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  • Rotunda Report
    January 24, 2022

    Best Practices on Following the Legislature During the Frantic End of the 2021-2022 Session

    The 2021-2022 legislative session is rapidly coming to a close. Government Relations Coordinator Cale Battles gives an overview of how best to keep up with the goings-on of state government in the final days of session.

    Mr. Cale Battles


    Wisconsin Capitol in snow


    January 24, 2022 – It is impossible to truly describe how the legislature closes out the end of legislative session. It is literally a six to eight week marathon that feels like a sprint. Hundreds of bills are introduced, have public hearings and floor votes, all in a matter of days. In January alone there will be over 100 committee public hearings and executive sessions. Just last week, 43 committees held meetings and the Assembly held a floor session. The end of session can be overwhelming for Legislators, legislative staff, the press, lobbyists and Capitol watchers. For those unfamiliar with the process it can be frustrating to keep up with current state government happenings.

    Explaining the Legislative Calendar

    One of the first items that is voted on every session is a legislative joint resolution that establishes the session calendar of both the Senate and the Assembly for the two year session. For this session the calendar was established with the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 1. The passage of the joint resolution establishes the 15 month general business legislative session. The best way to describe the calendar is that it is seasonal and in four specific segments: spring session in odd year (January-May), budget passage (June), fall session in odd year (September-November) and spring session in even years (January-March).

    The legislature’s website lists the calendar dates as approved by the joint resolution. It is important to note that the full legislature does not meet on all the dates set aside for the year. For example, the State Senate is only meeting for one floor session in January and the Assembly has scheduled two floor sessions in January. It is expected that February and March will likely mirror the January schedule. Even with few legislative days than schedule that doesn’t mean that floor periods will be short, in fact it will likely be the opposite. 

    Outside of the legislature’s floor session, public hearings and executive sessions can be scheduled at any time, typically with about one week’s notice, and most often occur midweek.  This stage is the precursor to floor action, and is provides an opportunity for public participation in the legislative process.  Notice of these hearings is posted on the legislature’s committee schedule site.

    The public can follow along and watch the Legislature in action. State Bar members and citizens can access information in real time and track any legislative action.  Below is a helpful guide with links on how members can research and follow state government.

    Watch the Legislature in Action​

    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.

    WisconsinEye is a television and internet broadcasting service airing video from legislative floor sessions, committee public hearings and news interviews. The site archives previous broadcast footage, and is searchable by committee or date. The Newsmakers and Daily Morning Minute highlight pressing current political issues or topics of statewide interest. WisEye can also be found on some cable providers, including Charter Channel 995 and 363.

    For Capitol watchers who want to learn more about lobbying and the lobbying efforts of interest groups, the Wisconsin Ethics Commission (WEC) has created the Wisconsin Eye on Lobbying website. Lobbying principals and registered lobbyists must report any lobbying activities that they have conducted on legislation, budget matters or administrative rule, which are then posted on the WEC’s lobbying website in real time. Lobbying principles and registered lobbyists also must submit reports every six months as to the time and cost of these efforts.    

    Two sites that are a daily must-visit for politicians and lobbyists are the Wheeler Report and Wispolitics.com. Both focus on aggregating state political news, but also post news releases, events and daily Capitol schedules.   

    WisconsinEye - http://www.wiseye.org/

    WEC’s Eye on Lobbying - https://lobbying.wi.gov/Home/Welcome

    Wispolitics - http://wispolitics.com/

    The Wheeler Report - http://thewheelerreport.com/

    Wisconsin Legislative Homepage

    The state Legislature’s Home Page contains a wealth of information on current and previous session legislative action. The Assembly and Senate post session calendars and committee schedules. The site also allows citizens to search any legislative proposal or topic introduced.

    The Wisconsin Legislative Notification Service is also located on the home page. This service allows anyone the ability to track a specific bill, topic, administrative code, committee action or legislation introduced by an elected official. Users can request weekly or daily email notifications when any legislative action occurs.

    Legislative Notification Service - https://notify.legis.wisconsin.gov/login

    Legislature Home Page - http://legis.wisconsin.gov/

    Find a Proposal (Legislative Document Search) - https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/search

    Senate Session Calendar - https://insession.legis.wisconsin.gov/senate

    Assembly Session Calendar - https://insession.legis.wisconsin.gov/assembly

    State Bar Government Relations Information

    The State Bar’s Public Affairs Department and Publications Department will continue to offer up-to-date information on legislative and court developments through the rest of the 2021-22 session. Members can subscribe to the Rotunda Report, which is an e-newsletter that focuses on the State Bar’s legislative issues. The State Bar’s InsideTrack newsletter also frequently features articles on legislative developments and in-depth articles from members on the impact of recent law changes. The Government Relations site also includes information on policy positions taken by the State Bar and the practice sections that have chosen to lobby.

    SBW Government Relations - http://www.wisbar.org/aboutUs/GovernmentRelations

    Rotunda Report - http://www.wisbar.org/newspublications/RotundaReport

    SBW Policy Positions - https://www.wisbar.org/aboutus/governmentrelations/Documents/BOGPolicyPositions2021.3.pdf

    Inside Track - http://www.wisbar.org/NewsPublications/InsideTrack

    State Bar’s Grassroots and Advocacy Network

    Launched in 2019, the State Bar continues to grow our outreach efforts to members and encourages lawyer participation in the legislative process. Member engagement is a vital tool to let policy makers know of support or concerns for legislative issues. The State Bar’s Advocacy Network encourages a productive and positive contribution to the legislative process. Attorney input, advice and expertise is very impactful on the legislative process and continued engagement into the process leads to better policy outcomes.​

    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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