Lasee's Notes
October 27, 2017

Lasee's Notes is a way for me to communicate directly with you on key issues of our day
and to champion limited government, lower taxes, and individual liberty.
How we respond to these issues today, will affect the direction of our state and nation tomorrow.

I look forward to hearing from you about the issues of concern to you. Please feel free to contact me, Sen.Lasee@legis.wisconsin.gov or (608) 266-3512. If you are planning to be in Madison, please visit, I look forward to seeing you at the Capitol.

The Security of Property is one of the Great Objects of Government


 


The title of this week’s Lasee’s Notes isn’t something that came to me in a dream or I thought of while driving down to Madison. The phrase is a quote from Alexander Hamilton who was more than one of our country’s founding fathers. He was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, the first Secretary of the Treasury, and the subject of a hit Broadway musical. Alexander was also one of our country’s first defenders of private property rights.

 

Recently as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Insurance, Housing and Trade I chaired a joint public hearing with the chairman of the Assembly Committee Housing and Real Estate. Among the six bills we took public testimony on was Senate Bill 387 (SB 387) and its companion bill Assembly Bill 479 (AB 479) also known as the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights. These bills will protect personal property rights and reduce the regulatory burdens of home ownership endangered by changing laws and local ordinances that infringe the rights of property owners.

 

 

Property owners often buy the property next door to the land they already own. Land owners do this all the time in both the city and the country for their own reasons. The land owner’s yearly property tax bill and the county plat map identifies them as separate lots, both owned by the same property owner. The property owner thinks he or she owns two lots and pays taxes on two lots. Yet…

 

Some local governments have created laws regarding the minimum size or front footage for a buildable lot. So property that is perfectly legal to build on when purchased is now deemed an undersized substandard lot. Nothing changes for the property owner until they go to sell or build on one of the adjacent lots. In 50 Wisconsin counties a property owner would not be legally able to sell the adjacent lot because now it is too small. These 50 Wisconsin counties have lot-merger ordinances that require a property owner with an adjacent lot and at least one of those lots doesn’t meet the local lot size ordinance, all of the property, regardless to how many lots of land or that the land was purchased separately is considered one lot. 

 

 

Wisconsin's most famous example of this government overreach involves a court case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In the case the Murr family owns two adjacent lots in St. Croix County. The first lot was purchased in 1960 and the second lot in 1963. The family had a cabin on the first lot and never built on the second lot. In 1975, the St. Croix County Board passed an ordinance that adjacent lots under common ownership may not be sold or developed as separate lots. In 2004, the Murr family wanted sell the second lot that was purchased in 1963. However the 1975 St. Croix County ordinance prevented the family from selling the second lot separately. The Murr family filed a lawsuit against the county arguing that the 1975 law was a violation of the family’s private property right. 

 

Earlier this year the US Supreme Court ruled St. Croix County’s 1975 ordinance was constitutional. A ruling by the court that has been called a severe blow to property owner’s rights. The Homeowners’ Bill of Rights restores private property rights by prohibiting ordinances that would merge lots without the owner’s consent and protects the ability of property owners to build on and sell lots that are buildable when the lots are made too small because of local law changes.

 

 

This bill also creates a definition of conditional use and provides certainty for property owners by creating a fair and reasonable approval process. This provision simply says, if a property owner satisfies or agrees to satisfy all conditions of the conditional use permit, they must be granted the permit.

 

The Senate Committee on Insurance, Housing, and Trade heard a lot of public testimony on the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights. The public testimony can be viewed on Wisconsin Eye starting at the 139 minute mark. SB 387 passed the committee with a bi-partisan vote of 4-1 and is now available for action by the entire State Senate.

 

 

I am very proud to be a co-sponsor of the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights. I believe that our founding fathers recognized that government existed to protect property rights. The rule of law, private property rights and personal freedoms are foundations of our successful nation. Our founding fathers had some pretty good ideas. The Homeowners’ Bill of Rights is closer to the idea of the private right to own property without fear of our government taking it from our citizens unjustly. 



 
 

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Lasee's Notes, please feel free to contact me.

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State Capitol Room 316S, PO Box 7882, Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-3512
Email: Sen.Lasee@legis.wisconsin.gov