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WI Legislature Need to Reconcile COVID Liability Reform Bills

Update on Assembly Bill 1:

Yesterday in the Senate, the Committee on Organization heard Assembly Bill 1 (AB 1) and tacked on its own Substitute Amendment. The members then voted AB 1 out of Committee as amended by Substitute Amendment 1 (SSA1). SSA1 is effectively a replacement bill, which drew several provisions from the "compromise" bill Gov. Evers released a few weeks ago. The Senate went to the floor today, where they passed AB 1, as amended by SSA1. The vote was 29-2 to adopt SSA1, and the final vote was a voice vote.

To bring this full circle, the Assembly and Senate have both passed AB 1, but not the same version due to the amendments. Upon conclusion of the Senate session today, Gov. Evers released a statement saying he would sign the language the Senate approved. This now moves to the Assembly to come back to the floor and concur with the Senate’s Substitute Amendment in order for AB 1 to go to the Governor for approval.

COVID liability protections are still included in both versions of the bill. As a reminder of this provision from the Wisconsin Legislative Council:

[AB 1] creates immunity from civil liability for a COVID-19-related injury or death, except in the case of reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct; and specifies that violation of an order to close or limit an entity’s capacity does not constitute reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct.

An up-to-date full summary of AB 1's provisions, as compiled by the Legislative Council, can be viewed here. It discusses the components of AB 1 that were rolled into SSA1 by the Senate, the ones that were not, and the other provisions in SSA1 that were not included in what the Assembly passed. The next potential session day for the Assembly is January 26th.

Virtual State of the State:

On Tuesday evening, Gov. Tony Evers delivered his third State of the State address via virtual format. He began the speech with a remembrance of those who lost their lives as a result of COVID-19, followed by a recap of the challenges our state and country faced in 2020. In terms of policy goals, the Governor dubbed 2021 the "Year of Broadband", and is calling a Special Session of the Legislature to approve a plan to overhaul the state's plagued Unemployment Insurance system. The speech and Republican rebuttal may be viewed on WisconsinEye

Elder Fraud and Financial Abuse Legislation:

On Monday, Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) and Rep. John Macco (R-Ledgeview) circulated legislation pertaining to elder abuse and elder financial fraud for co-sponsorship. These are re-drafts of bills from last session that were overwhelmingly approved by the State Assembly, but not taken up by the Senate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of high importance to WBA members are the re-writes of 2019 AB 481 and AB 482. Notably, these bills allow suspect transactions to be temporarily delayed by financial services providers, and securities industry professionals, respectively. WBA worked extensively on the development of this legislation several years ago, and are pleased to see them being brought forward again.


By, Alex Paniagua