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Rotunda Report
  • Rotunda Report
    December 06, 2021

    Legislature Finishes Fall Session, Moves Focus to Final Spring Floor Periods

    The Legislature has been busy this fall, but much of the legislation of State Bar concern won't be fully addressed until the spring. Here's a recap of some of the bills of interest to State Bar members, Practice Sections, and Capitol watchers.

    Cale Battles

    Wisconsin Capitol at dusk

    Dec. 6, 2021 – It can often be difficult to describe how the Wisconsin Legislature works. It isn’t like a city council or a school board that has bi-weekly or even monthly meetings. The Wisconsin Legislature plans floor periods for certain windows of time at the beginning of each biennial session. Then, as those timeframes approach, it schedules floor period dates within those windows of time to take up legislation (2021-22 Legislative Session Calendar). While this past fall session was productive with a number of bills passed, it also wasn’t particularly overwhelming in terms floor days or of issues taken up with State Bar interest. That should all change once the calendar turns to 2022.

    The biggest disappointment is the lack of movement by the Senate on a proposal to reform Wisconsin’s expungement process. Assembly Bill 69/Senate Bill 78 authored by Representative David Steffen (R-Green Bay) and Representative Even Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) has strong bipartisan support in the legislature, by business organizations, and by justice reform groups. Despite this, it has continued to languish in the Senate due to the lack of enough Senate Republican support. 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 has been and will continue to be busy throughout the fall and into next spring. Multiple lobbying sections also have proactive legislation that is currently being either studied or drafted.

    The Business Law section been working on codifying and modernizing proposed uniform laws on Limited Liability Companies and Limited Partnerships as well as updating and harmonizing the state’s other business entity statutes (Assembly Bill 566/Senate Bill 566). These proposals will foster uniformity with other states and update current laws to assist in creating and growing current Wisconsin businesses.

    Cale Battles 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 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 assisting in the drafting of a trailer bill to follow-up on both 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. Finally the section is opposing changes to P.O.D. accounts as proposed in Assembly Bill 596/Senate Bill 596.

    The Family Law Section is seeking enactment of several recently introduced initiatives this session, including AB-633/SB-604, which clarifies the annual process of exchanging financial information in family matters, AB-634/SB-603, allowing court commissioners to finalize stipulated legal separations, AB-723/SB-738, bringing uniformity to the de novo process in family court, and AB-722/SB-739, an effort to finalize stipulations earlier the divorce process. In addition, the section is looking to seek legislation in a future session related to reducing the “cooling off” timeframe before a divorce is finalized.

    Children & the Law is nearly finished undergoing a review of the Uniform Law Commission’s proposed Uniform Parentage Act. These changes would update state statute to reflect and be more inclusive of the many types of families in Wisconsin, among other changes. Meanwhile, Construction Law 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.

    • Senate Bill 19/Assembly Bill 46 – financial exploitation of vulnerable adults (Elder Law and Special Needs Section opposes)

    • Senate Bill 20/Assembly Bill 45 – financial exploitation of vulnerable adults with securities accounts (Elder Law and Special Needs Section opposes)

    • Senate Bill 17/Assembly Bill 44 – increased penalties for crimes against elder persons; restraining orders for elder persons; freezing assets of a defendant charged with financial exploitation of an elder person; sexual assault of an elder person; physical abuse of an elder person and providing a penalty. (Elder Law and Special Needs Section supports)

    • Senate Bill 18/Assembly Bill 43 – expediting criminal proceedings when a victim or witness is an elder person and preserving the testimony of a crime victim or witness who is an elder person (Elder Law and Special Needs Section supports)

    • Senate Bill 158/Assembly Bill 167 – requiring the Department of Financial Institutions to study and report on establishing a section 529A ABLE saving account program. (Elder Law and Special Needs Section supports)

    • 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)

    • Assembly Bill 634 /Senate Bill 603 – allows court commissioners to finalize a stipulated legal separation (Family Law supports)

    • Assembly Bill 629 /Senate Bill 686 – allows for open adoption agreements between adoptive parent and birth parent (Child Law supports concept, seeking amendments)

    The Legislature’s spring floor period is scheduled to start on January 18, 2022. It is anticipated that they will wrap up their biennial session floor session in either late February or March. The Legislature likely will not meeting again until Inauguration Day on January 3, 2023.

    What You Can Do: State Bar of Wisconsin Advocacy Network

    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. Choose the "write your own" option to compose a message that expresses your own thoughts and opinions and helps to demonstrate the breadth of support for policies that prioritize access to justice.

    You can also subscribe to Rotunda Report and follow us on Twitter to stay informed and get involved in the legislative process.

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