Busy Week for Bills; Governor Walker Signs 21 New Laws
Homeowners are protected if they kill an intruder, researchers can use legal, prescription drugs in their work, and penalties got stiffer for folks who knowingly receive stolen firearms, amongst others.
It was a busy week for new laws this week; Governor Scott Walker signed 21 of them into law. Here's the list from a press release from the Governor's office:
Special Session Senate Bill 12 This bill indicates and specifically lists the factors a court must consider when determining whether attorney fees are reasonable. Those factors include things like the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the case, and whether the case prohibited the attorney from taking on other work. The bill stipulates that when compensatory damages are awarded, reasonable attorney fees may not exceed three times the amount of the damages awarded.
“Protecting job creators from excessive attorney fees will improve our business climate, and ultimately help create jobs in the private sector,” said Governor Walker. “I would like to thank State Senator Rich Zipperer and Representative Robin Vos for working to help improve Wisconsin’s economy.”
Special Session Senate Bill 22: This bill provides that a possessor of real property owes no duty of care to a trespasser on his or her property and may not be found liable for an act on the property that causes injury or death to a trespasser. It does indicate that a property owner may be liable if they recklessly caused the injury or death of a trespasser. This bill makes many liability exceptions for actions against trespassers that are children and takes into account several factors for determining whether or not a trespasser had implied consent to enter the property.
“Property owners shouldn’t be liable for an injury that occurs on their land sustained by an individual who is trespassing,” said Governor Walker. “State Senator Pam Galloway and Representative Mike Kuglitsch provided great leadership on this important piece of legislation, which ultimately strengthens property rights in Wisconsin.”
Assembly Bill 48: This bill requires the Department of Natural Resources to make available to the public a written directory of all land acquired through stewardship funding that is open for public access as well as any stewardship land that was acquired before October 2007 for which public access has been restricted and the reasons for that action.
“This legislation increases transparency in our state government and makes it easier for residents to review how taxpayer funds are used for stewardship land,” said Governor Walker. “Because of the efforts of State Senator Neil Kedzie and State Representative Jim Ott, the DNR can now enact another customer-friendly policy.”
Assembly Bill 60: Under current law, all county officers must be covered by a county bond, however veterans service officers and veteran’s service commissioners (VSO) must be covered by individual surety bonds, which are more costly for counties to provide. This bill extends the law to require that all county officers, including veteran service officers and veteran’s service commissioners be covered by a county bond, which can mean being included in the county’s blanket bond. By removing the requirement that county VSO’s be bonded separately from the county’s overall blanket bond, counties will be able to increase administrative efficiency and increase the amount of money available for direct benefits to veterans living and working in their communities.
“Signing this bill provides local units of government with the flexibility to effectively and efficiently manage both their finances and the administration of veterans service officers,” said Governor Walker. “State Senator Rob Cowles and Representative Karl Van Roy did a great job delivering this bill to my desk.”
Assembly Bill 69: This legislation creates a presumption of immunity in criminal and civil actions for individuals who use deadly force against a tresspasser who has unlawfully or forcibly entered their home, motor vehicle, or place of business. This bill does stipulate that deadly force may not be used in any case where a public safety worker has entered a property during the course of his or her professional duties. This bill will deter future criminal intrusions as well as provide added legal protections for those who use force to protect their home or property.
“By signing the castle doctrine into law, I am standing with those individuals who chose to protect their family and property,” said Governor Walker. “State Senator Van Wanggaard and Representative Dean Kaufert provided great leadership on this important piece of legislation.”
Assembly Bill 81: This bill raises the forfeiture required for the fraudulent use of a disabled parking card issued by the Department of Transportation from not less than $50 and not more than $300 to not less than $200 and not more than $500.
“Strengthening the fines for unlawfully burdening individuals with disabilities is the right thing to do,” said Governor Walker. “I would like to thank State Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Peggy Krusick for authoring this bill and working to pass it through the Legislature.”
Assembly Bill 103: Under current law, a person who intentionally receives stolen property (including a firearm) may be guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the property received. Under this bill a person who intentionally receives a stolen firearm, regardless of the value of the firearm, is guilty of a Class H felony and may be fined up to $10,000, imprisoned for up to six years, or both. Increasing the penalty for those who knowingly receive stolen firearms will help deter individuals from engaging in unlawful behavior as well as increase overall community safety.
“Clearly defining the penalties for intentionally receiving stolen firearms will help instill confidence that those carrying firearms are law abiding citizens,” said Governor Walker. “I would like to thank State Senator Joe Leibham and Representative Dan LeMahieu for advancing this public safety proposal.”
Assembly Bill 245: This bill authorizes a manufacturer or wholesale distributor of prescription drugs to deliver prescription drugs to a faculty member of a public or private institution of higher education in Wisconsin as long as that faculty member is obtaining the drugs for the purpose of lawful research, teaching, or testing and not for resale.
“This bill will remove a burdensome regulation for Wisconsin’s great educational facilities,” said Governor Walker. “Because State Senator Albert Darling and Representative Jim Ott worked on this legislation, education and research on prescription drugs will be easier.”
Assembly Bill 274: This bill is intended to improve public safety at railroad crossings by eliminating confusion and making current law more uniform. Under current law, an operator of a vehicle may not drive across a railroad crossing when a train occupies or is closely approaching the crossing. For railroad crossing purposes, this bill treats railroad track equipment similar to trains. Under this legislation a motorist must yield to all railroad track equipment at a railroad crossing.
“Clarifying existing law and making it uniform as it relates to railroad crossings will help improve safety on Wisconsin’s roadways,” said Governor Walker. “I would like to thank State Senator Joe Leibham and Representative Jerry Petrowski for their work on this bill.”
Senate Bill 77: The State Trails Council advises the Department of Natural Resources regarding the planning, acquisition, development and management of state trails. This legislation expands the membership of the council from nine to eleven citizen members who must be both knowledgeable in and have participated in one or more of the various recreational uses of trails in Wisconsin.
“The increased membership on the State Trails Council contained in this bill highlights the importance of recreational trail use in Wisconsin,” said Governor Walker. “State Senator Joe Leibham’s and Representative Steve Kestell’s legislation will help improve our state recreational trail network.”
Senate Bill 85: Current law prohibits retail theft and provides a penalty for retail theft based on the value of the merchandise stolen. This legislation expands the definition of merchandise to include services. Under this legislationn a person can be charged with retail theft if they obtain a service from a provider and fail or refuse to pay for the service.
“Whether stealing tangible property or services, individuals who obtain stolen merchandise or services should be held accountable,” said Governor Walker. “I would like to thank State Senator Rich Zipperer and Representative Joel Kleefisch for moving forward this legislation to bring fairness to Wisconsin’s stolen property laws.”
Senate Bill 95: This legislation provides K-12 schools more flexibility as well as state mandate relief in several key areas including, teacher evaluation, school district contracting guidelines, funding limits for specialized areas and reporting deadlines, among other things. This bill will allow school boards to link standardize test scores back to teachers and requires each school district to have a standard teacher evaluation plan in place. It expands the services that qualify for state special education aid to include orientation and mobility service, educational audiology, speech and language therapy and pupil transition services. It removes the cap on how much school funding can go towards the purchase of library computers and software and changes the deadline by which a districts’ tax levy must be certified by the municipal clerk to November 10th.
“Providing flexibility to school districts to reward the best teachers, help mentor those teachers that are struggling, and hold those who don’t improve accountable will ultimately help improve education for all students,” said Governor Walker. “Because of State Senator Luther Olsen’s and Representative Steve Kestell’s bill, school districts will have another option for evaluating teacher performance available to them.”
Senate Bill 107: The legislation assists landlords in screening prospective tenants which will help them secure payment for the use of their rental units. This bill prohibits a political subdivision from enacting any ordinance which may restrict certain conduct of landlords. Specifically, they may not limit how far back in time a landlord may look at a renter’s credit, criminal history or previous housing. Furthermore this bill provides that a political subdivision may not enact an ordinance which would prohibit a landlord from obtaining or using income, occupation, rental history, or court information to determine a renter’s applicability.
“Giving property owners the flexibility to check for criminal history and credit history on individuals they allow to reside in their housing units is ultimately about strengthening property rights,” said Governor Walker.
Senate Bill 136: Under current law, a seller of residential properties is required to provide to prospective buyers a form that discloses various information about the condition of the property and related matters that could influence a decision to buy the property. This bill creates a vacant land disclosure report, similar to the residential condition report, on which the owner must disclose certain conditions of the property of which he or she is aware. Those conditions include things like, underground storage tanks on the property, any significant odor, noise or water intrusion on the property or coming from the neighboring properties, and if the property is connected to electricity, cable, water/sewer, telephone service or natural gas.
“Proper disclosure is important to ensuring fair and equitable property transactions,” said Governor Walker. “I would like to thank State Senator Dale Schultz and Representative Steineke for providing leadership on this issue.”
Senate Bill 151 (Cowles/Weininger): Current law specifically excludes from the definition of a lottery, situations in which an employee refers a person to the employee’s employer to purchase goods or services, but only if the employee does not receive compensation for the referral. Under this bill, such referrals are not considered participation in a lottery regardless of whether the employee receives any compensation.
Senate Bill 196 (Olsen/Petrowski): Under current law, the Department of Revenue provides Wisconsin municipalities general aid payments through an Expenditure Restraint Program. Municipalities qualify for general aid funding if its property tax levy rate is greater than five mills and if its budget did not increase by more than a specified rate. Under this bill, expenditures made by a municipality on behalf of a school district are excluded from calculating the municipality’s budget figure. By excluding these payments from the budget calculation, more municipalities will qualify for the expenditure restraint program, gain additional funds and be able to maintain core services without raising local tax rates.
Senate Bill 208 (Grothman/Endsley): Under current law, no child under the age of eight years may be transported in a motor vehicle unless the child is properly restrained in a car seat (child safety restraint system) or booster seat. The type of restraint system required depends on the age and size of the child. The current statute language technically prohibits parents from using a more protective restraint system if the child fits into another category due to their age or weight. The law was never intended to prohibit parents from choosing to more securely transport their children in the car. This legislation rectifies that problem by clarifying that a child may be transported in a more protective category of restraint system than the minimum required by law.
Senate Bill 217 (Lasee/Petrowski): Under current law, the Department of Transportation must suspend the operating privileges and vehicle registrations of anyone that has an outstanding judgment of $500 or more arising from damages caused by a motor vehicle accident. This legislation changes the requirements to have driving and registration privileges reinstated. In order for reinstatement two things must happen: the judgment must either be stayed, satisfied or discharged or five years must have elapsed from the initial judgment date (whichever is earlier) and at least three years must elapse, unless the person can provide and maintain proof of financial responsibility before that time.
Senate Bill 241 (Lasee/Rivard): Under current law, a person’s time interest in a time share estate may be foreclosed in a court proceeding in the same manner as an interest in a real property is foreclosed. This legislation sets out nonjudicial or administrative procedures for foreclosing interests in and assessment liens against time share estates and licenses. The bill provides that individuals seeking to foreclose their interest on a time share estate or time share license must use the administrative procedure. If the owner of a time share estate objects to the administrative procedure, the foreclosing entity must go through the judicial process.
Senate Bill 253 (Galloway/Petrowski): The Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) is a program provided through the Department of Natural Resources. It is a voluntary process whereby a person can perform an investigation and cleanup of a contaminated property while being exempt from liability. The program has been very successful in helping businesses and local governments cleanup and redevelop abandoned, idle or underused commercial or industrial properties where the expansion may be hindered by potential contamination. Under current law, the VPLE is not available for landfills that are licensed by the DNR. This bill expands the VPLE so that it is available for any landfill that was licensed by the DNR before May 1975.
Assembly Bill 63 (Wynn/Grothman): This legislation changes current state statute with regard to businesses operating under a Class A liquor license. This bill changes the morning closing hours for retailers from 8:00am to 6:00am. This bill does not change the closing hours for the sale of liquor. Meaning, a retailer selling beer can do so lawfully from 6:00am to midnight and a retailer selling intoxicating liquor or wine can do so lawfully from 6:00am to 9:00pm. This legislation also retains current power of municipalities, allowing them to alter these hours by ordinance if they choose.