay to securities transactions. Bill status: Passed Assembly on a voice vote and awaits Senate floor action. (Elder Law Section opposes)

    • Assembly Bill 512/Senate Bill 461 - Public Defender Board student loan payment pilot program. Part of Justice Support Initiative, AB 512/SB 461 establishes a pilot program for private bar attorneys that take 50 assigned counsel cases a year in a county with a population of 25,000 or less. Bill status: Voted unanimously out of Assembly Judiciary, but has not been scheduled for an Assembly vote. No action in the Senate. (State Bar supports)

    • Assembly Bill 513/Senate Bill 460 - creation of a prosecutor board and a state prosecutors office. Part of Justice Support Initiative, AB 513/SB 460 would create a State Prosecutor Board modeled along the same concept as the State Public Defender Board. Bill status: Public Hearing in the Assembly and no action in the Senate. (State Bar supports)

    • Assembly Bill 541/Senate Bill 488 - exempting health savings accounts and medical savings accounts from execution of judgment. Bill status: no action in either house. (Bankruptcy, Insolvency and Creditors’ Rights supports)

    • Assembly Bill-564/Senate Bill-533 – expands eligibility for adoption assistance. Bill Status: Act 92. (Children and the Law Section supports)

    • Assembly Bill 696/Senate Bill 626 - penalties for violations related to the motor vehicle liability insurance requirement, proof of financial responsibility, requirements for registering motor vehicles, operating a vehicle without an operator's license or after suspension or revocation of an operating privilege. Bill status: Passed out of Assembly Committee on Transportation, but has not been scheduled for an Assembly vote. No action in the Senate. (Public Interest Section Opposes)

    • Assembly Bill 774/Senate Bill 813 - use of restraints on a child in juvenile or criminal court. Bill status: no action in either house. (State Bar supports)

    • Assembly Bill 807/Senate Bill 749 - mandatory minimum sentence for three or more convictions for retail theft. Bill status: Public hearing held in both Assembly and Senate, but no additional action. (Criminal Law Section opposes)

    • Assembly Bill 854/Senate Bill 810 - adopting revisions to the state's uniform limited partnership law and the state's limited liability company law; making modifications to the state's uniform partnership law; procedures applicable to business corporations and nonstock corporations; certificates of authority of service insurance corporations. Adopts updates to Chapter 179 – Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act and to Chapter 183- Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act. Bill status: Public hearing in Assembly and no additional action. (Business Law Section supports)

    For questions or more information on pending legislation please feel free to contact State Bar Government Relations Coordinators, Lynne Davis (org ldavis wisbar wisbar ldavis org) or Cale Battles (org cbattles wisbar wisbar cbattles org). To stay up to date with current state government issues please subscribe to the Rotunda Report or read the helpful links article on decoding the legislative session.

    The final general business floor period for the 2019-20 session is scheduled for March 24th to March 26th.​




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