State Bar member Theresa Roetter (far right) joins Gov. Tony Evers (center) for the signing of 2019 Wisconsin Act 109, relating to guardianships of minors. The State Bar of Wisconsin Children & the Law Section worked many years to help make this bill possible.
March 13, 2020 – The biggest news of the week is the rapid developments surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. The Wisconsin Department of Public Health has suggested that all events larger than 250 people be cancelled or postponed. Public tours of the Capitol have been suspended due to concerns from the virus, but committee work continues on a few bills as lawmakers wrap up their work. The final regular floor session of the legislature will be held by the Senate sometime between March 24 and March 26. After that, there will be a final veto review session in May before lawmakers break for spring and summer to prepare to campaign for fall elections.
Three State Bar Supported Bills Signed by Evers
On Feb. 28, Gov. Tony Evers signed Wisconsin Act 109, which updates and revises law regarding the guardianship of minor children. This act is a big victory for the State Bar of Wisconsin Children & the Law Section, which has been working with lawmakers for a number of years to enact these revisions. Rep. Jim Steineke (R – Kaukauna) and Sen. LaToya Johnson (D – Milwaukee) were instrumental leaders in getting this bill through the Assembly and the Senate.
On March 3, Evers signed Wisconsin Act 125, creating a process for remote notary. Sponsored by Rep. Joan Ballweg (R – Markesan) and Sen. Luther Olsen (R – Ripon), this legislation was supported by the State Bar Real Property, Probate, and Trust Section.
On March 5, Evers signed Wisconsin Act 184, which will phase in 12 new courts across Wisconsin (four each year, starting in 2021) with a focus on establishing new drug courts. The first four courts were announced on March 9 and are planned for Calumet, Dunn, Jackson, and Marathon counties. Sponsored by Rep. Ron Tusler (R – Harrison) and Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R – Marathon), the bill was a top priority for the State Bar’s core mission to expand access to justice.
Other Legislation Left Behind
Assembly Bill 705 would have changed rules regarding attorney “ghostwriting” for limited-scope representation. It did not advance through a committee vote and will be left behind this year. The State Bar opposed this bill as it likely would further hamper efforts to provide legal services to lower income Wisconsinites.
Assembly Bill 512 would have created a pilot program for rural attorney student loan repayments. While it received a positive Assembly committee vote, it did not pass the full Assembly. The State Bar will continue to support legislation that addresses the debt burdens that many attorneys have.
Assembly Bill 774 would have banned routine juvenile shackling in courts. While it did not receive a public hearing or committee vote, we hope for a similar bill to be introduced again next year, and the State Bar will continue to support the effort.
Finally, expungement reform, Senate Bill 39, has one last chance to pass the Senate before the legislative session ends. You can send one more message to your state senator about the issue using the State Bar of Wisconsin Advocacy Network.