Feb. 28, 2020 – The 2019-2020 session is almost complete, with only one more planned Senate floor period before concluding its work. Our last Rotunda Report article reviewed the status of priority legislation for the State Bar of Wisconsin. A busy three day floor period for both the Assembly and Senate the week of February 18-20 saw action on several of those bills. Below is an update on legislation the State Bar and its lobbying sections are working on.
On February 19, the Senate unanimously (33-0) concurred in Assembly Bill 470. The bill as amended calls for the new circuit court branches, allocated by the Director of State Courts, to be phased-in over a three year period starting in 2021 (four branches each year until 2023), with a focus on establishing new drug courts. AB 470 passed the Assembly last fall with a 94-1 vote, and is a key priority for the State Bar of Wisconsin. The Senate also concurred Assembly Bill 47, which changes laws regarding the guardianship of minor children and is supported by the Children and the Law Section, and Assembly Bill 293, which provides for the creation of online notaries, public and electronic notarizations and was supported by the Real Property, Probate and Trust Section. All three of these bills now await consideration by Governor Tony Evers.
On February 20, the Assembly concurred Senate Bill 468. The Senate unanimously approved SB 468, which provides pay progression for State Public Defender (SPD) staff attorneys and fixes an imbalance created in the 2019-21 budget where state prosecutors received pay progression, while SPD staff attorneys did not. However, the Assembly also added an amendment to the bill which dissolves the Wisconsin Judicial Council. The State Bar strongly supports merit pay progression for SPD attorneys and worked for the bill’s passage, but also supports the existence of the Judicial Council. We will continue to work to express our position on both issues.
Finally, the issue of expungement has had no movement in the last days. While Assembly Bill 33 passed the Assembly by a voice vote, signaling its bipartisan support, it continues to languish in the Senate, where it has not been scheduled for a vote. There is one more opportunity for the Senate to concur on the bill in March. The State Bar encourages members to contact state senators to request they take a vote on this important legislation before the session ends. Visit the State Bar’s Advocacy Network to learn more about the issue and contact your state senator.