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Legislative Reference Bureau

Legislative Reference Bureau

STATE OF WISCONSIN

STATE OF WISCONSIN

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Q&A

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/

QWhen do amendments to the Wisconsin Constitution take effect?

AAccording to Article XII, Section 1, of the Wisconsin Constitution, amending the constitution requires that both houses of each of two consecutive legislatures adopt a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment, to be submitted to the voters for approval. The joint resolutions must be identical on both "first consideration" and "second consideration"; if the resolution is amended on second consideration, the process must start over again before it can be placed on the ballot.

If a proposed constitutional amendment qualifies to be placed on the ballot and voters approve it, Section 7.70 (3) (h), Wisconsin Statutes, states that it goes into effect when the election results are certified unless the resolution specifies a different effective date.

Other Resources:

Wisconsin Constitution

Chapter 7 (for Section 7.70), Wisconsin Statutes

Pending Constitutional Amendments and a Wisconsin Brief explaining current constitutional amendments given first consideration by the 2009 Wisconsin Legislature.

Governing Wisconsin on "Amending the Wisconsin Constitution"

QWhere can I find the transcript of a legislative public hearing?

AThere are no transcripts of legislative hearings or floor debates, but independent organization WisconsinEye video records most proceedings. You may also want to view the record of committee proceedings which should be linked in the proposal history of a specific bill.

QWhat are the laws regarding officiating a wedding in Wisconsin?

AWisconsin Statute Section 765.16 lists those who are authorized to officiate a wedding. The following section, s. 765.17, outlines necessary qualifications and sponsorship for a nonresident officiating person.

QIs there a statute that specifies "truth in labeling" of restaurant food menu item?

AChapter 97 of the statutes addresses food labeling in sections 97.03-97.10. Specifically, s. 97.03 (1) lists foods that qualify as “misbranded.” Subsequent sections describe rules and prohibited acts.

QHas the number of Representatives in the Wisconsin Assembly always been 99?

AThe Wisconsin Constitution does not specify the numbers of members of each house, but it does establish upper and lower limits. Article IV, Section 2 states, "The number of members of the assembly shall never be less than fifty-four nor more than one hundred. The senate shall consist of a number not more than one-third nor less than one-fourth of the number of members of the assembly."

From Statehood in 1848 to 1852, the Assembly had 66 members. It increased to 82 for 1853-56, 97 for 1857-62, and 100 starting in 1863 all the way through 1971. It changed to the current 99 for the 1973-74 session.

The number of Senators has changed over the years from 19 for 1848-52, 25 for 1853-56, 30 for 1857-62, and the current 33 from 1863 to present.

QWhen was Wisconsin's open meetings law first created?

AIt was created by Chapter 289, Laws of 1959.

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."

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 2009 Legislative Session, when the Democrats held a 18-15 majority in the Senate, and a 52-46 majority in the Assembly. Democrat Jim Doyle was the governor at that time.

Prior to the 2011 and 2013 Legislative Sessions, the last time the Republicans controlled both houses of the legislature and there was a Republican governor was in 1998, when, following a special election, the GOP took a 17-16 majority in the Senate.  The Republicans held a 52-47 (one Independent) majority in the Assembly at the beginning of the 1997 session, and maintained the majority throughout the session despite numerous resignations and special elections.  The governor was Republican Tommy Thompson.

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