Legislation meant to overhaul the state’s civil-litigation rules has made it through a panel of lawmakers, but its fate remains uncertain.
Although AB 733 has been passed by the state Assembly, it still needs the Senate’s approval. But there are still some obstacles that could prevent the bill from passing that chamber.
Of the 18 Republicans who control the Senate, at least one is opposed to the bill’s original discovery provisions. Sen. Van Wanggaard, a Republican from Racine, objects specifically to language involving the preservation of electronically stored information. The provision states that parties would not have to preserve certain electronically stored information unless a requesting party had a court order showing a “substantial need” for it.
Wangaard contends that part of the bill would give parties in a case license to destroy such information after a lawsuit has started.
Wanggaard, who is also the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, introduced an amendment on Monday stripping that provision out of the bill.
The following day, the bill was referred to his committee, and Wanggaard scheduled it for a vote. The panel recommended Wanggaard’s amendment 4 to 1. The sole vote against it came from state Sen. Duey Stroebel, a Republican from Saukville.
With the amendment approved, the panel went on to recommend that AB 733 be adopted.
Should the Senate choose to take up the legislation, it could proceed in a couple of ways. It could, for instance, vote to strip the amendment out of the bill.
Alternatively, lawmakers could choose to simply pass the bill as amended. Taking that step, though, would mean the bill would have to go back to the Assembly. Assembly officials have said they held their last meeting for the current regular legislation session on Feb. 22, although they have subsequently announced plans to return next week for a special session to consider bills meant to make schools safer.
The Senate, for its part, had not released its agenda for its floor session next week by Thursday afternoon. Proponents of AB 773 were still holding out hope.
“It’s hard to say entirely until we see the actual final floor calendar, but we are optimistic that (AB 773) will get to the floor and will pass,” said Andy Cook, executive director of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council, an organization that is one of the bill’s supporters.