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Researching the Legislative History of Wisconsin Laws

An Annotated Bibliography

Ask the L.R.B. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. Biennial.
Location: Wis. Doc. LEG 2.3:IB/2008/4

The “Services for Attorneys and Legal Researchers” and “Services for All Patrons” sections, pp. 3-4, describe research services and sources available at the LRB. Part III, “Legal Services,” which sets forth the bill drafting services available to legislators, provides insights into the drafting process. (For more detail, see Wisconsin Bill Drafting Manual, infra.).

Authority and Functions of the Wisconsin Legislature. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, 1978. 115 p.
Location: Wis. Doc. LEG 2.3:RB/1978-4

"...contains an index to, and actual text of, every provision of the U.S. Constitution, the Wisconsin Constitution, and the 1977 Wisconsin Statutes, which addresses itself to the authority and functions of the Wisconsin Legislature."--From the Foreward. Somewhat outdated but a still valuable compilation.

Dealing with Statutes. By James Willard Hurst . New York: Columbia University
Press, 1982. vi, 140 p.

Location: Reserve Collection and Stacks KF/425/H87

Essays derived from the James Carpenter Lectures delivered at Columbia University Law School. Professor Hurst taught a popular legislation course at the University of Wisconsin Law School for many years. In Chapter, 2, "The Interpretation of Statutes," Professor Hurst discusses the willingness of courts to look outside statute books for evidence of legislative intent and the weight given to various kinds of materials and actions.

The Ground Rules of a Special Session. Prepared by Clark G. Radatz and Daniel F. Ritsche. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, 1996. 21 p.
Location: Wis. Doc. LEG 2.3:IB/1996/8
Gives an overview of the organization and procedures currently used in special sessions of the Wisconsin Legislature.

"How a Bill Becomes a Law," State of Wisconsin 2011-2012 Blue Book 248-252. Compiled by the Legislative Reference Bureau. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, 2011. x, 971 p.
Location: Reference & Reserve Collections JK/6074/A35/2011/2012

A concise explanation of the process. The "Legislative Branch" section contains a listing of officers, committees, and legislative service agencies. Published biennially in odd numbered years.

How a Bill Becomes Law: The Wisconsin Legislature. Madison: Wisconsin Legislature, Assembly Chief Clerk. Revised periodically.
Location: Wis. Doc. Z.6/4: date

Explains the steps involved in passing a law using the student I.D. privacy bill, A.B. 227 (1997- 98) as an example.

“Interpreting Statutes: Finding and Understanding Legislative History,” by Russ Whitesel and Suzanne Hagopian. 1 1990 State Bar of Wisconsin Midwinter Convention [Program materials] 543-560.
Location: 2nd floor, east wing, stack 23

Gives examples of material inside and outside the LRB drafting file that have been referenced in Wisconsin appellate court decisions. Concludes with a “case history” of a law with documentary exhibits.

“Judicial Interpretation of Legislative Intent and Legislative History Documents,” by N. Patrick Crooks. 2 1997 State Bar of Wisconsin Midwinter Convention [Program materials] 481-488.
Location: 2nd floor, east wing, stack 23

An outline of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Crooks's presentation at a State Bar program. Part IV, pages 486-488, covers statutory interpretation, including citations to relevant case law.

Laws Not Printed in the Statutes. By Mark C. Patronsky. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Council, 1978. 11 p.
Location: Wis. Doc. LEG.3:IM/1978/38
How to find special, private, and local laws not printed in the statutes. Includes a discussion of how bill drafters decide to include a law in the statutes or only publish it as a session law.

Legal Research in Wisconsin. By Theodore A. Potter, General Editor; Jane Colwin...[et al.]. 2nd ed. Buffalo, N.Y.: William S. Hein & Co., 2008. xi, 162 p.
Location: Reference & Reserve KFW/2475/L44/2008

Chapter 4, "Legislative History," pp. 61-71.

“Legislative History: The Philosophies of Justices Scalia and Breyer and the Use of Legislative History by the Wisconsin State Courts,” by Kenneth R. Dortzbach. 80 Marquette Law Review 161-225 (1996-1997).

After an in-depth examination of Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Supreme Court opinons, mostly from the previous decade, the author concludes: “While the use of legislative history is still commonly accepted in Wisconsin, state judges are increasingly resisting the temptation to make long and winding ventures into legislative history, or they are at least more wary of the pitfalls of such ventures.” p. 218.

The Legislative Process in Wisconsin. By Richard L. Roe...[et. al.]. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, [1993?] 98 p.
Location: Wis. Doc. A. 1A:1994

A detailed description reprinted from the 1993-1994 Wisconsin Blue Book. Highly recommended.

Legislative Session Fiscal Estimate Manual. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative
Reference Bureau, [1978- Biennial

Location: Wis. Doc. LEG 2.6/2:F57/2011

May be used in conjunction with the Bill Drafting Manual (infra.) for details about the bill drafting process and the preparation of fiscal estimates, which must accompany bills that affect the finances of Wisconsin state or local government.

The Partial Veto in Wisconsin. Prepared by Clark G. Radatz. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, 2004. 19 p.
Location: Wis. Doc. LEG 2.3:IB/2004/1

Examines the partial veto in terms of its legislative development, its use by Wisconsin governors, and subsequent judicial interpretation.

Recent Judicial Uses of LRB Legal Section Material. By Jack O. Stark. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, 1984. (Updated October 24, 1990) (Legal Section Memorandum #84-1) 9 p.
Location: Wis. Doc. LEG 2.3:L43/1984/1/1990

Discusses and provides citations to Wisconsin appellate decisions in which the courts, as an aid in statutory interpretation, used material produced or utilized in bill drafting by the LRB.

Researching Legislative History in Wisconsin. Prepared by Michael J. Keane. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, 2006.
Location: Wis.Doc. LEG 2.3:B/2006/10

The most useful and up-to-date guide available. Written by a veteran LRB research analyst.

“Researching Legislative Intent: Documentation Available Through the Wisconsin Legislative Council Staff,” by Ronald L. Sklansky. 2 1997 State Bar of Wisconsin Midwinter Convention [Program materials] 459-479.
Location: 3rd floor, east wing, stack 23

Explains the services of the Legislative Council Staff to the Wisconsin Joint Legislative Council and other legislative committees and the variety of documentation produced thereby.
"Researching Legislative Intent in Wisconsin: A Suggested Procedure," by David H. Nispel. 56 Wisconsin Bar Bulletin 10-12, 59-60 (April 1983).

Identifies four general categories of legislative intent assignments and then proceeds into a detailed, step-by-step example. The author served as a research analyst for the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau.

Special and Extraordinary Sessions of the Wisconsin Legislature. Prepared by Clark G. Radatz and Daniel F. Ritsche. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, 1998.
Location: Wis.Doc. LEG 2.3:IB/1998/1

Provides an overview of the rules pertaining to special and extraordinary sessions of the Wisconsin Legislature and documents those types of sessions since statehood.

State Budget Process. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 1979- Biennial.
Location: Wis. Doc. LEG 3.6/2:P7/1979- udget%20Process.pdf

Helpful for understanding the complex budget process with its omnibus bill approach, which makes legislative history research even more complicated than usual.

State ex. rel. Kalal v. Circuit Court for Dane County, 2004 WI 58, 271 Wis.2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110 (2004).
This opinion, especially Chief Justice Abrahamson's concurrence, addresses the uses of extrinsic sources, including legislative history, in statutory interpretation of Wisconsin law.

Statements of Legislative Intent, Purpose or Finding. Madison, Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, 1992. (Legal Section Memorandum #92-1) 21 p.
Location: Wis. Doc. LEG 2.3:L43/1992/2

“This memorandum sets forth the reasons why drafters do not, as a general rule, draft statements of intent, purpose or findings, the exceptional circumstances in which such statements may be appropriate and the precepts that drafters should bear in mind when drafting statements in those circumstances.” p. 2.

"Statutory Construction--Legislative Intent--Use of Extrinsic Aids in Wisconsin," 1966 Wisconsin Law Review 600-670 (Student authored Comment by Brad A. Liddle, Jr.).

Reviews the Wisconsin Supreme Court's acceptance of (or refusal to accept) various publications, statements, and administrative policy actions as evidence in statutory construction. Updates the "Comment" in 1940 Wisconsin Law Review 453, infra.

"Statutory Construction--Use of Extrinsic Aids in Wisconsin,” 1940 Wisconsin Law Review 453-461 (Student authored Comment by Conrad J. Shearer).

An earlier examination of the Wisconsin Supreme Court's use of extrinsic aids that should be read along with the 1966 Wisconsin Law Review 600, supra.

“Statutory Interpretation and Legislative Intent,” by Nathan S. Heffernan. 1 1990 State Bar of Wisconsin Midwinter Convention [Program Materials] 535-541.

The former Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court outlines his take on the subject in a presentation at a State Bar program. Most useful is the reprinting of “Materials bearing on legislative intent” page from Wisconsin Appellate Practice Procedure, which he co-authored along with George R. Currie.
Wisconsin Bill Drafting Manual. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. Revised biennially. Location: Reference Collection KFW/2821.5/B5/A85/yrs.
(Older editions: Wis. Doc. LEG.2.6/2:D7/yrs.)

Provides detailed, illustrated instructions. Although intended for the use of the Legislative Reference Bureau's staff, this manual may aid the legislative history researcher in understanding bill drafting standards, procedures, and records.

Wisconsin Legislator Briefing Book. Prepared for members of the Wisconsin Legislature by staff of the Wisconsin Legislative Council. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Legislative Council, [2002]- Biennial.
Location: Wis.Doc. LEG.6/2:L44/2011/2012    

Contains sections on “Legislative Documents and Procedure” and the “State Budget Process.”

“Wisconsin Supreme Court and Legislative History,” by Patricia A. Cervenka. 30 Legal Reference Services Quarterly 141-147 (2011)

Compiled by William J. Ebbott
University of Wisconsin-Madison Law Library
Revised: November 29, 2011 (wilegislativehistory.wpd)

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