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Harsdorf legislation focuses on reform, modernization

A Column of Personal Opinion by State Senator Sheila Harsdorf

Several bills that I have authored this session received action in the State Legislature recently, including three bills that were signed into law by the Governor last week.  As in past legislative sessions, most of the legislation I introduce is based upon input and suggestions I receive from area residents, small business owners, and local officials seeking to make state government more effective by eliminating unnecessary red tape and enacting commonsense reforms.

Two of the bills that were signed into law address concerns brought to my attention by small businesses in our area.  Senate Bill 37 (SB 37) modernizes state law to accommodate a new business model referred to as “paint and sip” that is expanding into Wisconsin.  Paint and sip establishments are new and popular venues that provide a unique arts entertainment experience where family and friends can get together for a fun time of painting and socializing while enjoying a glass of wine.  There are several paint and sip establishments just across the river in Minnesota and one recently opened in Hudson.  However, their growth in Wisconsin has been hampered by outdated restrictions in state law.  SB 37 makes clarifications to the statutes that will encourage further growth of these businesses in our state.

The second bill that was signed into law, Assembly Bill 11 (AB 11), repeals an antiquated mandate on newspaper publishers in Wisconsin.  Previously, newspaper publishers were required to use a certain percentage of recycled newsprint in their newspapers, even though advances in recycling have provided better and more effective uses of recycled newsprint such as egg cartons.  Additionally, this mandate, which only affects newspapers printed in our state, was enacted at a time when the recycling rate of newspapers was a fraction of what it is today.  Both SB 37 and AB 11 were passed with bipartisan support in the State Legislature.

Another bill that I have authored in prior sessions and co-authored this session, Assembly Bill 10 (AB 10), was also signed into law.  AB 10 provides individuals that are victims of harassment or stalking from someone living in another state with the ability to obtain a restraining order in Wisconsin.  With the increased use of social media and the Internet in harassment and stalking, it is becoming more common that an individual affected by these crimes may live in another state from the perpetrator.  AB 10 updates state law to allow an individual subject to harassment to petition a Wisconsin court for relief through a restraining order regardless of where the offender resides.

Two other legislative proposals that I have authored based upon input from local officials have recently received public hearings in the State Senate.  Senate Bill 40 (SB 40) was brought to my attention by town officials in our area and seeks to provide the opportunity for local governments to recover unpaid bills for providing ambulance services.  Currently, unpaid bills for ambulance calls fall onto taxpayers of a community and SB 40 provides another option for local governments to seek recovery for these costs.  In response to a suggestion by an area town clerk, I have introduced Senate Bill 47 (SB 47), which seeks to fix a state law that requires local clerks to process absentee ballot requests within 24 hours of receipt.  This means that state law requires that local clerks, even those serving part-time in small communities, must travel to the municipal office and mail absentee ballots on Sundays.  SB 47 would essentially allow clerks to send absentee ballots on Mondays instead.  Both of these bills received hearings and are pending before committees in the State Senate.

What are your suggestions for reforming or modernizing Wisconsin laws?  Please feel free to let me know by calling my office at 1-800-862-1092 or 608-266-7745 or by sending me an e-mail at