A sampling of questions received by the LRB Reference Section. Check back frequently for new information. For FAQs about the Wisconsin Legislature and the legislative process, see www.legis.wisconsin.gov/
QWhat are the rules for how many parking spaces must be reserved for persons with disabilities?
ASection 346.503, Wisconsin Statutes, states that a facility offering 26-49 parking spaces must have at least one space designated for persons with disabilities. For a facility with 50-1,000 spaces, at least 2% of all spaces must be reserved for persons with disabilities. For facilities with more than 1,000 spaces, the requirement is 2% for the first 1,000 spaces and 1% for spaces in excess of 1,000. The spaces reserved for persons with disabilities must be at least 12 feet wide. See Section 346.503 for additional details.
QWho is responsible for trimming trees that are on my neighbor's property but overhang my land?
AThere appears to be no Wisconsin statute that assigns responsibility among neighbors for tree maintenance. Municipal ordinances may apply, particularly if the trees are considered nuisances that pose a hazard to health or safety, or could negatively affect property values. In general, who is responsible for maintaining trees on or near a boundary line is subject to common law that has resulted from rulings by judges over the years. The University of Tennessee Extension has published a summary of this topic, "Tree Owner's Rights and Responsibilities."
QCould you please direct me to information on the Wisconsin Minimum mark-up laws for resale of merchandise?
AWisconsin’s Unfair Sales Act (also called the Minimum Mark-Up Law) can be found under Wisconsin Statute Section 100.30. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has a helpful web page which explains the statute and its enforcement.
QCan an optometrist refuse to provide me with a copy of a contact lens prescription to have filled elsewhere unless I pay an additional fee to the examining optometrist?
AWisconsin Administrative Code for the Optometry Examining Board, Chapter Opt 5, Unprofessional Conduct, includes Opt 5.16 Contact lens prescription release: "It shall be unprofessional conduct for an optometrist to fail to release, at no cost to the patient, a copy of the patient’s contact lens prescription following release of the patient from contact lens fitting and initial follow−up care."
QDoes the state allow municipalities to issue PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) bonds, which allow building owners to pay for energy efficiency improvements over time through an increase in their annual property taxes?
AOne provision of 2009 Wisconsin Act 11 allows political subdivisions (cities, villages, towns, and counties) to make loans for energy efficiency improvements to residential property. The political subdivision would collect the loan repayments as a special charge on the property owner's property tax bill, and the special charge could be payable in installments.
QDoes Wisconsin have a law regarding breastfeeding in the workplace?
AThe Wisconsin Legislature passed, and the governor signed into law, 2009 Wisconsin Act 148 regarding breastfeeding in any public or private location.
QIn 1880, did divorce in Wisconsin require an act by the Wisconsin Legislature?
AThe legislature has not granted divorce since 1848, when the Wisconsin Constitution was adopted. In Section 24 of the Wisconsin Constitution of 1848, it states “The legislature shall never authorize any lottery or grant divorce.” The original document can be viewed on the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Web site. Click on “View the Document” and see page 6.
Prior to 1848, the legislature had the power to dissolve marriage contracts. Examples of these acts are available in our Laws of Wisconsin books that are available in the Dr. H. Rupert Theobald Legislative Library.
For more historical context, The State Bar of Wisconsin did a report on the history of Wisconsin’s Women’s Rights Law, part of which addresses Wisconsin family law from 1849-1920.
QWhen did Wisconsin extend the 2 a.m. legal closing time for pubs to year-around, rather than only during Daylight Saving Time?
AChapter 140, Laws of 1959, extended closing time for outside of Milwaukee County from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m., but only during Daylight Saving Time. Closing time remained at 1 a.m. Central Standard Time for the rest of the year. It became 2 a.m. year-around (except for 2:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings) following the enactment of 1987 Wisconsin Act 121, effective December 8, 1987.
QI am an active duty military member stationed in Germany and was wondering do I have to attend a hunters safety course in order to obtain a hunting license?
ASection 29.593, Wisconsin Statutes, generally requires persons born on or after January 1, 1973 to complete the Hunter Education Program under s. 29.591 in order to receive a hunting license. However, s. 29.593 (3) exempts from the hunter's safety course requirement any person who has successfully completed basic training in the U.S. armed forces, reserves, or national guard.
QWhere would I find all the information governing the Managed Forest Law Program?
AThe tax laws governing the Managed Forest Land program can be found in Sections 77.80 through 77.91, Wisconsin Statutes, and NR 46.15 through NR 46.26 of the Administrative Code. The Wisconsin DNR has several web pages that may be of help (see left hand column links under “Managed Forest Law”), as well as a publication titled "Wisconsin's Managed Forest Law."
QWhen a car is going to enter onto the highway/interstate using the on ramp and there are cars already on the highway/interstate in the lane that connects to that on ramp, who has the right-of-way, the car already on the freeway or the car that is trying to enter it?
“Entering traffic: When you merge with traffic, try to enter at the same speed that traffic is moving. High-speed roadways generally have ramps to give you time to build up your speed. Use the ramp to reach the speed of other vehicles before you merge into traffic. Do not drive to the end of the ramp and stop or you will not have enough room to get up to the speed of traffic. Also, drivers behind you will not expect you to stop. If they are watching the traffic on the main road, you may be hit from the rear. If you have to wait for space to enter a roadway, slow down on the ramp so you have some room to speed up before you have to merge. You must yield to traffic already moving on the roadway. It is illegal to cross the solid white line and merge early.”
QWhat are the differences between Wisconsin's domestic partnership registry and California’s?
AWISCONSIN - One major difference between the two registries is that California basically extends all of the state-level rights and responsibilities of marriage to domestic partners.
Wisconsin provides certain rights and benefits to domestic partners.
We recently answered a question from a patron who wanted to know the total number of rights/privileges in the statutes that relate to married couples, and how many of these rights are granted to domestic partners by 2009 Wisconsin Act 28. We found that there is no “official” count of such rights. Budget Issue Paper #391, published by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, provides some insight into the issue. On Page 6 is Table 1, which lists 27 "Areas of Domestic Partner Rights" in 2009 AB-75. On Page 7 is Table 2, which lists 22 "Selected Areas of Law Not Affected by Domestic Partner Provisions of AB-75." Table 2 also lists statute chapters associated with these subject areas. See Attachment 1 in the paper for a complete description of the Governor’s provisions. See Attachment 2 in for discussion of the Wisconsin Constitution’s marriage amendment.
More information on California’s domestic partner registry can be found on the Secretary of State’s Web Site (Domestic Partners Registry Main Page, Frequently Asked Questions about California’s Domestic Partnership Registry).
NATIONAL - The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) updated a state-by-state comparative analysis of same sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships this month. For a chart summarizing civil unions/domestic partnership state statutes, including California’s, click here.
QWhen did Wisconsin establish special elections to fill a vacancy for United States Senator from Wisconsin?
AChapter 647, Laws of 1957, provided for a temporary appointment by the governor, and the appointee would serve as U.S. Senator until a regular primary and general election cycle, either the next September primary and November general election if the vacancy occurred before 60 days prior to the second Tuesday in July of an even-numbered year, or the primary and general election two years hence if the vacancy occurred after that deadline. (If the next general election would have ordinarily been for the full six-year term anyway, the appointed Senator would simply complete the unexpired term.)
1985 Wisconsin Act 304 established the possibility of a special election to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, completely eliminating the interim appointment by the governor, leaving the seat empty until after an election. Current law provides that a vacancy that occurs between the second Tuesday in May and the second Tuesday in July in an even-numbered year will be filled at the regular September primary and November general election. Otherwise, the seat is filled in a special election. For the current law, see Sections 8.50 and 17.18, Wisconsin Statutes.
QCan landlords charge pet fees for service dogs and do service dogs need to be certified to override the fee?
AAccording to federal fair housing laws, landlords are required to allow reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. Service animals should not be considered as pets, and therefore, landlords may not prohibit a service animal from living in the unit or charge the tenant extra rent or deposit. The tenant may be required to provide a note from a physician that verifies the service animal is needed as an accommodation to the person with the disability, but the animal need not be a certified service animal.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has publications available about fair housing and can direct you to local fair housing resources. You can also visit HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) Web site for more information.
QAre studded tires legal in Wisconsin?
A Section 347.45, Wisconsin Statutes, generally prohibits the use of studded tires, but provides exceptions for authorized emergency vehicles, school buses, vehicles used to deliver mail, and out-of-state vehicles passing through this state over a period of not more than 30 days. When allowed for those uses, the studs must not project more than one-eighth inch beyond the tread surface of the tire, and may be used on those specified vehicles only during November 15-April 1.
Tire chains may be used on any vehicle when required for safety because of snow, ice or other conditions tending to cause a vehicle to skid.
QAre snow removal services subject to Wisconsin sales tax?
AAlthough many landscaping contractors offer snowplowing and snow removal services during the winter season, Wisconsin Department of Revenue Publication 210, Sales and Use Tax Treatment of Landscaping, specifically lists "plowing or removing snow" as a service that is not considered landscaping or lawn maintenance, and not subject to Wisconsin sales tax.
QWhen was the last time each party had a majority in both houses of the legislature, and held the governor's office?
AThe last time the Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature and there was a Democratic governor was the 1985 Legislative Session, when the Democrats held a 19-14 majority in the Senate, and a 53-47 majority in the Assembly. Democrat Tony Earl was the governor at that time.
The last time the Republicans controlled both houses of the legislature and there was a Republican governor was the 1969 Legislative Session, when the Republicans held a 23-10 majority in the Senate, and a 52-48 majority in the Assembly. Republican Warren Knowles was the governor at that time.
QWhat is state law on employers allowing employees to vote?
ASection 6.76, Wisconsin Statutes, reads as follows:
6.76 Time off for voting.
(1) Any person entitled to vote at an election is entitled to be absent from work while the polls are open for a period not to exceed 3 successive hours to vote. The elector shall notify the affected employer before election day of the intended absence. The employer may designate the time of day for the absence.
(2) No penalty, other than a deduction for time lost, may be imposed upon an elector by his or her employer by reason of the absence authorized by this section.
(3) This section applies to all employers including the state and all political subdivisions of the state and their employees, but does not affect the employees' right to holidays existing on June 28, 1945, or established after that date.
QWhat federal laws/rules or state legislation authorized the relocation of Hmong refugees to Wisconsin?
AThe Hmong first resettled in Wisconsin in 1975-76. They were a part of the thousands of Indochinese refugees that fled Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. (Indochinese was the term used to label different Southeast Asian ethnicities involved in the Vietnam conflict including Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, and Hmong). Federal legislation that authorized the resettlement of Indochinese refugees for this initial wave was the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act (HR 6755/Public Law 94-23) that became law on May 23, 1975.
The latest refugee wave from the US Cold War involvement in Indochina was in 2004. Over 15,000 Hmong refugees were resettled in the US from a refugee compound in Thailand called Wat Tham Krabok. In Wisconsin, a Hmong Resettlement Task Force was created on July 1, 2004, in anticipation of approximately 3,200 of these refugees resettling in the state. The task force website contains a lot of information on this most recent resettlement program, including a final report to Governor Doyle.
For more detailed information on Hmong Resettlement and the US refugee resettlement program in general, see the following reports from the Migration Policy Institute: 1) The Foreign-Born Hmong in the United States, and 2) The US Refugee Resettlement Program.