Mandatory Statewide Licensing of Electricians Likely Postponed to April 2014

Pursuant to Wis. Stat. s. 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…

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.

PSC Wind Turbine Regulation Update

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

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

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.

Change in Liquor Store Opening Hours

According to an update from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Governor Walker signed 2011 Wisconsin Act 97 into law on December 7. The only change in this law is that liquor stores may now open at 6:00 a.m., instead of the former 8:00 a.m. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that a liquor store may lawfully open at 6:00 a.m. in any given community, since a municipality may, by ordinance, impose more restrictive hours. (I don’t have a link to the new act as it hasn’t been posted to the State Legislature’s website as of the time of this writing, but I’ll update with a link in the next few days).

Wisconsin Act 10 Grievance Procedure

As an update to the post below, we are now past the October 1st deadline. Nevertheless, any municipalities which have not yet adopted a grievance procedure which meets the requirements of 66.509 should still do so as soon as possible. Since I made the last posting about this, the Towns Association has added sample grievance procedures and some other background information. See: www.wisctowns.com.

Wisconsin Act 10 requires municipalities to have a grievance procedure. Section 66.0509, Wis. Stats. I wanted to bring to your attention that the Wisconsin League of Municipalities has posted two sample grievance procedures drafted by Attorney Nancey Pirkey. While they look good as generic samples, I would suggest you have your municipal attorney review any procedure your municipality proposes to adopt to make sure they make sense in your municipality, and to make sure your final version complies with 66.0509.

Wisconsin Act 10 and Act 32

Things are finally starting to shake out with respect to the new laws. First of all, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned a lower court action that had put Act 10 on hold – allowing the Act to become law. However, Act 32, the Budget Bill, made a number of clarifications and changes to Act 10, so the new law, as amended, is starting to realize some practical effect. From a municipality’s standpoint, there was some good and some bad in Act 10 as modified by Act 32. The League has posted some great articles on this subject, the latest one titled “List of Good and Bad Changes in Act 32…” You should go to their link and review this and their FAQ document for details.

Hiatus and Walker’s Budger Repair Bill

I have been on hiatus from the blogosphere for a while due to several time consuming and controversial municipal cases I’ve been working on, as well as the holidays. Prior to the new year, there was not a lot of action affecting municipal law in Wisconsin, either in the courts or Madison. But things have certainly heated up lately. To begin with, newly elected Governor Walker has brought forth a “budget repair bill” that has rankled many municipal and state workers, as well as unions in general. Its passage, in one form or another, seems assured due to his party’s control of both houses. However, even within his party there are some elements seeking amendments, some due to unforeseen consequences of some of the provisions in the bill, and some due to concerns that the bill is too radical. On the other side of the aisle, the senate Democrats have unanimously failed to appear. Although the Republicans have the votes to pass the bill, they need a quorum to take a vote, and there is not a quorum without at least one of the Democrats present. I expect the bill to pass sooner or later, although whether it will contain any compromises is uncertain. Both sides are throwing slogans around like confetti, but it’s hard to say whether either side will be willing to give. To keep up to date, you may want to check out the news page on Wisconsin Public Radio’s website. Stay tuned.

PSC Promulgates Proposed Final Rules re Wind Turbine Siting

The proposed Final Rules are available at the PSC website. At the time of this writing, there is a link on the home page to the final rules. If that link does not appear to be there when you visit the site, search on docket 1-AC-231. These rules have been sent to the legislature, and it will a month or two before we see if there are any amendments or if the legislature approves them as is. I’ll provide an update with more details as soon as they become available.