June 23, 2014

Visually Trace Progress of Federal Bills & Resolutions with Legislative Explorer

Legislative Explorer is a new tool to visually trace the progress bills and resolutions as they move through Congress. This tool help researchers observe large scale patterns and trends in congressional lawmaking without advanced methodological training.

At first view, it's a little confusing, but this tutorial explains its value:

June 17, 2014

Summary of the 2013-2014 Wisconsin Legislative Session

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau has created a research bulletin providing an overview of the acts and joint resolutions of the 2013-2014 Wisconsin Legislative Session.

Legislation is organized by topic with acts described under the appropriate subject heading or headings.

January 31, 2014

Another attempt at implementing CCAP legislation

In the most recent attempt to give CCAP (Wisconsin's online record system for circuit courts) a facelift, a new bill is being considered by the legislature. This time, the bill was introduced by Republican senator Glenn Grothman and Republican representative Mary Czaja and has initially found some support in both the Assembly and Senate.

If the bill passes, the State Court's office would be required to remove any information about felony cases on CCAP within 120 days of receiving notice that the charges were dismissed or the defendant was found not guilty. The same goes for civil forfeiture cases, except the window is reduced to 90 days.

As always, any legislation that attempts to remove information from CCAP may run into resistance. Previous CCAP legislation has lost support in the face of protests that range from land lords to law enforcement that support CCAP in it's current incarnation and would prefer that no information is removed.

It remains to be seen if this most recent bill will gain further traction. If you'd like to read the full text of the bill, click here.

November 27, 2013

An Update: new CCAP legislation introduced in the Assembly

Earlier this week, a new chapter in the ongoing debate about how to update or change CCAP was written. A bill was introduced that would limit access to civil case information after money judgments have been satisfied and eight years have passed to the Assembly. Two Republican representatives introduced the bill, and it has bipartisan support in the Senate. It would seem seem that the bill may have a better chance of passing than many CCAP legislation predecessors.

CCAP legislation is often introduced, but changes to the database are rare. Democratic Senator Lena Taylor and Representative Evan Goyke introduced a bill in late July of this year that would allow persons to wipe away their records if they were wrongfully convicted. A second CCAP database was proposed for attorneys and others that would have kept all the information intact, but was not viewable by the public. That bill was strongly opposed by a variety of people, ranging from journalists to landlord unions.

The newest bill may finally change CCAP after a year of attempts. For further information, read the full text of the bill from November 22.

November 1, 2013

Wisconsin Administrative Code and Register to go Electronic Only in January 2015

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau has issued a notice indicating that printing and distribution of the Wisconsin Administrative Code and Register will end January 1, 2015 and the Code and Register will become electronic−only publications.

According to the notice, code chapters will be published in the Register as PDF files in the exact format as they are currently printed, including page numbers. Users can continue loose−leaf notebook use by printing chapters to 3−hole punch paper from any printer or by making arrangements with commercial printers. (Notebooks will no longer be available from the state and the notebook volume for insertion will no longer be designated for published chapters.)

For more information, see the notice.

October 8, 2013 Will Redirect to in November

Starting in November, the url will be redirected to will remain accessible from the homepage through late 2014.

If you are unfamiliar with and want to learn more, trainings are available Oct. 17 and Nov. 14. Complete this form to register.

For more information about the transition, see In Custodia Legis.

October 7, 2013

1833 Indian Treaty and Other Native American Law Sources

On Sept 26th, On This Day in Wisconsin History reported:

On this date [in 1833], Indian tribes including the Ojibwe, Menominee, Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, Ottawa, and Sauk ceded land to the government, including areas around Milwaukee, especially to the south and east of the city. The ceded land included much of what is today John Michael Kohler and Terry Andrae State Parks.

This treaty, along with many other Indian treaties made with the US Government, appears in the United States Statutes at Large. For a copy of this treaty as it appears in volume 7 of the Statutes at Large, see the American Memory website. Go to page 431.

If you'd like to learn more about sources of tribal law, check out our guide to Native American Law & Legal Sources.

You may also be interested in reading 'Whatever Tribal Precedent There May Be': The (Un)Availability of Tribal Law available via SSRN.

This article explores the costs and benefits of publishing tribal law. Part I analyzes why tribal law is not more widely available; part II illustrates the benefits of making tribal law more accessible, and part III describes publication options for tribes. An appendix lists currently available tribal law collections.

Note also that at the next Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin meeting (Nov 12), Attorney Brian Pierson, Head of the Indian Nations Law Team at Godfrey & Kahn will giving an overview of Native American Law with emphasis on Wisconsin Tribes including the tribal court process, major laws and regulations, and big trends and issues affecting tribal law practice. Look for registration information on the LLAW website soon. Non-members are welcome.

August 5, 2013

WI Administrative Code Online Archive Complete Back to 1956

The Legislative Reference Bureau has announced that it has completed scanning the Wisconsin Administrative Code archive back to 1956 (vol 1 of the Administrative Register).

The Code does not appear in it's entirety for these archived editions. Rather, each year contains a list of the Administrative Code Registers for each month. The chapters that were inserted or removed that month are linked.

The easiest way to track the history of the Administrative Code is to go the current version available on the LRB website. Find the chapter and section that you need.

Each section includes a History note at the bottom. This will include a citation for the Administrative Register(s) which created and changed the section. Links to the archived Code chapter pages are available here. Follow each of these links to view the chapter as it existed when that change was made. I find that it is best to work in reverse chronological order.

The Code archive is also keyword searchable. This is particularly useful for locating text and chapters that may no longer exist in the current version of the Code.

Some even older versions of the building codes are available via Hathi Trust. The LRB may link those up at some time in the future.

March 29, 2013

WI Act 5 Changes Publication and Effectiveness Process for Acts - Removes Authority of Sec of State

2013 WI Act 5, which modifies the establishment of a publication date for acts, quietly went into effect yesterday.

According to the Wisconsin Legislative Council the act does several things:

  • Removes the authority of the Secretary of State to designate the date of publication
  • Instead, under the Act, the date of publication of an act is the day after the date of enactment unless a different effective date is expressly prescribed
  • The Act requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to publish each act on its date of publication
  • An act's effective date is the day after its date of publication

January 17, 2013

Wisconsin Women Legislators

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau has recently published a brief summarizing the service of Wisconsin women legislators.

Section I lists all women members alphabetically by house and indicates their party, district, occupation, and terms of service. Section II lists the members serving in each session.

April 30, 2012

WisconsinEye Marks 5th Anniversary

Congrats to WisconsinEye on its fifth anniversary. WisconsinEye brings gavel-to-gavel, C-SPAN-style nonpartisan coverage of state government and politics to Wisconsin.

February 10, 2012

New Database for Federal Legislative History Research - ProQuest Legislative Insight

The Law Library is pleased to announce that we have recently subscribed to a wonderful new database for federal legislative history research called ProQuest Legislative Insight. It is available to UW Madison students, faculty and staff, or to anyone who visits a campus library.

Legislative Insight contains PDFs of numerous publications generated in the course of congressional lawmaking, including the public law, all bill versions, floor debate from the Congressional Record, committee reports, conference committee reports, hearings, and prints. Also included are Presidential signing statements, CRS reports, and other miscellaneous congressional publications.

Legislative Insight covers enacted laws from 1929 to the present. However, note that the database is still in development and there are some gaps. For material not covered by Legislative Insight (un-enacted legislation, pre 1929 laws, or post 1929 laws falling in the gap), see our guide to Federal Legislative History. (If it's Wisconsin that you're interested in, see our guide to Wisconsin Legislative History.)

Legislative Insight offers powerful search features. You can search by popular name, citation or keyword. Once you select the appropriate law, you can also keyword search the full text of all the documents to narrow down a large legislative history to just the relevant text.

Search results can be displayed by publication type or forward or reverse chronological. Or, with the Legislative Process outline, you can choose just those documents created during a given phase of the legislative process. See the image below.

November 8, 2011

2011-12 Wisconsin Blue Book Now Available - as well as All Prior Editions

The 2011-2012 State of Wisconsin Blue Book is now available in print and online from the Legislative Reference Bureau. According to the LRB, "the Blue Book is the primary one-volume reference source about the state, documenting the organization of the state's three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial)."

Each edition of the Blue Book contains a feature article. The feature article for this edition is entitled Progressivism Triumphant: The 1911 Wisconsin Legislature. Here's an excerpt:

The year 2011 marks the centennial of what was almost certainly the greatest legislature in Wisconsin history, quite possibly in any state. The totality of its achievements in such disparate areas as labor legislation, taxation, conservation, education, democratization, government reorganization, transportation, and economic regulation was unprecedented and remains unequalled.

For a list of past feature articles, see the index on page 170. All prior editions of the Blue Book have been digitized.

Hat tip to WSLL @ Your Service

October 7, 2011

Improvements to WI Legislature's Databases Enables Users to Research the History of and Connections between State Legislation, Regulations and Case Law

Bruce Hoesly, Revising Attorney/Code Editor at the Legislative Reference Bureau, informed me of some very exciting changes to the Wisconsin legislative and administrative databases on the Legislature's website.

Note that the link on the Legislature's homepage that used to say "Searchable Infobases" now says "Documents." This change reflects the move to the new HTML view from the old NXT view.

Also, documents in the new view now contain lots of links to associated material. This is really exciting and vastly improves one's ability to research the history of and the connections between legislation or administrative regulations. For example, with just 3 clicks a user can link from a history note for a statute to an underlying act and then to full history of that act. This is so awesome!

Legislation links available:

  • Statutes sections have links to other statute sections and regulations which reference them (click on the magnifying glass icon to the left of the section number)
  • History notes in statutes contain links to the Acts
  • Acts contain links to the underlying bill numbers
  • Bills contains the complete procedural history of the Act including links to the original bill draft and all amendments, voting records, committee records, etc.
  • And Bruce tells me that in the future, they hope to add including a link from the bill's page to the drafting record

Administrative Regulation links available:

  • When applicable, history notes in statutes also contain cross references to related Administrative Code sections
  • History notes in the Administrative Code sections contain links to superseded text in the Administrative Register and to Clearinghouse Rules (a clearinghouse rule is the administrative law equivalent of the legislative bill)

Case Law links available:

  • When applicable, history notes in statutes also contain links to judicial and attorney general opinions on the Wisconsin Courts website and Google Scholar

I asked Bruce how far back these links go an he said that the statute history notes go back to the 1971 laws. The bill number linking and the associated bill histories go back to 1995. Before that, act links in the statute histories link to a scanned PDF of the act.

Cases go back to 1970. Annotations to law review and bar articles don't have links yet. Atty general opinions are linked to from 1994, which is not new.

Big kudos and thanks to the Wisconsin Legislature and staff of the LRB for making all of this wonderful information so accessible. This will change the way we do state statutory and regulatory research.

September 6, 2011

WI Legislature Releases New Web Platform for Wisconsin Statutes

The Wisconsin Legislature has officially released the dramatically improved web search platform for the Wisconsin Statutes. It has been available in beta for a while (see my earlier post about it), but now it is the default platform.

According to a press release:

The new search engine, which is easier to use, will present more results and in a format that resembles prominent Internet search engines.

The views of the statutes are also richer, allowing continuous scrolling through an easier to read interface and containing more hypertext links and more information about each statute section. PDF files on the site have also been enriched to include hyperlinks.

The following screen shot shows some of the new features available, including PDF views, cross reference links, permalinks, RSS alerts, and more.

According to the LRB's Bruce Hoesly, the old platform is currently still available, but will be phased out by the end of the year.

Also, the legislature will update the Web versions of the Wisconsin Administrative Code and the Wisconsin Administrative Register over the course of the next few weeks.

February 25, 2011

Feedback Desired on New Changes to WI Legislature's Beta Search Site

Last week I posted on the Wisconsin Legislature's new beta site for searching documents.

Bruce Hoesly, at the Legislative Reference Bureau, informs me that they are very interested in getting feedback on the system, including some new changes that debuted yesterday. To facilitate this, notice that there is now a Feedback link in the top right corner of the site.

Specifically, they are interested on feedback on the following:

  • There are now two icons next to the statute number (reference line) on the left. The arrow shows you the bread crumb trail, although I prefer that it looked more like a traditional bread crumb trail (Statutes home > Chapter > Section > Subsection). What do you think?

    The magnifying glass gives you other options, including a link to the PDF and "References to this" which displays other WI statutes that cite to your statute. I thought that this was very useful. Which options do you find the most useful?

    I also suggested to Bruce that a link to older statutes be added. He thought it might be possible to link to all archived PDFs for that particular chapter, but it wouldn't necessarily show when changes had been made. Would you find this helpful?

  • They have changed the default so that a reference line appears next to each chapter/section/subsection to help users identify where they are in the text. Would you prefer that be the default, or would you rather they not be displayed.


    Note that you can change the default using the preferences link at the top right. Or you can turn them on/off temporary by clicking on the magnifying glass next to the reference line.

  • Links to opinions have been added. When the opinion is available on the WI courts site, the link points there. Otherwise, the link directs the user to the opinion in Google Scholar. Do you agree that this is useful? Or are you troubled that Google Scholar isn't authoritative enough?

    Links to USC and CFR sections which go to the federal government website are also available. They looking into linking public laws also.

  • The search box at the top is now capable of searching by citation, however, it doesn't seem to be showing up on every page yet. I suggested that it would be better to have a separate "find by citation" box rather than having it together with the keyword search. Would you agree?


    Currently the "go to cite" search requires a specific syntax-- Include the parentheses and periods and use no spaces. More forgiving syntax is in development.

  • I've been told they are working on a top to the Statutes Table of Contents that will show the updated though information, along with more explanatory material. That just hasn't caught up to the rest of the production update.

February 22, 2011

UW Law School to Host Forum on Legal & Political Issues Raised by Governor's Budget Repair Bill

University of Wisconsin Law School has organized a forum on the legal and political issues raised by the Governor's Budget Repair Bill. All are welcome.

The forum seeks to provide insights into the dramatic developments that have followed the introduction of the Governor's Budget Repair Bill from an historical, legal and political perspective

The forum will be held Wednesday, February 23, 2011 from 6-8 pm in Room 2260 of the UW Law School

Speakers include:

  • Professor Carin Clauss, Law School
  • Professor Donald Downs, Political Science
  • Professor Will Jones, History
  • Professor Andrew Coan, Law School
  • Professor David Cannon, Political Science
  • Professor Neill DeClercq, School for Workers, UW Extension
  • Chair: Professor Heinz Klug, UW Law School

Update: A video of the forum will be available Thursday, 2/24 on the UW Law School Website

February 17, 2011

New WI Legislative Docs Beta Search Offers Big Improvements

The Wisconsin Legislature has recently released a new beta site for searching documents. Currently available are statutes, administrative code, and new proposal info pages with enhanced bill history.

I'm very impressed with the new site and agree with Bev Butula's assessment that it is much more sleek and user friendly than the current one.

In addition to a much simpler search interface, note that your chosen section is highlighted for quick reference. Also when you click on any section, the statute number appears in red on the left. If you click this number, you get additional options, such as viewing the section in PDF, a link to other sections referencing your section, the structural tree with which users of the current version are familiar, and more.


The new proposal info pages are also a nice improvement. The site not only provides the bill history, but it also includes links to related materials, such as referenced documents and Ethics Board information which indicates which groups are lobbying for or against the legislation.


RSS feeds are also integrated throughout the new site. These will allow you to monitor updates to a particular statute or admin code section, as well as follow new proposals.

I chatted with LRB Chief, Steve Miller about it and he noted that several additional features are likely to be added before the final release.

He also indicated that they are very interested in hearing feedback about the new system. Currently, the feedback link available under Help/About this site, but it will soon be moved next to the Home button at the top right.

January 20, 2011

Monitor WI Legislation & Regulations

Interested in keeping tabs on proposed legislation or regulations in your area of law? The State of Wisconsin offers free services for monitoring both legislation and administrative regulations.

The Wisconsin Legislative Notification System allows anyone the opportunity to follow legislation by receiving daily or weekly emails for specific legislative activities. You can choose items by Proposal, Committee, Author or Subject and can select the activities for which you would like to receive notifications.

The Administrative Rules Home Page allows you to monitor and participate in the rulemaking process. At this site, you can search for rules, view the status of current rulemaking, view documents associated with rulemaking, submit and view comments on rules and subscribe to receive notification of rulemaking.

January 5, 2011

WI Legislative Leadership & Committee Appointments

The State Bar of Wisconsin has compiled a handy list of legislative leadership and committee appointments for both the Senate and Assembly.

A full list of 2011-12 Senate and Assembly members is available from the Wheeler Report.

January 3, 2011

City and County Ordinances Online

City or county ordinances used to be very difficult to find, but more and more local governments are putting their laws online making access much easier. The Wisconsin State Law Library has compiled a very complete list of links for Wisconsin Ordinances and Codes.

For other states, see the Local Laws entry in Zimmerman's Research Guide, with links to ordinances on, eCode360 and

November 23, 2010

Ban on Texting While Driving Begins Dec 1st

2009 Wisconsin Act 220, which prohibits electronic text messaging and electronic mail messaging while driving, takes effect Dec 1, 2010.

Specifically, the Act creates s. 346.89(3), which states:
"No person may drive, as defined in s. 343.305(1)(b), any motor vehicle while composing or sending an electronic text message or an electronic mail message."

Violators are subject to a forfeiture of not less than $20 and not more than $400.

See more from the UW Law School Resource Center on Impaired Driving.

September 17, 2010

Matrix Codes to Appear on WI Bills, Amendments, & Resolutions

Starting in January 2011, Wisconsin legislative proposals (bills, amendments, and resolutions) will display a graphic code called a "matrix code" that contains a URL, or hyperlink.

From the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau:

With an Internet-connected cell phone, you can scan the matrix code to display an associated Web page. If the proposal has been introduced, the matrix code will link to the bill status Web page. If the proposal has not been introduced, the matrix code will link to a page that reads, "No legislative proposal with that LRB number has been introduced. Wisconsin statutes require that bills, amendments, and resolutions remain confidential until they are introduced."
Read more from the LRB.

Thanks to LRB Chief, Steve Miller for the heads up on this exciting new development. I'm constantly amazed by the wonderful things that the LRB does with technology, from digital content, to RSS feeds, to Twitter, to podcasting / webcasting, and now matrix codes. We Wisconsinites are truly lucky to have such a progressive group working to make the legislative process more accessible.

September 9, 2010

WI Public Records Opinions & Documents Available on DOJ Site

The State Bar reports that the Wisconsin Department of Justice website now offers access to information about Wisconsin Public Records Law.

The site includes:

  • Attorney General Opinions on Public Records Issues
  • Sample Public Records Documents
  • Other Public Records Resources

August 30, 2010

Guidance on Open Meetings and Public Records Compliance

The Wisconsin Department of Justice has recently posted updated guides to open meetings and public records compliance.

In addition, Attorney General Van Hollen will be hosting free seminars to promote public awareness of and compliance with the state's open meetings and public records law. The seminars will be held in Madison (September 20th), Milwaukee (September 27th) and Wausau (October 5th). A statewide video conference seminar will also take place with viewing sites in Green Bay, La Crosse, Rice Lake and Racine on October 12, 2010.

Seminars are free and open to the public, though advance registration is required due to limited seating. Registration opens September 1st.

Source: The Wheeler Report

August 4, 2010

Guide to Researching the History & Intent of WI Administrative Rules

The latest InsideTrack from the State Bar of Wisconsin has an excellent guide on Investigating Wisconsin Administrative Rules.

Author, Bev Butula writes:

Many issues we research center around the rules established by administrative agencies. It is often beneficial to gather background information, reports, and analysis similar to a legislative history when investigating a specific rule. This article highlights a few websites to assist in collecting relevant information on recent and pending Wisconsin administrative rules.

July 29, 2010

Atty General Advises that Personal Email Exception to Public Records Law be Narrowly Applied

Wisconsin Attorney General Van Hollen recently issued a memorandum addressing the practical impact of the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court case, Schill v. Wisconsin Rapids School District. In Schill, the Court held that the Public Records Law (Wis. Stat. 19.31-19.39) does not require the disclosure of the contents of purely personal e-mails sent or received on government e-mail accounts.

Van Hollen advises public records custodians to be mindful that it is "the public policy of this state that all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them."

Therefore, he feels that the "purely personal e-mail" exception should be narrowly applied, and emphasized that if there is "any aspect of the e-mail that may shed light on governmental functions and responsibilities, the relevant content must be released as any other record would be released under the Public Records Law."

See the press release and full memo for more. See also the Appleton Post Crescent for reaction to the memo.

Source: The Wheeler Report

July 27, 2010

Federal Register Online Redesign

In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the Federal Register launched a new online edition this week.

From the press release:

Federal Register 2.0 features a new layout that organizes the content by topics similar to a newspaper Web site. The site displays individual sections for Money, Environment, World, Science and Technology, Business and Industry, and Health and Public Welfare.

The Web site has improved search and navigation tools to guide readers to the most popular topics and relevant documents. Users can submit comments and stay connected through social media.

July 6, 2010

Acts and Joint Resolutions of the 2009 -10 WI Legislative Session

Research Bulletin 2010-1 from the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau provides an overview of the acts and joint resolutions of the 2009 -2010 Wisconsin Legislative Session. Legislation is organized by topic with acts described under the appropriate subject heading or headings.

A History of WI Constitutional Amendments in Compliance (or Not) with the Separate Amendment Rule

Informational Memorandum 10?3 from the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau analyzes all of the constitutional amendments submitted to the electorate since the constitution was ratified in 1848 and highlights those that may not comply with the separate amendment rule, based on a literal reading of Section 1.

April 28, 2010

Major Bills Before the WI Legislature this Session

The Appleton Post Crescent has a nice run down of major bills passed and rejected by the Wisconsin Legislature since the beginning of the two-year session starting in January 2009.

The list appears below - for a description of each, see the full article:

  • Clean energy
  • Failing schools
  • Raw milk
  • Smoking ban
  • Texting while driving
  • Drinking with parents
  • Drunken driving
  • Troubled lawmaker
  • Medical marijuana
  • Missing DNA
  • BadgerCare
  • Payday lending
  • State budget
  • Indian mascots
  • Phone deregulation
  • Regional transit
  • Election reform
  • Supreme Court

Update 4/29

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel specifically highlights bills that didn't pass this session. The the article for descriptions of each.

  • Straw buyers - buying a firearm on behalf of a felon
  • Child abuse victims -elimination of the statute of limitations
  • Prescription drugs
  • OWI
  • DNA -requirement upon arrest
  • Medical marijuana
  • Public records - 911 and CCAP limits

March 17, 2010

C-SPAN Video Archive Now Available Online

From Et Seq, The Harvard Law School Library Blog:

Can't get enough of Congress? Is Book TV your idea of Must-see TV? If so, you'll be excited to learn that "virtually every minute" of C-SPAN's archives for the last 23 years are now available at The total? 160,000 hours.

March 9, 2010

Track Federal Register Rules and Comments Closing with GovPulse

From Novalawcity: is a fantastic new app that puts "the Federal Register at your fingertips". The front page gives you lists (with links) of comments closing and opened in the last 7 days, followed by rules taking effect and proposed within that time period. Also on the front page is a map of your area with links to other FR entries mentioning cities/towns within a 50-mile radius of your location.

Here's a screenshot of the neat map feature:

February 19, 2010

Justia Launches Portal to Mexican Statutes and Regulations

From beSpacific: is another terrific addition to the family of legal sources developed and hosted by Justia. With content available in both PDF and HTML, this straight forward, well designed site hosts a database providing quick access to primary law, including the Mexican constitution, state and federal laws, codes, and regulations. The site also links to Mexican government sites with related legal information.

Thanks to my colleague, Bill Ebbott, for forwarding this to me.

January 29, 2010

More Documents Now Available on FDsys, the Government Printing Office's replacement for the aging GPO Access website, continues to grow. It now covers the following:

According to a recent article in LLRX, migration is now expected to be complete in April 2010 with a full switchover to FDsys in Summer 2010. See the article for more info, as well as some advanced search tips.

January 28, 2010

BJS Launches Redesigned Website

From the BJS Email News service:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) website has been redesigned and is now available at: Many new features and tools have been added, and the site's content has been completely reorganized to allow users to quickly find the information they're seeking. New features include enhanced search capabilities, prominent placement of new products and announcements on the homepage, RSS feeds, and more. Tutorials are available to help users become familiar with the new site and its features.

Thanks to my colleague, Bill Ebbott, for passing this on to me.

January 8, 2010

Wisconsin's Electronics Recycling Law Now in Effect

Wisconsin's electronics recycling legislation, signed last October, went into effect on January 1st of this year. The law, Act 50, creates an electronics recycling program for certain devices used by Wisconsin households and K-12 public schools.

From the Wisconsin DNR's E-Cycle Wisconsin website:

Under the law, manufacturers of covered electronic devices (CEDs) sold to Wisconsin households and K-12 public schools must register and report annually to the DNR. Electronics collectors and recyclers who wish to participate under the program and collect and recycle electronics on behalf of a manufacturer must also register and report annually.
Source: WisBar InsideTrack

December 3, 2009

Bill Would Raise Small Claims Limit

The Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Judiciary and Ethics heard testimony Tuesday on a bill raising the dollar limit in small claims court. (Assembly Bill 524)

The current dollar limit in small claims court is $5,000. The bill would raise it to $10,000 if the person bringing the action has commenced 20 or fewer actions in small claims. The filing fee would be increased to $33 (a 50% increase) to compensate the counties for the increased caseload.

However, the limit would remain $5,000 If the person bringing the action has commenced more than 20 such actions in small claims within the previous 365 days. The filing fee for these users would be raised to $44 (a 100% increase) so that frequent users pay a higher share of the court costs.

According to Committee Chairman Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) who put forth the bill, the first tier ($10,000 limit) is designed for small business people and others who use small claims court only occasionally. The second tier ($5,000 limit) is designed for credit card companies, utility companies and other frequent users, such as large property management firms who use small claims court on a nearly constant basis.

November 16, 2009

Something Rotten at the State Capitol - Literally!

You never know what you're going to turn up in the Odd Wisconsin Archives. I had to laugh at the story about the "cache of decaying venison and sturgeon" stored a basement room of the Capitol wreaking havoc on the olfactory sensibilities of our distinguished lawmakers. And, funnier still, was that it was of their own doing. Brings new meaning to the contention that there's something rotten in politics.

In the early 1930s, lawmakers decided to hold wardens accountable for the proper disposal of confiscated animals. A new provision was inserted in the legal code requiring that seized fish and game be sent to the state Capitol. And so there a captured sturgeon was soon deposited, unpreserved, in a basement storage room.

Ever dignified, members of the Supreme Court initially ignored the stench rising up the elevator shaft from below. But as it intensified, the justices decided that laws about abating a public nuisance trumped those about confiscated game....

Many lawmakers were said to be so scarred by the stench that they swore off sturgeon altogether, even giving up caviar. In an effort to avoid another incident, the law was changed and conservation wardens were once again entrusted with selling confiscated sturgeon locally.

Image: Capitol East Gallery, 1934, from the Wisconsin History Society Image Archive

November 6, 2009

Wisconsin Legislative Session Wrap-up

From today's Wheeler Report:

The Assembly adjourned about 3:45 a.m. today, ending the floor sessions scheduled for 2009. Regular sessions will resume January 19, 2010.

However, legislative leaders are expected to call lawmakers back to Madison in the coming weeks to take up any agreement that can be worked out between the Senate and Assembly on stiffening drunken driving laws.

Also, there is a possibility Gov. Doyle will call the Legislature into special session to consider the proposed mayoral takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools.

On Thursday and early today, the Legislature completed action on additional Wisconsin Shares child welfare reform, provided for taxpayer funding of state Supreme Court races, took away the governor's authority to appoint the DNR secretary, and a package of bills providing Wisconsin the ability to seek federal Race to the Top funding.

See the Wheeler Report for news articles and press releases about the legislation.

November 4, 2009

LRB Launches WI Legislative Oral History Project

The Legislative Reference Bureau has begun work on the Wisconsin Legislative Oral History Project. The project will include recorded interviews with former members of the Wisconsin Legislature, conducted by John Powell, the former Capitol reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.

The goal of the project is to record the oral histories of as many former legislators as possible; the purpose is to learn from the interviews how the legislature functions as a forum for determining public policy, what enables it to work well, and what prevents it from functioning better.

Each interview is about two hours long. The LRB will publish the entire series on DVDs and will eventually make them available as streaming video from their Web site. Brief excerpts are already viewable at the LRB's YouTube channel.


Thanks to LRB Chief, Steve Miller for sharing the news.

October 20, 2009

Bills Would Ban Texting While Driving

Up for debate today in the Senate is a bill that would crack down on text messaging while driving. Wisconsin Senate Bill 103 would ban text messaging for drivers under the age of 18. [see Senate substitute amendment 1 for the under 18 language]

According to the bill, violators would be charged a fine between $100 and $400 for a first offense, and $200 to $800 for further offenses.

Two other proposals limiting text messaging while driving have been introduced also - Assembly Bill 496 and Senate Bill 355. Both of these would ban texting for all drivers, not just those under 18.

See Google News for articles about the bills. Image from

Bill Would Require DNA Test Upon Arrest

Everyone arrested on suspicion of a serious crime in Wisconsin would be required to give a DNA sample under a bill introduced earlier this month.

Wisconsin Senate Bill 336 requires law enforcement agencies to collect a biological specimen for DNA analysis from every adult who is arrested for a felony and every juvenile who is taken into custody for certain sexual assault offenses that would be felonies if committed by an adult. The bill further requires the crime laboratories to analyze the specimens and include information obtained from the analyses in the DNA data bank.

There have been several news stories about this bill. For a sampling, see Google News.

October 16, 2009

Credit Card Act To Bring Changes - Good and Bad

Channel has a good summary of the changes consumers can expect under the new Credit Card Act of 2009.

The Good: "It's not going to be quite as easy to get into trouble as it has been in the past," says Michael Johnson, finance instructor at Madison Area Technical College.

The Bad: "Those low, promotional rates -- like zero-percent interest -- are going to be a lot harder to find, even for those with good credit. Experts also say that it's likely that annual fees, which most credit card company have strayed from, will be making a comeback."

September 1, 2009

Wisconsin Eye No Longer Available on Time Warner Cable

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

The public affairs network Wisconsin Eye said it would end its service to Time Warner customers on Monday night at midnight because the company won't pay for it.

Time Warner serves customers in southeastern Wisconsin and the Fox Valley area -- Wisconsin Eye will continue to be available to Charter Cable subscribers in the Madison area and on its Web site at

August 10, 2009

Bill Would Provide Funding For and Change Name of Law Library of Congress

From :

The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday named in honor of former Utah Rep. Bill Orton that would boost funding to the Law Library of Congress...

"Bill Orton was a tireless advocate for the law library and this legislation is a fitting way to honor his memory," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the proposal's sponsor....

Lofgren's proposal would change the name from the Law Library of Congress to the National Law Library and provide an additional $3.5 million to help reduce the backlog in books that have not yet been cataloged....

It also would create the "William Orton Program," which would solicit outside donations and create partnerships between the law library and groups such as the American Bar Association to fund its ongoing operations.

Thanks to my colleague, Nancy Paul, for the tip.

August 7, 2009

Budget May be Republished due to Veto Error

"The Legislature is looking at republishing the state budget without one of Gov. Jim Doyle's partial vetoes because the veto violated the state constitution," reports JS Online.

Legislative leaders did not want to try to override the veto -- which requires a two-thirds vote -- because they didn't want to recognize it as valid... Leadership committees for both houses are expected to authorize republishing the budget next week.

Source: The Wheeler Report

August 6, 2009

Refocusing the Debate over Statutory History

The Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog features an interesting take on the debate over the usability of statutory history.

The current debate centers on whether reliance on statutory history is consistent with a plain meaning analysis. Justice Roggensack has asserted, "statutory history is part of a plain meaning analysis because it is part of the context in which we interpret statutory terms." Chief Justice Abrahamson, on the other hand, asserts that statutory history is inconsistent with a plain meaning analysis because if the text is plain, there is no need to go beyond the text.

While the intellectual debate over statutory history is commendable, the arguments thus far have been misplaced, and as a result, we should refocus the debate. The debate should not center on whether statutory history is consistent with a plain meaning analysis because such a debate does not answer when and how statutory history can be utilized. As such, the current debate is meaningless. Rather, the debate should center on whether statutory history is an intrinsic or extrinsic aid to interpretation.

Read the full post for more.

June 10, 2009

WI Admin Code Questions Answered: Paperless Rationale, Upgrades to Web Format, Superseded Code

Bruce Hoesly, Revising Attorney/Code Editor at the Legislative Reference Bureau, tells me that the survey which I posted here last week on whether the Wisconsin Admin Code should go paperless generated quite a bit of response.

Acknowledging this interest, he's shared with me "a summary of what we are thinking that you can share with your users."

He writes:

That we are raising the issue of going "paperless" now basically arises from the confluence of 2 factors. The first is we are looking for ways to reduce costs. The second is that it appears we will be able to greatly improve our Internet presentation of the code and register in a way that we believe would make the transition from paper much easier than if we continue with the code and register as it currently is presented online.

At this point no decision has been made and we are seeking user input as we consider our options. It is possible no change will be made or that some changes less than a completely paperless system could be adopted. Whether any change regarding printing is made, we do hope to upgrade our Internet presentation of the Code and Register. Below are the key changes we are envisioning:

The Internet version of the code would be designated as "prima facie" correct under ss. 227.27 (2) and 889.02, stats.

We will eliminate the presentation of the documents in 2 versions, PDF and NXT, with a single format -- fully linked and fully searchable PDFs. Our underlying document format for the code and register will remain unchanged.

We hope to provide an electronic subscription service that will allow users to get notice of as much or as little of the administrative process as is desired. We hope whatever notice we provide will contain links to the documents referred to. We also envision RSS feeds that would provide notice of the publication of each register and of emergency rules.

We would add links to the register so that any reference to a clearinghouse rule or to a final rule would have a link to that rule. We would also add links to all web addresses included in any agency notice or other filing and we will add links to provide for better internal navigation.

We anticipate changing the links in our Administrative code history notes so that the link from the Clearinghouse Rule number, which now takes the user to the final rule order, will instead activate a search that will provide a list of links to all the documents filed and all legislative actions taken in the rulemaking process. We also anticipate adding a search tool to our Web pages that will allow a user to generate the same type of search for any rule without going through the code history notes.

We are finally adding more superseded code that has been scanned to our web site, all of which will be accessible from links in the history notes and directly from a separate code archive infobase.

Rather than continue to maintain the separate infobase of citations to court cases that cite the code, all the cites to each administrative code chapter, will be published at the end of that chapter and will include links to the citing case.

If we do stop printing the code for general distribution, we will continue to print the code for archival purposes in a limited quantity with a limited distribution to as yet undetermined recipients and LRB will maintain the same paper archive that has always been maintained.

June 3, 2009

WI Admin Code to Go Paperless? Share Your Opinion

The Legislative Reference Bureau is considering changing to an Internet-based publishing system for the Wisconsin Administrative Code and Register. It may include RSS and alert features.

They would be interested in hearing your opinion on this survey.

May 27, 2009

Search and Compare Pending State Legislation with BillFinder

In her Wisconsin Law Journal blog, Bev Butula discusses a useful service called BillFinder which "helps you find any bill eligible for consideration in the current calendar year using either keywords and phrases or bill numbers."

As Bev notes, BillFinder is particularly useful when looking for similar legislation being considered by more than one state. For example, I did a search for bills containing email and public record to see if there was any pending state legislation relating to government email as public record. As you can see by my search below, I did find a number of state bills.billfinder.jpg

For each bill, BillFinder provides the bill number, a summary, and bill tracking (see "Details" button). For some states, the text of the bill is also provided.

Bev also notes that "the search tool allows for Boolean operators, phrase searching, wildcard, and proximity options. These features help an individual locate legislation when a state's website lacks powerful search functionality. If you only need to search a select group of states, a checkbox window allows you to choose particular states."

BillFinder, which is free, is a service of StateScape, a fee-based service.

May 12, 2009

Article: Huge shortfall forces Legislature to push Department of Revenue to collect

From the Badger Herald:

Wisconsin taxpayers would face more audits and revenue agents would pursue more of those who owe back taxes under a plan approved Tuesday to help close the state's budget shortfall.

The Joint Finance Committee voted 15-0, without any debate, to restore $11.8 million to the Department of Revenue's budget that Gov. Jim Doyle had proposed cutting over the next two years....

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates the effort could bring in $70 million in revenue in the next two years, making a small dent in the $6.6 billion budget shortfall the state faces through June 30, 2011. The plan needs approval from the Legislature and Doyle to take effect.

April 16, 2009

Are Student Government Records Subject to State's Open Record Laws?

"A group of college reporters asked Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Wednesday for his opinion on whether Wisconsin's open records and meetings laws apply to University of Wisconsin System student government." Read more at the Oshkosh Northwestern.

Source: The Wheeler Report

April 10, 2009

WI Bill Would Require Employers to Notify of E-Mail Monitoring

Wisconsin Radio Network reports that "a public hearing Tuesday from the Legislature's Committee on Personal Privacy took up a bill that would require employers to annually notify their workers of email monitoring." The bill in question is Assembly Bill 30.

From the article:

"An instructor of computer networking at Madison Area Technical College spoke in favor of the plan. Brett Selling says such a policy would help protect network administrators who may be tasked with investigating activity on their network. He says administrators can be held liable under current law....

Seling says this law would only apply toward business owners who already track their employee's emails. For those who don't monitor activity it would not apply."

March 23, 2009

Bill Would Disallow Caucus Exemption in Open Records Law

The Wisconsin State Journal reports on a new bill (Assembly Bill 143) which would remove the open meetings law exemption for partisan caucus activities.

From the bill analysis:

Currently, under the open meetings law, with certain exceptions, meetings of state and local governmental bodies must be preceded by public notice, must be held in places that are reasonably accessible to the public, and must be open to the public at all times. If a meeting is properly noticed, a governmental body may, by recorded vote of a majority of the members present, convene in closed session for the purpose of considering certain matters specified by law. The open meetings law provides that the law does not apply to any partisan caucus of the senate or assembly, except as provided by legislative rule.

This bill deletes the exception in the open meetings law that makes the law inapplicable to a partisan caucus of the senate or assembly...

March 20, 2009

State Open Government Bill Would Clarify Public Access to Bill Drafts

State Representative Louis J. Molepske, Jr. re-introduced the Open Government Act, legislation which attempts to clarify when bill drafts should be made available to the public.

From a media release from Rep. Molepske:

This bill sets up a process whereby the official's desire to keep bill drafts confidential is balanced against the public's expectation to inspect taxpayer-funded records prepared by state employees when the document is no longer in the "preparer's level of authority." It will be up to the official to determine if a draft is in the public domain or not....

According to a December 2003 Attorney General's opinion, the common legislative practice of providing drafts exclusively to third parties not empowered to draft legislation is already illegal under Wisconsin's Open Records laws. Some legislators have argued that limited public access protects the institutional integrity of the legislature and that an attorney-client relationship exists between legislators and drafting attorneys. However, the 2003 Attorney General's Opinion states that, "once an individual legislator selectively releases draft documents to a third party, any such privilege, if it exists, would be extinguished."...

Molepske's bill will codify the Attorney General's opinion by stating that once a bill draft is disclosed to an outside party, the draft may be subject to inspection and copying as provided under Wisconsin's Open Record Law; it is up to the legislator or official to determine whether or not to comply with an open records request. The bill will also provide guidance to legislative support agencies as to when they may release a bill draft to the public. The bill draft file and accompanying documents will remain confidential.

Source: The Wheeler Report

March 19, 2009

WI Bill Would Require Repeat Domestic Abusers to Wear Tracking Device

State representative Scott Suder is sponsoring a bi-partisan bill that will allow courts to make repeat domestic abusers wear a satellite tracking device. Read more from the Marshfield News Herald.

In a time of major budget reform and a looming deficit, Suder said it's key that the perpetrators pay for the device and any other costs. It's estimated to cost about $200 for one person to be equipped with the tracking system....

[A similar bill in Illinois] passed with 100 percent approval within five months of being drafted, and Suder said he doesn't expect much pushback from Wisconsin lawmakers.

Source: The Wheeler Report

February 2, 2009

Receive Schedule & Program Highlights with WisEye Alert

WisconsinEye has recently released WisEye Alert! Subscribe to WisEye Alert and receive a daily email with schedule and programming highlights for the WisconsinEye channel and website. A RSS feed is also available.

December 29, 2008

Monitor State of Wisconsin Administrative Rulemaking Process

Updated: 7/22/2013

I've recently been made aware of the State of Wisconsin Administrative Rules Home Page.

Wisconsin state agencies value your involvement in agency decision-making and have created this website to make it easy for you to monitor and participate in their rulemaking.

At this site, you can:

  • Search for rules
  • View the status of current rulemaking
  • View documents associated with rulemaking
  • Subscribe to receive notification of rulemaking

For more about the rulemaking process and how to view documents, monitor rules, and make comments, see the FAQ page.

Per the Wisconsin Legislative Council's Administrative Rules Procedures Manual, agencies are required to electronically submit, for inclusion in the state's administrative rules web site, "all publicly available materials regarding rules that are submitted to DOA, the Rules Clearinghouse, the Chief Clerks, LRB, legislative standing committees, and JCRAR.

This includes scope statements, submissions to the Rules Clearinghouse of proposed rules and accompanying materials (such as fiscal estimates and economic impact analyses), reports of the SBRRB, notices regarding hearings, final proposed rules and reports to the Legislature that are sent to the Chief Clerks for referral to standing committees, emergency rule-making orders, requests for extensions for emergency rules, modifications to proposed rules, withdrawals or recalling of proposed rules, and final rules that are submitted to LRB for publication."

2011 Executive Order #50 requires that these materials also be submitted to the Governor's Office of Regulatory Compliance

September 17, 2008

City of Milwaukee's Legislative Research Center Offers Offers Improved Access to Legislative Documents

In her Wisconsin Law Journal blog, Law Librarian Bev Butula highlights some changes to Milwaukee's Legistar service, now called the Legislative Research Center.

"If you are not familiar with Legistar, it is a system to help manage the flow of documents through the municipal legislative process. Obviously, a great help to the Clerk's office. However, there is also a significant benefit to the legal community. This system contains detailed information, including documentation, pertaining to resolutions, ordinances, reports and other items."

The Milwaukee upgrade features a cleaner interface, video of Common Council meetings, RSS feeds, and more. Read Bev's post for full details.

Madison also uses the Legistar system. Its Legislative Information Center offers access to legislative documents such as legislative files, agendas, minutes, etc. for City Council and committees.

July 17, 2008

Subject Compilations of State Laws Coming to HeinOnline

HeinOnline has announced that it will soon be adding Subject Compilations of State Laws as an a-la-carte library module. According to the HeinOnline Weblog

This database contains references to more than 17,000 sources of 50-state surveys published in law review articles, books, court briefs and opinions, federal and state government publications, and loose-leaf services. Researchers will have the ability to search all 25 volumes in one place and link directly to journals found within HeinOnline.

As its name implies, Subject Compilations of State Laws is a great source for finding books and articles containing fifty state surveys of state law on specific subjects. Westlaw and LexisNexis also offer fifty state survey products.

June 30, 2008

Oregon Decides Not to Enforce Copyright Claims on Statutes

Justia reports that Oregon's Legislative Counsel Committee has unanimously voted to not to enforce any copyright claims on the Oregon Revised Statutes.

See more about the decision, including video, from

For more on the ORS copyright claims, see my earlier posts from April and May .

May 21, 2008

RSS Feeds for US Code Updates

Cornell's Legal Information Institute has recently introduced RSS feeds for the US Code. Feeds are available by title only.

Source: Law Librarian Blog

May 5, 2008

Oregon Revised Statutes Copyright Claim

Boing Boing reports that the situation regarding the contested copyright claim for Oregon Revised Statutes has reached an impasse. Oregon says they are copyright-able; Justia and Public.Resource.Org, who plan to post them online, say they aren't.

From the attorney representing Justia and Public.Resource.Org:

My clients respectfully cannot agree to the Public License. First, and most fundamentally, it would require them to acknowledge that portions of the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) are protected by copyright, and they respectfully but vigorously disagree that portions of the ORS are protected by copyright.

Both organizations plan to go ahead with the release of the full text of the 2005 and 2007 statutes as of June 2nd.

April 16, 2008

Oregon Declares Statutes Copyrighted Material

The State of Oregon has declared that the Oregon Revised Statutes are copyrighted material and has sent cease and desist letters to sites like Justia and Public.Resource.Org that have been posting copies of the laws.

Carl Malamud has issued a response which he has posted on Scribd, along with related documents.

Source: BoingBoing

Availability of 2006 U.S. Code

According to the Law Revision Counsel, by way of the GovDocs-l listserv, titles 1-9 of the 2006 edition of the official U.S. Code are now available on the House of Representatives U.S. Code Search site. See the about page for more information.

The first four volumes (titles 1 to 10, 101-1805) have also been released to GPO for printing. LRC will continue to add updated titles on the Code website and to release additional volumes to GPO as fast as they can complete the editorial work.

April 8, 2008

2005/2006 WI Legislative Drafting Records Now Available from UW Law Library

I'm pleased to report that the 2005/2006 Wisconsin Legislative Drafting Records are now available on the UW Law Library Web site. Records from previous sessions back to 1999/2000 are also available.

The 2005/2006 records have actually been up for a few weeks, but Google has only just indexed them, thus enabling our search engine.

You may know that drafting records from the 1999-2005 sessions are also available from the Wisconsin Legislature. In doing some comparative searching, however, I found some significant differences. Terms which produced results in our search engine did not produce results in the Legislature's search engine. So I asked them why.

Here's what Lauren Jackson, Legislative Analyst at the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau told me:

I have been working with LTSB (Legislative Technology Services Bureau) in creating the online instructions to finding information on that site. We understand your concerns about the site not being "word searchable", and we hope the following explanation helps.

The drafting file site is meant to be used in conjunction with the NXT Searchable Infobases provided on the main legislative Web page. The public can use this site to search legislative bills, resolutions, acts, statutes, etc. back to the 1995 legislative session. This site is word searchable and has several subject indexes, as well as an author index to legislation.

Once you have determined on the NXT site what act or bill you want to research further, you would then go to the drafting file web site, and using the search instructions we have provided, find and examine the drafting file. For example, if you have determined that you are seeking the drafting file for 2005 Wisconsin Act 100, you would click on "2005-06" folder, and once there, you can use the search bar to search for "Act 100" or you can follow the steps of opening the "Wisconsin Acts" folder, then scrolling down to 2005 Act 100 and opening that file.

While we understand that this may not be the most user-friendly configuration of the site, there are reasons for this... One of the LRB's main concerns is to make sure that the public is finding the right documents when searching for legislative history. This involves first finding the statute you are concerned about, the specific language in that statute you are interested in, then finding the correct session law (act) which created that language, and finally examining the drafting file for that act. Making the drafting file site word searchable is not necessarily helpful to this methodic process, and can, in fact, make things more confusing at times...

When we host the Drafting Records on our site, they are being organized based on their attributes (special field indexes), mainly the actual bill number, or amendment etc. and displayed right from our Document management system. Unfortunately that system has never supported word searching internally, and the licensure costs to add that utility for web browsing was extremely prohibitive.

February 27, 2008

C-SPAN Video Archive of House and Senate Floor Proceedings

C-SPAN has created a video archive House and Senate floor proceedings. The new C-SPAN Congressional Chronicle is produced through a automated matching of the video recordings with the Congressional Record soon after the Record is available in the day following the session. Browse by date, bill number, or person's name. Looks like there is even a RSS feed for each representative.

Each appearance has both the text from the Congressional Record as well as a video link where users can watch and listen to the actual remarks. Only actual appearances by Representatives and Senators on the floor are included.

Currently the 108th (2003-2004), 109th (2005-2006), and 110th (2007-present) Congresses are available. The 107th (2001-2002) will be available soon and the 106 (1999-2000) in late 2007. Previous Congresses back to 1988 will be added as the video is digitized and indexed at the rate of two Congresses per year.

Source: beSpacific

February 20, 2008

Cell Phones Added to "Do Not Call" List?

From JS Online:

The state Senate unanimously voted Tuesday to add cell phones to the state's "do not call" list and raise the maximum fine for violating that law from $100 to $1,000.

January 30, 2008

The New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

On December 1, 2007, a revised and restyled Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (F.R.C.P.) became effective. The Style Project, as it is called, rewrote the rules using "plain language" with the purpose of making them easier to understand. This project, begun in 1992, resulted in the most extensive revision of the rules since their establishment in 1938.

The new rules may be viewed online at the Federal Judiciary's website for federal rules of practice, procedure, and evidence, as well as, at Cornell's Legal Information Institute website.

The Federal Judiciary's website also gives you considerable insight into the rulemaking process itself, and the changes that were made. For example, you will find links to the Current and Restyled Rules Comparison Chart, another chart outlining the Civil Rules Style Project Global Drafting Issues, as well as, excerpts from the Report of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules (Part 1 of this report presents action items and the second a side-by-side comparison of the old and amended rules).

It is important to remember, though, that these changes are merely stylistic in nature as an aid to their use and implementation. The amendments are not and should not be construed to affect the substantive meaning of the rules themselves. Rule 86 addresses this very point by including a provision that the restyled Rules are not to be treated as superseding existing laws. Likewise, the Rule's Advisory Committee Notes appending each of the restyled rules state the same, i.e. "These changes are intended to be stylistic only."

Among the recently updated print resources incorporating the 2007 style amendments to be found in the library include:

Federal Civil Rules Handbook. St. Paul, Minn. : West Pub. Co.
Location: Reserve Collection KF/8816/A195/2008 (24 hour loan)

Moore's Federal Rules Pamphlet in 4 parts (see Part 1 for F.R.C.P.). New York, NY : Matthew Bender, 1997-
Location: Reserve Collection KF/8840/M642/Rules/Pt.1-4/2008 (24 hour loan)

Moore's Federal Practice. 3rd ed. New York, NY : Matthew Bender, 1997-
Volumes 1-14 have been completed revised to reflect the new changes.
Location: Quarles & Brady Reading Room, 5th Floor East, section 57 (non-circulating)

[Originally posted in the UW Law School Newsletter. Written by my colleague, Eric Taylor.]

January 23, 2008

JS Online Weighs in on Proposal to Limit Access to Court Records

In an editorial yesterday, JS Online weighs in on another proposal to limit access to Wisconsin's online court records.

Companion proposals by Vos and Lassa would have state officials remove cases or charges involving a civil forfeiture or misdemeanor from the Web site within 90 days after being notified that the case or charge has been dismissed, the defendant has been found not guilty of all of the charges or the case or charge has been overturned on appeal and dismissed. In the case of felonies, the case or charge would be removed within 120 days after officials had been notified that one of the above had happened.

As Peter Fox of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association put it in an e-mail, the proposals are poor public policy. "For one thing, the WCCA site is intended to reflect the actual record of Wisconsin courts, not excerpts thereof," he wrote. "Essentially, this proposal would create two 'sets of books.' "

Source: Wheeler Report

January 22, 2008

New Bill Would Give Police Instant Access to Drivers' License Photos

Wisconsin Attorney General Van Hollen is backing a bill that would offer electronic access by law enforcement agencies to photographs on motor vehicle operators licenses and identification cards.

According to Proof and Hearsay:

The bill Van Hollen backs, which as he says "isn't costless," would sync up the police computers that already use this system with the DOT's and enable electronic signatures to be used to request pictures. The first-term AG says federal grant money is available to defray the costs, but he didn't give an estimate on the total tab.

January 2, 2008

WI Personnel Commission Abolished

The Wisconsin Personnel Commission is yet another agency abolished by the state budget. Others include the Revisor of Statutes Bureau and the Sentencing Commission.

From their Web site:

Pursuant to the provisions of the State budget that was recently enacted into law, the Personnel Commission has been abolished and its authority has been distributed between two other state agencies: 1) the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) is now responsible for processing Appeals, and 2) the Equal Rights Division (ERD) of the Department of Workforce Development is responsible for processing Complaints.

Thanks to my colleague, Eric Taylor, for pointing this out.

Wisconsin Passed Nation's First Open Records Law in 1849

In response to my post last week about Wisconsin passing the nation's first open records law in 1849, I received a request to post the full text of that law. So, I did a quick scan from our 1849 Wisconsin Revised Statutes print volume and here is Chapter 10, Section 137.

December 26, 2007

Historical Wisconsin Statutes in the News

Two news items involving historical Wisconsin statutes:

  • A Capital Times writer authenticates Wikipedia claim that the nation's first open records law was passed in Wisconsin shortly after it became a state.

    WI Revised Statutes, 1849 - Chapter 10, Section 137 required every sheriff, circuit court clerk, county board clerk, register of deeds and county treasurer in the state to "open for the examination of any person" all of their books and papers. Any officer who neglected to comply "shall forfeit for each day he shall so neglect, the sum of five dollars."

  • JS Online reports that "state inmates are using - and many say abusing - an unusual, 168-year-old law to spark often meritless investigations of correctional officers, tying up courts and creating new headaches for officers.

    Under the state's John Doe law, citizens can force judges to hold hearings by sending them letters alleging a crime has been committed."

December 17, 2007

Staffing Changes as Statute & Admin Code Responsibilities are Transferred to LRB

Deputy Revisor of Statutes Bruce Hoesly dropped me a line today letting me know that he'll be transferring over to the Legislative Reference Bureau. He'll be in charge of statute and administrative code and register production as the responsibility for those functions is transferred there in January. [See my previous post about the change]

He also shared that after 35 years as editor of the Administrative Code, Gary Poulson is retiring. Therefore, Bruce invites anyone who has code or register questions, about which they would have contacted Gary about in the past, to contact him at

December 3, 2007

Revisor of Statutes Bureau Will Cease to Exist on January 1st

Did you notice the announcement on the top of the Revisor of Statutes Bureau's pages:

On January 1, 2008 the Revisor of Statutes Bureau will cease to exist and the Legislative Reference Bureau will assume responsibility for the Revisor's duties. This web page will continue to exist after January 1, 2008.

See my earlier post for more information about the change. Thanks to Vicky Coulter for pointing out the announcement.

November 7, 2007

World's Weirdest Cases and Dumbest Laws

Weirdest Cases:

The Times (of London) Online is kicking off it's new column, Weird Cases, with a list of the columnist's top twenty "favourite bizarre disputes, prosecutions and lawsuits." Number one? Right here in Wisconsin, a Fond du Lac man "sued a television company for making his wife fat and transforming his children into 'lazy channel surfers'."

Dumbest Laws:

The Telegraph (also from Britain) reports on the results of a survey in which people were asked to rank the stupidest laws in Great Britain and internationally. Number one dumbest British law? "It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament"

Why would it be illegal to die there you ask? According to Nigel Cawthorne, author of The Strange Laws of Old England, "Anyone who dies there is technically entitled to a state funeral. If they see you looking a bit sick they carry you out quickly."

Thanks to Nancy Paul and Novalawcity for the tips.

November 6, 2007

Some Law Enforcement Records Could be Shielded from Open Records Requests per Assembly Bill

"A pending bill in the Legislature could have a broad silencing effect on Wisconsin open records law," says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Assembly Bill 522 would shield from all open records requests certain law-enforcement records not "in the custody of an authority that performed the service or conducted the investigation" - wording that the head record-keeper in the state's busiest courthouse called "too broad and too vague" to be practically applied without severely limiting public access to court cases.

"I think it would place in doubt every criminal complaint," Milwaukee County Clerk of Courts John Barrett said, "as to whether or not that would be open or not."

Apparently, the proposal was drafted to protect records in situations where disparate police agencies use a central county communications system.

In such cases, [bill sponsor Rep. Garey] Bies said, records that might be shielded from open-records requests because they're part of a pending police investigation could be unprotected because copies of them are in the county's computer system.

October 18, 2007

WisconsinEye Announces Partnership with BadgerNet

According to a Wisconsin Department of Administration press release, WisconsinEye announced on Monday that it has reached agreement with the department to launch the WisconsinEye channel on the BadgerNet video network serving education and government sites throughout the state's 72 counties.

The partnership with BadgerNet will bring WisconsinEye into over 255 schools and 54 college campuses across the state...

"WisconsinEye has just the kind of public content that BadgerNet was created to provide for schools and public organizations," said state Chief Information Officer Oskar Anderson. "Bringing WisconsinEye to more classrooms will help students gain a better understanding of how state government works."

BadgerNet was created by the State of Wisconsin to provide next generation voice, data, and video services to state agencies, local governments, UW campuses, technical colleges, private colleges and universities, public and private K-12 schools, and libraries. A key goal of the BadgerNet project is to enhance statewide educational systems for both children and adults.

Source: Wheeler Report

October 16, 2007

1999-2005 Drafting Records Available at WI Legislature Web Site

I've been given the green light to announce that Wisconsin Legislative Drafting Records are now available online at the Wisconsin State Legislature Web site. Records from the 1999 through 2005 sessions are available.

At this time, it seems that only the browsing function is working. My test keyword searches have produced no results. I'm told that they are looking into it.

As you may know, the UW Law Library also maintains a database of Wisconsin Legislative Drafting Records. Our site, however, only contain records from the 1999 through 2003 sessions. Our database is comprised of scans made available by the Legislative Reference Bureau, as is the new database from the Wisconsin Legislature.

Now that the Legislature is making this information available directly, it is likely that we at the UW Law Library will discontinue our database. However, we will leave it up for the time being, so that our search engine can still be used to search the 1999-2003 records.

What are drafting records? [from the WI Legislature Drafting Records page]

Drafting records are the official, administrative records of the bill drafting process, and are maintained by the Legislative Reference Bureau. Drafting records may or may not be useful in determining the intent of a legislator in introducing a bill.

October 3, 2007

Bill to Restrict Public Access to CCAP

The Wisconsin State Journal reports on Assembly Bill 418 which would stop ordinary citizens from viewing Wisconsin court records online (CCAP).

From the LRB Analysis:

This bill restricts public access to the CCAP system from the Internet while permitting unlimited access to information in the CCAP system to Wisconsin judges or other court officials, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, and accredited journalists, as well as persons who regularly deal with court documents in the course of their job duties.

The bill allows limited access to CCAP information for other persons, who must submit to either the clerk of courts or district attorney in the county where the request for CCAP information is filed a written request for information that includes their full name and address, the full name and address of the person or entity subject to the request, the relationship, if any, between the requester and the subject of the request, and the purpose for the request.

You can monitor the status of this bill, or any other, with the Wisconsin Legislative Notification Service.

September 21, 2007

Law Library of Congress Working with Google to Digitize All Congressional Hearings

With their newly redesigned Web site, the Law Library of Congress is introducing several new products, including Congressional Hearings.

Here's a blub from their Web site:

As part of the Law Library's transition to the digital future, a collaborative pilot project was undertaken with Google, Inc. to digitize the entire collection and make it freely available to Congress and the world. Three collections have been selectively compiled to provide users with a test experience:

* Census: U.S.
* Freedom of Information/Privacy
* Immigration

These selected Hearings, presented as Adobe Acrobat PDF files, are samples of a larger group that will be digitized and made available as a result of this project. Ultimately, both the Library and Google will provide full-text access to the larger group of Hearings.

Although I love that the Google is working with libraries to make these collections available online, I'm baffled by the way that they are going about it. If the Law Library of Congress is working with them to digitize the entire collection of Congressional Hearings, why are they also digitizing copies from other library partners? See, for example Stanford and the University of MI.

Source: Lex Scripta

September 19, 2007

WI Bill Regarding Disclosure of Library Records

Update: The corresponding Senate bill is 214.
My Wisconsin Legislative Notifications account picked up this bill, AB-433, relating to the disclosure of library records to law enforcement officers.

LRB synopsis:

Under current law, public library records may not be disclosed to any person except in certain specified circumstances. This bill requires a public library to disclose to a law enforcement officer, upon his or her request, all records produced by a surveillance device, if the officer is investigating criminal conduct alleged to have occurred at the public library.

See the history and current status of the bill.

Wisconsin Legislative Notifications is a state legislative bill tracking service available from the Wisconsin Legislature. Receive daily or weekly email notification of specified legislative activity including actions affecting a specific proposal, bills introduced by a particular legislator, activities of a specific committee, or introductions relating to a particular topic.

August 22, 2007

Twitter Updates from the House Floor

Here's one from Law Librarian Blog:

Check out which distributes live updates from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, updated every five minutes with any new information from The Office of the Clerk of the House. [What's Twitter?]

Public.Resource.Org Aims to Offer All Federal & State Cases & Codes Free Online

The New York Times reports on the project of "Internet gadfly" Carl Malamud, founder of Public.Resource.Org, to make more than 10 million pages of case law available free online.

According to the ReadMe file on Public.Resource.Org,

The short-term goal of the project is the creation of an unencumbered full-text repository of the Federal Reporter, the Federal Supplement, and the Federal Appendix. The medium-term goal is the creation of an unencumbered full-text repository of all state and federal cases and codes.

The entire Federal Reporter, Supplement and Appendix is a short-term goal? All federal and state cases and codes are medium-term? My goodness, what would be considered long-term?

In the ReadMe file dated Friday, August 17th, Malamud reports that he hopes to have the Federal Reporter, first series (300 volumes) scanned within the next few months. So far, he's got 1000 pages of court decisions from the 1880s (scanned from a West ultrafiche).

Malamud has written a letter to Thomson West stating his intent to create "an unencumbered public repository of all federal and state case law and codes. This goal is not meant to compete with commercial vendors such as yourself, who perform a worthy service for the large law firms and other well-funded institutions who practice the business of law." In the letter, Malamud asks Thomson to clarify their copyright claims on the reports; Thomson has yet to reply.

Thanks to my colleague, Bill Ebbott, for the tip.

August 9, 2007

LOUIS, New Mega Search Gov Docs Database Offers RSS

LOUIS is a new mega search engine of U.S. executive and legislative documents. A project of the Sunlight Foundation, LOUIS offers a combined search of Congressional Reports, Congressional Record, Congressional Hearings, Federal Register, Presidential Documents, Federal Register, GAO Reports, and Congressional Bills & Resolutions. The files themselves come from GPO Access.

Besides the ability to combine sources, another cool thing about LOUIS is the availability of RSS feeds. You can either get an RSS feed of all of the documents from each source, or you can get a customized feed based on your search.

Let's say, for example, you're interested in following the congressional hearings regarding the U.S. Attorneys' controversy. You might go to the Congressional Hearings tab and do a search for the keywords department, justice, attorneys and firing for the last year. In addition to viewing the current results of your search, you can be notified of any future related hearings by clicking on the RSS button at the top and and subscribing to it.

There are some things to be aware of when using LOUIS. According to the LLRX article, The Government Domain: 'Insanely Useful' Legislative Sites by Peggy Garvin,

If you are going to use LOUIS as single mass of searchable text, you should understand the coverage of each database first. The helpful explanations available on GPO Access (such as, "most Congressional hearings are published two months to two years after they are held") are missing from LOUIS. Familiarity with the GPO source files also helps. For example, it is good to know that the hearings database is a database of printed hearings.

In addition, remember that LOUIS is searching and displaying the ASCII text of documents, which often do not have the full contents of the printed documents. In the case of congressional hearings, this can include numerous documents submitted for the record, such as letters and GAO reports. This content is not searchable, but it can be displayed in the PDF version at GPO Access.

There is a five minute video tutorial for LOUIS which I recommend if you are planning to use the site.

July 20, 2007

Comparing the State Budget Versions

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has prepared a memorandum comparing 2007-09 budget recommendations of the Governor, Joint Committee on Finance, Senate, and Assembly. Comparisons are shown in the following areas:

  • All funds appropriations
  • General fund appropriations
  • Tax and fee changes
  • Bonding authorizations
  • Structural deficits going into the 2009-11 biennium

Source: The Wheeler Report

July 18, 2007

WI Budget Conference Committee Explained

From the JS Online Capitol Podcast:

In the coming weeks, a conference committee of state legislators will sit down at the bargaining table -- peace-treaty style -- in an attempt to develop a compromise version of the next two-year state budget. What does a conference committee look like and how will it work? Listen to the Journal Sentinel's Madison bureau podcast for a primer on the next step in the budget process.

July 10, 2007

WisconsinEye Hits Airwaves Today

Live WisconsinEye cable television coverage of the State Legislature begins at noon today.

From the press release posted on

The WisconsinEye 24/7 cable channel will be available beginning tomorrow to Time Warner Cable Wisconsin digital subscribers on Channel 163 and to Charter digital customers in southern Wisconsin, including Madison, Janesville and Beloit, on Channel 200. Charter plans to expand the distribution of the service into additional Charter markets within the next few months. Together, Charter and Time Warner Cable serve about 75 percent of Wisconsin cable customers. Approximately half of each company's customers are digital subscribers.

July 3, 2007

Bill Drafts Can Stay Secret

JS Online reports that:

A Dane County judge ruled Wednesday that drafts of what may become formal bills in the Legislature do not have to be made public under the open records law, even if legislators have shared them with individuals or special-interest groups outside the Capitol. . . .

In his ruling, [Circuit Judge David] Flanagan said collecting information about what may become bills, before they are formally introduced, has long been an "essential, core" part of the legislative process and does not violate the Open Records Law.

"It is not readily apparent that there is abuse or unfair exclusion necessarily inherent in a process whereby each legislator is free to seek whatever advice he or she believes may be useful," Flanagan ruled.

"The preliminary and tentative character of the draft document remains the same regardless of whether the persons selected by the legislator for advice are within or outside of the Legislature," the judge added.

Update 7/3/07: State Representative, Jim Soletski of the 88th Assembly District has written a letter to AG Van Hollen asking him to appeal the ruling. From the Wheeler Report. Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.

June 21, 2007

Recent WI Attorney General Opinions

WI Attorney General Van Hollen has recently issued several new opinions - two formal and one informal. They are available on the Attorney General's web site.

I created a crude RSS feed using Ponyfish. It's not pretty, but it will send notification when there is a new opinion posted on the web site.

June 20, 2007

WisconsinEye Set to Start Cable Broadcast Next Week

wieye.jpg According to today's Wisconsin State Journal, WisconsinEye could start broadcasting gavel-to-gavel coverage from the state Capitol to cable-television viewers as early as next Tuesday. WisconsinEye began broadcasting from its web site about a month ago.

From the article:

[Chris] Long, president and chief executive officer of WisconsinEye, sees the network becoming a state-based C-SPAN by providing an unfiltered look at state government, and by producing original programming about Wisconsin life, culture and community.

"One of the primary contributions we can make is to be a statewide platform for the circulation of ideas," Long said. "It's a very old-school idea."

Lawmakers say they welcome the coverage because they expect it to spur more participation in government by state residents.

And after several years of strained relations between Democrats and Republicans -- evidenced by occasional shouting matches, name calling and even the yanking of a microphone to end debate -- they hope it's a catalyst to improve lawmakers' manners.

June 19, 2007

LRB to Put 2005 Drafting Records on Web

More news from the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau: According to Allan Marty, the LRB and LTSB (Legislative Technology Services Bureau) are in the process of putting the 2005 Legislative Drafting Records on the LRB website. Allan also noted that "if everything goes as planned we would probably put all sessions that we have in electronic format up also and then continue to add new sessions as they become available. We might even be able to add the current acts as they are completed."

In the meantime, if you need a record, you can call the LRB Reference Section at (608)266-0341 and one of the Research Analysts will help you get the record by email or CD.

Drafting Records from the 1999/2000 through 2003/2004 legislative sessions are currently available on the UW Law Library web site.

June 18, 2007

Change in Terms for RSB Move

I spoke with LRB Chief Steve Miller this afternoon and he informed me that there has been some changes regarding the Revisor of Statutes move. As I posted earlier, in an amendment to the proposed 2007 state budget (Senate Bill 40), the Wisconsin Revisor of Statutes Bureau is slated to be eliminated as an agency.

As reported last week by the Wisconsin Law Journal, 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.

I've since learned from Steve that per a recent Joint Finance Committee motion, all RSB duties are now to be transferred to the LRB. Additionally, three RSB staff members will transfer to the LRB (of seven employees total, three more will retire and the other will take a position elsewhere).

Steve sounded very positive about the transfer of duties and staff. When I asked him about the RSB's project to digitize the back issues of the Wisconsin Administrative Code, he felt optimistic that it would continue. He was committed to furthering projects that would benefit users. And given LRB's progressive nature on other technology projects, such as podcasting, I'm inclined to feel optimistic, too.

June 4, 2007

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?

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?]

May 30, 2007

GPO Authenticating Laws for 110th Congress

GPO has announced that authenticated Public and Private Laws for the 110th Congress are now available on GPO Access as a searchable and browseable application in beta form.

GPO's Authentication initiative focuses on the primary objective of assuring users that the information made available by GPO is official and authentic...

The Public and Private Laws beta application provides authenticated Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files for the 110th Congress only. Public and private laws within this application contain digitally signed and certified PDF files that contain GPO's Seal of Authenticity. These files have been digitally signed and certified using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology.

May 16, 2007

Wisconsin Eye Legislative Broadcasts to Begin Today

Although the site still says it's under construction, WisconsinEye is scheduled to broadcast its first live gavel-to-gavel Internet coverage of the state Assembly and Senate at 11 a.m. today.

According to JSOnline PoliticsWatch:

WisconsinEye has also finalized agreements for digital channels to be available on the Charter and TimeWarner cable system in Wisconsin, said WisconsinEye president Chris Long. Some of the transmission equipment still needs to be installed, however, so it could be a few months before cable broadcasts will be available, he said.

"We're very excited to be at the beginning of a new chapter in Wisconsin's progressive history and to be available on the Web and soon on cable," Long said in a statement.


May 9, 2007

WI Revisor of Statutes Bureau May be Eliminated

In an amendment to the proposed 2007 state budget (Senate Bill 40), it appears that the Wisconsin Revisor of Statutes Bureau may be eliminated as an agency. The amendment (LRB b 0074/2) transfers most of the statutory functions to Legislative Reference Bureau except for the Administrative Register which will go to the Legislative Council. The bill makes no provision for RSB employees.

April 26, 2007

Legislature Considering Expanding Do-Not-Call List to Cell Phones

According to JS Online, the Wisconsin Legislature is considering a bill (AB 217) which would allow cell phone users and small businesses to add their phone numbers to the state's do-not-call list.

April 17, 2007

WI Capitol Podcast from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

From JS Online:
Stay up to speed on what's going on in the state Capitol with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Capitol bureau's weekly podcast. Steve Walters, Stacy Forster and Patrick Marley discuss the top issues of the week and talk to the lawmakers, government officials and others making and shaping public policy.

April 3, 2007

RSS Tracking for Canadian Bills

From Library Boy:

LEGISinfo, the Library of Parliament's legislative research website, has started offering RSS feeds since the beginning of this parliamentary session to help people track bills before the House of Commons and the Senate.

In the lefthand column on the LEGISinfo home page, simply click on any of the links to Senate or House of Commons bills from the 39th Parliament.

April 2, 2007

How Trustworthy are State-level Primary Legal Resources on the Web? Not Very, Says AALL Report

AALL has conducted a State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources. The report presents the results of a survey of primary online legal resources and whether these resources are official and capable of being authenticated. In short, "How trustworthy are state-level primary legal resources on the Web?"

The answer (from the executive summary):

A significant number of the state online legal resources are official but none are authenticated or afford ready authentication by standard methods. State online primary legal resources are therefore not sufficiently trustworthy. Citizens and law researchers may reasonably doubt their authority and should approach such resources critically.

According to AALL President, Sally Holterhoff, the report is the focus of a National Summit on Authentication of Digital Information, which AALL will hold April 20-21 in Chicago. The 50 delegates to the summit are judges, state government officials, attorneys, and leaders of AALL and of other organizations, such as the American Bar Association. All of them were invited to participate because of their interest in exploring legal and technological solutions to the issues raised in the report.

March 23, 2007

Track Federal Regulations with Justia

Justia just keeps getting better and better. The latest addition, Regulation Tracker allows you to search, browse, and track Federal Register documents. justia.png

Not only is there a RSS feed for every agency, but you can customize them by type of document or keyword. I just had someone ask me whether a product like this existed - and at the time it didn't. Very cool.

Source: Law Dawg Blawg

March 13, 2007

Older WI Legislative Council Documents Now Available on UW Law Library Web Site

A few weeks ago, I reported that the UW Law Library will be hosting on our web site Wisconsin Legislative Council documents back to 1996. According to our Head of Cataloging, Cindy May, these documents are now available via the MadCat Library Catalog.

They can be searched in MadCat by author, title, subject, series, or keyword. From the MadCat record you can link directly to the full text.

To browse a list of all of the WLC titles hosted by the UW Law Library, click on the "guided search" tab in MadCat. Enter "" in the search box and in the "search by" pull-down on the right, choose "Internet links."

February 21, 2007

UW Law Library to Host Older WI Legislative Council Publications

In response to the Wisconsin Legislative Council's decision to remove publications more than five years old from their Web site, the UW Law Library contacted the WLC and offered to host the documents on our Web site. WLC has accepted our offer and has provided us with the electronic publications back to 1996. We are currently processing the files and will make them accessible via the MadCat Library Catalog soon.

As our Assistant Director, Bill Ebbott said, "The Wisconsin Idea at work!"

February 16, 2007

LRB's Governing Wisconsin Series Explains State Government

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau publishes Governing Wisconsin, a series of brief discussions of how government works in Wisconsin. The guides explain such things as legislative rules, the Wisconsin Idea, forms of local government, open meeting law, redistricting, due process and more.

January 31, 2007

Wisconsin Legislative Council Redesigns Website, Removes Older Documents

The library recently received a letter from the Wisconsin Legislative Council regarding their newly redesigned web site. It states:

Due to fiscal and resource constraints, it is not feasible for this office to keep more than five years of publications on the site. All publications are kept permanently at the Wisconsin Legislative Council offices and are available upon request at any time.

As you are probably aware, because of the redesign, current links and bookmarks to our publications will no longer function.

This is quite troubling. The removal of online government documents always is. As a potential work around, my colleague, Cindy May, suggests trying the WayBack Machine to retrieve documents.

January 30, 2007

Online WI Statutes Will No Longer be Labeled "Unofficial"

I've just received word that as of the next update in March, the RSB is removing "that troubling 'u' word" from the online Wisconsin Statutes. Instead of noting that the text is unofficial, the PDF version will state that the text is not certified.

The new footer will read as follows:

Text from the 2005-06 Wis. Stats. database updated by the Revisor of Statutes. Only printed statutes are certifed under s. 35.18(2), stats. Statutory changes effective prior to 1-2-07 are printed as if currently in effect. Statutory changes effective on or after 1-2-07 are designated by NOTES. Report errors at (608) 266-2011, FAX 264-6978,

According to Bruce Hoesly, Deputy Revisor of Statutes, "the underlying law remains the same, and these disclaimers, I believe, actually more accurately reflect the legal status of the on-line statutes."

See earlier WisBlawg post with Hoesly's explanation of what "unofficial" really means.

January 4, 2007

Time to Resubscribe to Wisconsin Legislative Notification Service

Yesterday, I received this notice from the Wisconsin Legislative Notification Service:

The Wisconsin Legislative Notification Service will be temporarily unavailable until January 4th, 2007. During this time the 2005-2006 legislative session data will be removed from the system. This includes proposals, committees, author information, etc, as well as your subscriptions for notifications to these items. All of your account information will remain intact, however, you will need to resubscribe to items again if you wish to receive notifications.

Looks like it's time to resubscribe to your legislative alerts.

November 22, 2006

LRB Briefs on WI State Officers & Milwaukee Parental Choice

There are two new Wisconsin Briefs available from the Legislative Reference Bureau.

November 21, 2006

Availability of 2005-06 WI Statutes in Print

According to Bruce Hoesly at the Revisor of Statutes Bureau, the print sets of the 2005-06 Wisconsin Statutes are scheduled to arrive at Document Sales in mid December. Prices have not been set yet.

Write or call:
Wisconsin Department of Administration
Document Sales & Distribution
Section 202 South Thornton Avenue
P.O. Box 7840
Madison, WI 53707-7840
(608) 266-3358

November 16, 2006

Useful Information About WI Statutes & Admin. Code on the Web

On Wednesday evening, WI Deputy Revisor of Statutes, Bruce Hoesly gave an interesting presentation to the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin on the new RSB web site.

Besides guiding us through the ins and outs of the new NXT interface for the Statutes and Administrative Code, he shared some other interesting information.

Did you know?:

  • WI Statutes on the web are updated quarterly or more and are more current than the print or other electronic versions. Note the "updated through" note at the top of the web page.
  • The WI Administrative Code and Register on the web are updated monthly and are always concurrent with the print versions.
  • After March 2001, history links in the Admin. Code take you to the filing instructions for the date of the change. The filing instructions then take you to the Register pages which were removed. [Note: Researching Admin. Code history is not for the faint of heart!]
  • In the "Go to" citation search box on the left for both the Statutes and Admin Code, spacing and punctuation matters. It's easy to see how a search for WI Stat "13.93 (2m) (b) 2" could be tricky. Try using the "less is more" approach and just search for "13.93" and then browse your way to the specific subsection.
  • The web version of the Statutes is labeled as "unofficial" - what does this really mean? Bruce explained that the print Statutes are "certified" by the RSB through a rigorous examination process before they are sent to the printer. This certification process is simply not feasable in an electronic environment. However, he did say that both the print and electronic version are created from the same source. So although they aren't officially "official", users shouldn't be scared off by the term "unofficial."

Planned Improvements:

  • RSB is working on scanning previous versions of the WI Administrative Code back to 1956. They hope to have code from the 1990s available soon.
  • RSB is investigating having live links to the CFR and US Code when they are cited in the Statutes and Admin Code.

If Bruce or anyone else who attended the meeting has anything else to share (or correct), please share your comments.

October 24, 2006

If Lutefisk Isn't a Seafood, Then What Exactly Is It?

Section 29.503(1)(d) of the Wisconsin statutes says quite clearly that many things, including crab, lobster, shrimp and a host of other delicacies, are in fact "seafood" under the law, "but not any canned fish or fish known as lutefisk."

From an interesting article in the Capital Times about how this law came to be. Nothing starts your day like a little legislative history about dried cod soaked in lye.

September 7, 2006

Summary of the 2005-2006 Wisconsin Legislative Session

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau has created a handy Summary of the 2005-2006 Wisconsin Legislative Session.

From the introduction:

This bulletin provides an overview of the acts and joint resolutions of the 2005-2006 Wisconsin Legislature. Legislation is organized by topic with acts described under the appropriate subject heading or headings. Significant acts and joint resolutions are highlighted by shading. The bulletin also includes summaries of enrolled joint resolutions that propose amendments to the Wisconsin Constitution under the heading "Constitutional Amendments".

August 21, 2006

Uniform Laws & Model Acts - Which States Have Adopted Them

ALSO!, or American Law Sources Online, has long been one of my favorite Web sites. If you are looking for free sources of primary law in any federal or state jurisdiction, ALSO! is the place to go.

But I recently learned that ALSO! has a full list of Uniform Laws & Model Acts too, along with a listing of which states have adopted each. Links to the model language are included where available, as are links to the relevant state statutes. Very nice.

August 10, 2006

WI Legislature Infobases Moving from Folio SiteDirector to Nxt Software

If you have used any of the Wisconsin Legislature infobases lately, you've probably seen the following screen.


In essence, it explains that the legislature is moving to a new infobase software platform called "Nxt." Currently, when you link into one of the infobases, you get the intermediary screen above which gives you the option to use either the old version ("Folio SiteDirector") or the new one ("Nxt"). Starting in fall, links will go directly to the "Nxt" version.

See the guide to using the Wisconsin Legislature Nxt Site for more information.

Things that won't change:

  • The look and feel of the documents remains largely unchanged. Fonts, font size, text color, reference lines, general appearance and, the text itself, of course, are nearly unchanged.
  • All links within documents and to other documents will continue to work exactly the same.
  • Links to the infobases themselves should also stay the same, so you probably won't need to change your bookmarks. If you do notice a change, see the instructions for figuring out the new URLs.

What's different:

  • With Nxt, each document (whether it is a statute section, administrative code section, act section, a history of an individual bill, or index subject head) is displayed as a distinct unit. Documents will no longer be divided into separate screens as in Folio SiteDirector.
  • There are no "More" and "Back" buttons at the end of each screen. In Nxt, you will use the "Next Doc" and "Prev Doc" buttons in the tool bar a the top of the document window.
  • Nxt offers many search and retrieval options. For more information, see the guide to using the Wisconsin Legislature Nxt Site
  • In Nxt, links to data from previous sessions appears underneath the tool bar at the top right.

July 28, 2006

No Laws for Early WI Legislators

There is a fascinating bit in Odd Wisconsin today. It seems "that for the first few years of Wisconsin's existence, not even legislators could get their hands on a copy of the laws."

"They certainly tried. When Wisconsin was created as a territory on July 4, 1836, the laws of Michigan Territory as printed in the Revised Statues of Michigan remained in force, but few copies of this book had ever left Detroit."

After two attempts to have copies printed, "the frustrated legislators - who had started passing laws in 1836 and more than two years later still hadn't got a reliable printed version of them-- sent a messenger from Madison to Green Bay to search for copies of the Michigan statutes, and 'to procure for the use of the legislature such numbers as may be had of copies of these laws.' At least that way they'd have some part of the laws to refer to during their deliberations."

Eventually, "they formed a committee to put together from scratch a new and revised edition of the complete laws of Wisconsin Territory, to be published in 1839."

For more, see Cole, Theodore L. "A Rare Wisconsin Book." Wisconsin Historical Collections 12: 383-389

Incidentally, the UW Law Library has several copies of the delayed 1836 Clarke edition. Better late than never, I guess.

July 18, 2006

LRB Guide to Researching Legislative History In WI

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau has created an outstanding guide to Researching Legislative History In Wisconsin. Complete with illustrations, it offers step-by-step guidance on researching Wisconsin legislation. The steps include:

  1. Determine what session law created the language being researched;
  2. Examine the bill, its analysis, its amendments, and other associated documents;
  3. Review the drafting record for the bill;
  4. Check the procedural history of the bill;
  5. Locate and review any additional material; and
  6. Observe certain special steps in researching language originating in budget bills.

This guide is a must-read for anyone conducting legislative history in Wisconsin.

May 22, 2006

A Blog as a Source for Legislative History?

If you've ever compiled a state legislative history, you know that determining legislative intent can be difficult. It looks like researchers may have another source from which to draw, a blog - at least in Utah.

From Robert Ambrogi's LawSites:

With the launch of this "semi-official" blog, The Senate Site, Utah's state Senate became the first legislative body to make blogging a tool for lawmaking, reports.

"Joining the nation's growing proliferation of political Web logs, or blogs, the Utah site was the first of its kind to strike up a digital dialogue that included entries not just from state Senate Republicans but also from minority Democrats and lawmakers in the opposite chamber. Unfolding comment by comment, the unofficial daily log often paralleled official debate taking place under the dome -- with the added bonus of anonymity."

May 16, 2006

Article: Looking for Info on Wisconsin Legislation

Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin member, Carol Schmitt has written an excellent article on Looking for Info on Wisconsin Legislation. It appears in the May 2006 issue of the Wisconsin Lawyer.

The piece looks at some of the major changes and updates to the Wisconsin Legislature Web site and introduces researchers to additional sites such as the UW Law Library's link for legislative drafting records, the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, and the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

April 18, 2006

Governor Creates Office of Privacy Protection

From the press release dated Thursday, April 13, 2006:
Today, Governor Doyle opened the Office of Privacy Protection (OPP), which will serve as a centralized hub to educate consumers and businesses on how to protect themselves against identity theft and provide comprehensive assistance to those who have been victimized. Victims are able to contact the office now by calling toll-free at 1-800-422-7128 or on the web at

The Governor also proposed a legislative initiative to crack down on identity crimes that will increase penalties for identity theft, provide additional security for business, and create greater protections for individual victims. Under the Governor's proposal, identity theft will be increased to a Class E felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Governor Doyle's initiative will make the penalty for identity crimes against businesses the same as for crimes committed against individuals.

April 12, 2006

Podcasting the Internal Revenue Code

Lewis & Clark Law Professor Jack Bogdanski (of Jack Bog's Blog! fame) has taken on a new challenge: Podcasting the Internal Revenue Code - one new section every day.

From his blog:

I'm all about public service, and I could not think of a more worthy internet project than to record a reading of the Internal Revenue Code for those who love to download mp3's and play them back on their iPods. You've heard of books on tape? How about tax law coming through those earbuds? Let's kick it with Title 26, people!

Source: BoleyBlogs!

March 28, 2006

IRS Plans to Allow Preparers to Sell Data

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: IRS Plans to Allow Preparers to Sell Data

The IRS is quietly moving to loosen the once-inviolable privacy of federal income-tax returns. If it succeeds, accountants and other tax-return preparers will be able to sell information from individual returns - or even entire returns - to marketers and data brokers.

The change is raising alarm among consumer and privacy-rights advocates. It was included in a set of proposed rules that the Treasury Department and the IRS published in the Dec. 8 Federal Register, where the official notice labeled them "not a significant regulatory action."

The proposed rule is available via GPO Access.

Thanks to my colleague, Margaret Booth for the tip,

Governor Signs Virtual Visitation Bill

On March 22, Governor Doyle signed Senate Bill 244, creating 2005 Wisconsin Act 174, which provides for supervised electronic communication between a parent and child after a divorce or legal separation, if allowed by the court.

For more, see the article in JS Online.

Some family law experts said the Wisconsin legislation wasn't necessary because judges could already allow for such visitations, and some fear parents could be forced to exchange face time with their children for electronic visits if the law isn't applied appropriately.

But supporters argue that it's important to formally add electronic visitation to the list of options available to judges, so they feel compelled to consider it when requested.

March 22, 2006

WI Act Discourages Use of SSNs on Public Documents

WisPolitics reports that Governor Doyle signed into law consumer protection legislation known as the Register of Deeds Privacy Act (2005 Wisconsin Act 139). The act reduces public access to Social Security numbers on documents filed with the state's seventy-two registers of deeds offices.

The bill uses a two-pronged approach for discouraging the practice of placing Social Security numbers on documents to be recorded in the offices of the register of deeds. First, the bill allows the register of deeds to reject the document from filing, something they are not permitted to do under current law. Secondly, the legislation would make the practice of filing records with a Social Security number illegal, and would provide the victim of identity theft recourse against the party responsible for not blocking out Social Security numbers.

March 21, 2006

Graphical Statutes on Westlaw

West has released Graphical Statutes for the USCA, offering "a visual timeline of a statute's past, present and future, with links to all underlying documents."

Like graphical KeyCite, this flowcart-like display really helps me understand the big picture.

March 14, 2006

Happy 70th Anniversary, Federal Register

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Federal Register, our Documents Assistant, Margaret Booth, got a little creative.

"In its first year back in 1936, the Register printed 2,620 pages. Today, nearly that many pages are published each week. Approximately 100 million Register documents are viewed annually over the Internet through GPO Access."

Source: ResourceShelf

March 13, 2006

National Conference of State Legislatures Podcast

The National Conference of State Legislatures has launched its first podcast. The Conference Report will cover the latest trends and developments from America's state legislatures.

Source: MyNCSL News, March 10, 2006