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Rotunda Report
  • Rotunda Report
    April 08, 2024

    State Bar’s 2023-24 Legislative Session Ends with Several Notable Accomplishments

    The 2023-24 Wisconsin legislative session was a busy and successful one for the State Bar and its lobbying sections. This Rotunda Report gives a brief summary of section positions and accomplishments.

    Cale Battles & Lynne Davis

    Wisconsin Capitol in spring with blooming tulips

    April 8, 2024 – The Wisconsin Legislature closed out the 2023-24 session with a flurry of action over the past three months. With new elective district lines approved for the fall of 2024, many legislators were motivated to get outstanding issues done before adjournment.

    Judicial Security Legislation Enacted

    Three bipartisan legislative bills introduced by Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Rep. Ron Tusler (R-Harrison), in collaboration with the Wisconsin court system, were passed and signed by Governor Tony Evers at the end of March. The State Bar of Wisconsin strongly supported the legislative efforts and applauded the legislature and Governor’s action.

    Cale BattlesCale Battles, is the senior government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. He can be reached by email, or by phone at (608) 250-6077.

    Lynne DavisLynne Dav​is, is a government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached by email, or by phone at (608) 250-6045.

    State Bar of Wisconsin President Dean R. Dietrich stated “We’ve all seen the disturbing increase in violence against judges, their families, and attorneys. From Judge John Roemer to Sara Quirt Sann, the State Bar and its members have faced the worst of situations in our profession. I am thankful to the legislature and the authors for taking this important step.”

    2023 Wisconsin Act 234 protects judges by prohibiting picketing or parading protests outside of a judge’s house, providing peace of mind to judges and their families when at home. In addition, 2023 Wisconsin Act 235 allows judges and their immediate family members to opt out of their personal information being publicly distributed, and 2023 Wisconsin Act 236 further addresses judges’ privacy concerns by exempting personal information found in judicial security profiles from public access.

    State Bar Lobbying Sections Success

    The State Bar has 13 total sections that fully participate in the lobbying program. Joining a lobbying section, like all section membership, is completely voluntary and they each have separate volunteer-elected boards.

    The sections also can vote to take reactive positions to support, oppose or actively monitor legislation that is pending in the legislature. The goal of engagement by sections is to positively impact the process and assist those that might be unfamiliar with the law by explaining the potential impacts of a particular policy decision. These discussions often lead to very positive outcomes either through legislative support and partnerships or by assisting in the drafting of amendments to improve legislation. There are also occasions when sections won’t find common ground and will oppose legislative efforts.

    Business Law

    The Business Law board supported 2023 Wisconsin Act 246 regarding adopting modifications and renaming of the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. The act changed the name of Chapter 242 to the Uniform Voidable Transaction law and made some minor language modifications to the existing chapter. The Business Law section is also in the review process for the new Article 12 to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) and the 2022-approved amendments to the UCC.

    The Real Property, Probate and Trust Board (RPPT) continues to be one of the most active sections in the lobbying program. RPPT supported two legislative efforts that were signed into law. 2023 Wisconsin Act 127 and 2023 Wisconsin Act 130 were both highlighted in a recent Rotunda Report article. In addition to supporting those two legislative initiatives, RPPT joined the Family Law section and the Bankruptcy, Insolvency and Creditors Right section in opposing Senate Bill 667. That legislation would create domestic asset protection trusts (DAPT) in Wisconsin. While those sections did not oppose the concept of DAPT, they did oppose the language as drafted as it would create several issues in these practice areas. The legislation ultimately was vetoed by the Governor.

    Elder Law and Special Needs

    The Elder Law and Special Needs (ELSN) section continues to work on elder abuse issues. ELSN supported an amended version of 2023 Wisconsin Act 132, which ELSN felt better addressed issues of elder abuse with more focused tools for financial institutions to communicate with consumers “trusted contacts.” ELSN also successfully opposed changes in Assembly Bill 1088, which would circumvent the adult guardianship process for admission of patients in certain long-term care facilities. The section supported the establishment of ABLE Accounts in Wisconsin, which will be signed soon by Governor Evers.

    Bankruptcy, Insolvency & Creditors’ Rights

    In addition to opposing SB 667, the Bankruptcy, Insolvency & Creditors’ Rights (BICR) section joined the Public Interest Law (PILS) section in monitoring changes to Assembly Bill 337, which would have eliminated the 13-week limit on wage garnishment. The legislation passed the Assembly but failed to receive a vote in the Senate.

    Taxation Law

    Taxation Law section supported two legislative proposals this session. 2023 Wisconsin Act 36 adopted changes to the federal Internal Revenue Code. The Taxation section was specifically interested in correcting changes in Section 1202 of the Internal Revenue Code. The section also supported Assembly Bill 1089, regarding interest rates on late, nondelinquent taxes and on overpayments. This legislation passed both houses, but was ultimately vetoed by the Governor due to fiscal costs.

    Children & the Law

    The Children & the Law section board took a very active role this session. Not only did board members support 2023 Wisconsin Act 118, allowing for virtual preadoption training courses, they continued their efforts to pursue safe harbor legislation in Wisconsin by supporting Senate Bill 55/Assembly Bill 48. Although the legislation met the same fate it has in previous sessions, the board continues to demonstrate its support by testifying at public hearings each session. Also noteworthy, the section board was asked to consult on numerous legislative proposals throughout the session, some of which did not come to fruition based on their feedback, while others are currently in the works for next session based on feedback shared by the members, proving how significant legislators view their knowledge, experience, and input.

    Family Law

    As previously noted, the Family Law section board engaged a great deal near the end of session in advocating for their concerns about Senate Bill 667, involving domestic asset preservation trusts, and will continue to identify how these trusts can impact the practice of family law as discussions continue. In addition, they shared concerns about the unintended consequences that may adversely affect children and families should Assembly Bill 510 have gone into law. That bill was vetoed by Governor Evers late last month. Lastly, the board continued to discuss a variety of matters they encounter in their daily practices that they believe should be addressed in statute, and will seek introduction of those changes in the upcoming session.

    Criminal Law

    Similar to other section boards, Criminal Law was requested numerous times this session for their input on legislative ideas and remedies, which they thoughtfully provided. Sometimes this feedback resulted in better legislation, and other times led legislators to abandon the proposal, due to the negative or unintended consequences identified by the board. In addition to providing their views on legislative proposals, the board also advocated for the passage of 2023 Wisconsin Act 61, closing a loophole in the definition of sexual contact, and voiced concerns about Senate Bill 106/Assembly Bill 58, involving mandatory minimums for felons in possession of a firearm, and Senate Bill 404/Assembly Bill 421 which increased penalties for those operating on a license suspension or revocation, neither of which passed the legislature.

    Civil Rights and Liberties

    The Civil Rights and Liberties section board remained steadfast in their opposition to legislation prohibiting transgender female athletes from participating in sports designated for women, Assembly Bill 377 (impacting K-12 schools) and Assembly Bill 378 (affecting the UW system). Board members testified at all public hearings on this legislation, and while the collegiate-impacting legislation did not pass the legislature, the bill affecting K-12 schools did pass, but was ultimately vetoed by the Governor earlier this month. The board also expressed concerns about the impact of Senate Bill 517 on not only victims' rights but also the erosion of judicial discretion and concerns about ex-parte communication between prosecutors and judges. This legislation was vetoed late last month.

    Construction Law

    The Construction Law board successfully shared their support of Senate Bill 270, which established a compensation process for costs incurred resulting from utility relocation delays. This legislation was signed into law late last year as 2023 Wisconsin Act 46.

    The legislature could potentially return in May for a veto review session. The last time the legislature was successful in overriding a governor’s veto was in 1985.​

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