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Rotunda Report
  • Rotunda Report
    February 21, 2022

    With Only Days Left in the 2021-22 Session, State Bar Pushes to Wrap Up Section Issues

    In part two of a series, State Bar Government Relations Coordinators Cale Battles and Lynne Davis highlight more of the legislative priorities State Bar lobbying sections hope to wrap up by the session's end.

    Cale Battles & Lynne Davis

    Wisconsin Senate Chamber Door

    Feb. 21, 2022 – In the last edition of the Rotunda Report, part one of a two part series was published on the State Bar’s practice section legislative advocacy for the 2021-22 session. This article focuses on the remaining section issues and provides updates on recent legislative activity.

    Governor Evers Addresses Legislature

    Governor Evers spoke last week to the legislature and presented the annual State of the State address. Much of the Governor’s speech was focused on the state’s improved fiscal condition. In late January, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported that the state is projected to end the state’s fiscal year with a positive balance of $3.8 billion. Governor Evers presented his plan to spend much of that balance down with proposals including $150 rebates for residents, paying for a continued UW system tuition freeze, additional K-12 education spending and more.

    The Governor’s call for a special session again was met with resistance from Republican leaders who control both houses of the Legislature. Republicans instead will likely adjourn the special session without any action on the Governor’s proposals and will instead wait until after the November elections. With only two weeks left in the 2021-22 session, almost all of the legislature’s attention will be on finishing any last minute legislation before adjourning general session.

    Real Property, Probate and Trust

    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.

    Lynne Davis Lynne Davis, is a government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached by email, or by phone at (608) 852-3603.

    The Real Property, Probate and Trust Board (RPPT) continues to be one of the more active sections in the lobbying program. The section works to draft and review a number of uniform laws and also is active and reactive to legislative efforts with both property and estate/probate issues. RPPT most recently testified on Senate Bill 682 and as a result were able to support an amendment, Senate Amendment 2, on exceptions to the 40-year recording requirement for recorded access easements. RPPT has also been active on legislation that would change Payable on Death provisions, Assembly Bill 596/Senate Bill 596. Additional work that still might come this session includes additional updates to the Uniform Trust Code, Uniform Powers of Appointment and the Uniform Digital Property Act.

    Elder Law and Special Needs

    The Elder Law and Special Needs (ELSN) section continues to work on elder abuse issues. ELSN is opposed 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 reject valid Powers of Attorney documents. ELSN does support other elder abuse proposals including Senate Bill 17/Assembly Bill 44 (now 2021 Wisconsin Act 76), Senate Bill 18/Assembly Bill 43, and a proposal to study and establish ABLE Accounts in Wisconsin, Senate Bill 158/Assembly Bill 167, which was signed by in early February by Governor Evers and is now 2021 Wisconsin Act 119.

    Family Law

    The Family Law Section were extremely active in recommending updates to the legislature involving procedural and technical changes to ensure uniformity within Chapter 767. Having passed Act 20 earlier this session, the section then sought introduction of measures that would allow court commissioners to finalize legal separations (Assembly Bill 634/Senate Bill 603), and codify case law allowing stipulated agreements to be made final upon judicial approval (Assembly Bill 722/Senate Bill 739), as well as adding safeguards to the process in which families exchange financial information in child support and maintenance cases (Assembly Bill 633/Senate Bill 604), among others. The board also expressed concerns with legislation that would mandate parties to attend parenting classes in family actions (Senate Bill 333/Assembly Bill 323), and suggested changes to Senate Bill 414/Assembly Bill 418, involving GAL representation in nonparent visitation proceedings.

    Civil Rights and Liberties

    The Civil Rights and Liberties Section took an active role in opposing numerous bills aimed at curbing voting rights, as well as legislation that would prohibit transgender female athletes from participating in sports at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels (Assembly Bill 196/Senate Bill 322 and Senate Bill 323/Assembly Bill 195). The section also supported legislation increasing access to UI benefits for qualified participants (Assembly Bill 206/Senate Bill 224).

    Construction Law and Litigation

    Construction Law Section continues to refine its proposal aimed at clearing dormant or excessive liens for private property owners with the hope of introduction and passage of a bill next session. The Litigation Section participated in providing feedback to the Supreme Court on multiple petitions impacting civil litigation, insurance, and tort procedures, while also consulting with legislators on constituent issues and legislative proposal development. The Litigation Section also worked with other trade associations on legislative initiatives impacting their practice area.

    Summary of Other Legislative Bills of Interest

    There are hundreds of legislative proposals moving through the legislative process. In past weeks, it hasn’t been uncommon to see between 16 to 24 committee hearings and executive sessions in a single day, each considering several bills. Below is a short summary of proposals of interest to State Bar members.

    Law Enforcement Reform: Of the package of bills that emerged from the Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities and the State Bar supported (Assembly Bills 329-335) three bills have had recent activity. All three were passed by the Assembly on June 16, 2021, and on February 16, 2022 all three were unanimously passed by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. They now await scheduling in the full Senate for concurrence.
    • Assembly Bill 329- Requires the Department of Justice to report on the use of no-knock entry in the execution of a search warrant. (also see companion SB 472)

    • Assembly Bill 333– Grants for counties or multiple-county regions to establish and enhance law enforcement and behavioral health services emergency response collaboration programs for individuals having a crisis.

    • Assembly Bill 335– Grants to law enforcement agencies for body cameras.

    Final Floor Sessions

    The legislature will wrap up the 2021-22 with session floor periods scheduled in each chamber this week and will finish up the session with a final floor period in March from the 8th to the 10th.

    What You Can Do: State Bar of Wisconsin Advocacy Network

    Advocacy Network

    State Bar members can track priority legislation and send a message to their lawmakers expressing support on topics which positively affect the legal system using the Advocacy Network. Users can opt to compose a unique message or edit a pre-written one to suit their own thoughts and opinions and help to demonstrate the breadth of support for policies that prioritize access to justice.

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

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