Archive for the ‘Pending Legislation’ Category

Release of Customer Information from Public Utilities Now Prohibited

Monday, July 8th, 2013

On Friday July 5, 2013, Governor Walker signed 2013 Act 25, creating a new exception to the public records law.  Act 25  prohibits the release of customer information (which is specifically defined in the alw) by a municipal utility unless the customer consents to the release of the information, or if another exception applies.

New Public Records Exception for Utility Customers?

Monday, May 20th, 2013

The Wisconsin Senate recently passed 2013 AB 106, which prohibits a municipal utility from releasing “customer information” except in certain limited circumstances (such as to the  Public Service Commission or utility workers and their contractors under some circumstances).  The bill defines “customer information” as “any information received from customers which serves to identify customers individually by usage or account status.”

The bill has been sent to the Governor for signature.

Act 10 Update

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals which was reviewing the case of Madison Teachers Inc. v. Scott Walker,  2012AP2067 (April 25, 2013) has certified the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court “because of its sweeping statewide impact and the pressing need for a final resolution.”  Given the controversial nature of the case, and the statewide, if not national, importance of the outcome, I would speculate that the Supreme Court will take up the case.   You can read the Court of Appeals reasoning here.

Statewide Frac Sand Regulation?

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

I doubt it.  Given the political climate in Madison, it seems unlikely that any bill on a topic that is at all controversial will get anywhere if it is proposed by a member of the minority party…but maybe that’s just me being cynical.  In any event, Democrat Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, Buffalo County, Wisconsin, an area where frac sand mining can be found, has proposed several statewide regulations on sand mining.  Currently, although the DNR has oversight of air or water pollution concerns, for the most part any regulations will be at the local level, either county or municipal (town, village or city).  Senator Vinehout has proposed regulations that would require setbacks and buffers from neighbors, require greater public notice in the early stages of mine planning, require greater local control in the form of conditional use permits, and require sellers of real estate to disclose knowledge of frac sand mining on neighboring properties.  Click here for information on the proposed bills.

Mandatory Statewide Licensing of Electricians Likely Postponed to April 2014

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Pursuant to Wis. Stat. 101.861, which was enacted in March of 2008 and due to go into effect April 1, 2013, electricians would be required to be licensed by the state and municipal licensing ordinances would be preempted.  Currently, there are also municipal licensing regulations in some communities. The state mandate will preempt local regulations, thus a municipal electrician licensing ordinance would become unenforceable on April 1, 2013.  A new bill, 2013 AB 35, passed by both the Senate and House, if signed by the governor will  postpone the the effective date of these statutory provisions to April 1, 2014.

Residency Requirements – What Goes Into a Budget Bill…

Monday, March 4th, 2013

In Governor Walker’s proposed budget bill, AB 40, there is a broad prohibition on local residency requirements which may invalidate any municipal residency requirement, whether it is enacted by ordinance, or agreed to under contract.  If this passes, it is unlikely any municipality could enforce any residency requirements.  It is possible that response time requirements (e.g. for police, file and other emergency employees) may be valid, depending on how they are written.

You can find the proposed residency preemption language in 66.0502, of AB 40.

Legislature Enacts Changes in Zoning Law Regarding Nonconformance

Friday, July 27th, 2012

With the passage of 2011 Wisconsin Act 170, the state legislature made several significant changes to Wisconsin’s zoning laws with respect to nonconforming structures.  The provisions in the new law went into effect on April 17, 2012.  Many of the changes affect shoreland zoning, and some affect zoning in general.

With respect to shoreland zoning, the new law limits the ability of counties to be more restrictive than the DNR shoreland regulations, NR 115, for substandard lots and nonconforming structures.  NR 115 sets minimum standards for such things as building setbacks, lot size, boathouses, etc.

With respect to shoreland and general zoning, probably the most significant change is that local (county, city, village or town) zoning ordinances “may not prohibit, or limit based on cost, the repair, maintenance, renovation, or remodeling of a nonconforming structure.”  It is fairly common for zoning ordinances to limit repair, maintenance, renovation, and remodeling based on a 50% rule which had been the statutory rule until the enactment of the new law.  Any such provision is now unenforceable.

Note that this does not say that no limits may be placed on the repair, maintenance, renovation, or remodeling of nonconforming structures.  Only that such limits may not be based on cost.

Finally, the new law did not affect floodplain zoning, so presumably limits on repair, maintenance, renovation, or remodeling in floodplains based on cost remain valid.

PSC Wind Turbine Regulation Update

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Wind turbine regulations approved by the Public Service Commission back in 2010 may go into effect soon.  At the beginning of the legislative session, the Republican majority voted to temporarily suspend the PSC’s rules establishing uniform setback requirements for wind turbines. However, the legislature has apparently been unable to pass a proposed new bill by the end of the legislative session.  Apparently, senate Republican leadership pulled the bill Wednesday because they didn’t have the votes to pass it.  If no bill is passed the PSC rules will very likely go back into effect, and could be as soon as next week.

 A copy of the rules and updates from the PSC are available at the PSC website.

Proposed Pothole Liability Law Legislation

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

2011 Senate Bill 125 would bring municipalities and counties some additional protections from liability for highway defects such as potholes.  Under current law, local governments have a greater liability than the State for discretionary decisions about highway maintenance and repair – the reality of that is that if you are injured by a pothole on a state highway you have a lessened ability to recover (from the state) than if you are injured on, for example, a county highway (where you could sue the county). The Supreme Court has called for legislation to remedy this inconsistency and SB 125 does just that by ensuring the burden faced by local governments is no greater than that faced by the State. 

Municipalities are still responsible for highway repairs, and this bill would not relieve them of ministerial duties or duties to address known and immediate dangers, and they may still be sued in certain negligence actions.  This bill holds municipal highways to the same standard as state highways.

Change in Liquor Store Opening Hours, Update

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Just a quick update on Act 97, which the Governor signed into law on December 7, 2011.  It was published on December 20, 2011, making its effective date December 21, 2011.  For more details on the law, see the legistlative history page for Asembly Bill 63, and for a summary see my the Dec. 8th on this topic.