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More on the Proposed Elimination of the Revisor of Statutes Bureau

There is an article in the May 28th edition of the Wisconsin Law Journal on the proposed elimination of the Revisor of Statutes Bureau. If passed, the workload would be split amongst the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and the Joint Legislative Council (JLC) - with no additional personnel to handle the increased workload.

According to LRB Chief, Stephen R. Miller, his department would assume the bulk of the revisor's responsibilities. He also expected the transition to be relatively smooth given the LRB's current obligations, which include the drafting of bills, amendments and resolutions.

"It's seems a logical fit which makes a lot of sense," said Miller, who noted that many states have combined drafting and revision departments. "This isn't something to be taken lightly, but I'm confident we can keep the level of service just as high, and maybe even improve on it."...

While both Miller and [JLC staff director Terry C.] Anderson appear receptive to the merger, [Deputy Revisor Bruce] Hoesly and [Revisor of Statutes Bruce] Munson have reservations, which extend beyond the potential elimination of their jobs.

"I haven't seen a mass movement in opposition of the proposal, but there are questions as to how seamlessly the transition will be made, especially with no revisor personnel expected to transfer into either department," said Hoesly.

I'm concerned about this transition as are many other law librarians. While I expect that publication of the statutes, administrative code and register will be managed elsewhere, it's the extra stuff about which I'm concerned. I'm talking about the expert research assistance that the RSB staff offers.

Take superseded admin code sections. Short of doing a legislative history, researching superseded WI admin code sections is one of the most difficult types of legal research imaginable. And, yes, we do get these questions with some regularity. When the admin code gets updated, old pages are pulled from the binders. Most libraries toss them, but a few, like ours, do keep them. We put them into folders based on the date they were removed. To reconstruct an old code section, then, you have to know the exact date that the language in question was changed. Trying to figure this out can be mind-boggling - BUT - luckily, the friendly staff at the RSB are usually willing to lend a hand.

In fact, to the delight of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin, the RSB has been digitizing the back issues of the admin code which will make the process much easier for the researcher. Or should I say, would have made the process much easier - who knows where this project will end up - if anywhere. Who will be available to answer our questions now?

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Update: The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has posted a memo to the Joint Committee on Finance summarizing the financial implications of eliminating the RSB. The last line of the summary reads:

Adoption of provision LRBb004/2, modified as indicated above, would result in a reduction to SB 40 of $925,400 GPR in 2008-09 and 10.0 GPR positions annually.

[Is that provision # a typo? Is it referring to LRB b 0074/2?]