Aug. 9, 2021 - After a relatively quiet summer, the Wisconsin Legislature will ramp up general legislative bill work with the possibility of a very aggressive floor schedule in September, October and November.
A number of large issues continue to linger over the legislature and executive branch as 2021 comes to a close. The biggest issue is the decennial process of redrawing congressional and legislative boundaries. The redistricting process will more than likely head to court, but potentially could impact municipal and county elections going forward.
Among the issues that the State Bar will be following closely are legislative proposals dealing with expungement of criminal records.
Assembly Bill 69/Senate Bill 78 was authored by Representative David Steffen (R-Green Bay), State Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), and is the latest in a multi-session effort to pass expungement reform in Wisconsin. Assembly Bill 69 passed the Assembly on a strong bipartisan voice vote, but has once again stalled in the Senate. The State Bar is on record strongly supporting the proposal along with 20 other business related associations and justice reform groups. The State Bar will continue to monitor the legislation and will continue to urge members to engage with their elected State Senators to get this important legislation passed.
State Bar Practice Section Issues
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.
Cale Battles, is a government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. He can be reached by
email, or by phone at (608) 250-6077.
The Business Law section has a number of legislative proposals that will be introduced this spring. The section has been working on a proposal that would codify and modernize uniform laws on Limited Liability Companies and Limited Partnerships, as well as update and harmonize the state’s other business entity statutes. 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 Special Needs (ELSN) section continues to work on elder abuse issues. ELSN is opposed to two legislative efforts,
Senate Bill 19/Assembly Bill 46 and
Senate Bill 20/Assembly Bill 45, which ELSN felt gave too much power to financial institutions to freeze assets of customers or to freeze valid Powers of Attorney documents. ELSN does support other elder abuse proposals including
Senate Bill 17/Assembly Bill 44 and
Senate Bill 18/Assembly Bill 43, as well as a proposal to study and establish ABLE Accounts in Wisconsin:
Senate Bill 158/Assembly Bill 167.
The Real Property, Trust and Probate Section (RPPT) continues to be proactive in looking at both real estate changes and estate planning. Members of RPPT are working on adoption of the Uniform Powers of Appointment Act and some follow-ups to the Uniform Trust Act (2013 Wisconsin Act 92) and Wisconsin’s Digital Property Act (2015 Wisconsin Act 300) that both passed with the section’s support. The section also is reviewing remote notarization changes and impacts of the pandemic on estate planning.
Bankruptcy, Insolvency and Creditor Rights (BICR) plans to reintroduce language for the 2019-20 session,
Assembly Bill 541, creating exemptions from bankruptcy judgements for Health Savings Accounts and Medical Savings Accounts. The Public Interest Law Section and the State Bar continue to work on legislation to end the practice of allowing courts to order driver’s license suspensions and warrants for the purpose of collecting unpaid ticket debt. The Taxation Law Section is reinvigorating a proposal to establish a ten year statute of limitations on tax collections.
The Family Law Section has multiple initiatives they hope to see introduced in the 2021-2022 session. These proposals involve efforts to finalize stipulations earlier in the divorce process, bring uniformity to the de novo process in family court, clarify the details of financial information exchanged annually for purposes of accurate child support and maintenance, and allow court commissioners to sign off on stipulated legal separations. In addition, the section is seeking to reduce the “cooling off” timeframe from 120 days before a divorce is finalized.
Children & the Law Section is nearly finished undergoing a review of the Uniform Law Commission’s proposed Uniform Parentage Act, with hopes to introduce the proposal before the end of session. These changes would update state statutes to reflect and be more inclusive of the many types of families in Wisconsin, among other changes. Meanwhile, Construction Law Section continues to review lien law in Wisconsin for ways to improve that 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. These proposals have been acted on by either the State Bar’s Board of Governors or by one of the Bar’s 13 active lobbying practice sections.
Assembly Bill 329 - requires DOJ to collect information from law enforcement agencies and annually report to the legislature about the issuance of search warrants and the use of no-knock or unannounced entries upon execution of search warrants (State Bar of Wisconsin Supports).
Act 49 - requires WI law enforcement agencies make its use-of-force policies or standards publicly available online (State Bar of Wisconsin Supports).
Senate Bill 245 – protecting children who are victims of sex trafficking from being prosecuted for prostitution (Children and the Law Supports)
Assembly Bill 180 - status as an indefinitely confined voter for purposes of receiving absentee ballots automatically and providing a penalty (Civil Rights & Liberties Opposes)
The legislature’s fall session floor period is scheduled from Sept. 28 through Sept. 30, Oct. 20 through Oct. 22, Oct. 25 through Oct. 28, and Nov. 2 through Nov. 11. The legislature will then break until 2022 and will come back on Jan. 18, 2022 for the start of the spring floor period.
What You Can Do: State Bar of Wisconsin Advocacy Network
State Bar members are encouraged to send a message to their lawmakers expressing support on legislative topics which positively affect the legal system using the
Advocacy Network. The pre-written email message is editable to suit your own thoughts and opinions, and will help to demonstrate the breadth of support for policies that prioritize access to justice.
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