Providing for registration of electors.
Providing for absentee voting.
Excluding from the right of suffrage persons:
) Convicted of a felony, unless restored to civil rights.
) Adjudged by a court to be incompetent or partially incompetent, unless the judgment specifies that the person is capable of understanding the objective of the elective process or the judgment is set aside.
Subject to ratification by the people at a general election, extending the right of suffrage to additional classes. [1983 J.R. 30, 1985 J.R. 14, vote April 1986
The requirement to present acceptable photo identification comes within the legislature's authority to enact laws providing for the registration of electors under Article III, Section 2 because acceptable photo identification is the mode by which election officials verify that a potential voter is the elector listed on the registration list. League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, Inc. v. Walker, 2014 WI 97
, 357 Wis. 2d 360
, 851 N.W.2d 302
Disenfranchisement of felons does not deny them equal protection. Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24
Even rational restrictions on the right to vote are invidious if they are unrelated to voter qualifications. However evenhanded restrictions that protect the integrity and reliability of the electoral process itself are not invidious. An Indiana statute requiring citizens voting in person on election day, or casting a ballot in person at the office of the circuit court clerk prior to election day, to present photo identification issued by the government did not violate constitutional standards. Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181
, 128 S. Ct. 1610
, 170 L. Ed. 2d 574
Secret ballot. Section
3. [Repealed April 1986; as created April 1986
] All votes shall be by secret ballot. [1983 J.R. 30, 1985 J.R. 14, vote April 1986
Residence saved. Section
4. [Repealed April 1986; see 1983 J.R. 30, 1985 J.R. 14, vote April 1986.
Military stationing does not confer residence. Section
5. [Repealed April 1986; see 1983 J.R. 30, 1985 J.R. 14, vote April 1986.
Exclusion from suffrage.
6. [Repealed April 1986; see 1983 J.R. 30, 1985 J.R. 14, vote April 1986.
Legislative power. Section
1. The legislative power shall be vested in a senate and assembly.
An act validating existing sewerage districts previously held to be unconstitutionally organized is within the power of the legislature. Madison Metropolitan Sewerage Dist. v. Stein, 47 Wis. 2d 349
, 177 N.W.2d 131
The power given vocational district boards to levy taxes does not violate this section. The manner of appointing board members is constitutional. West Milwaukee v. Area Bd. Vocational, T. & A. Ed. 51 Wis. 2d 356
, 187 N.W.2d 387
One legislature cannot dictate action by a future legislature or a future legislative committee. State ex rel. Warren v. Nusbaum, 59 Wis. 2d 391
, 208 N.W.2d 780
The legislature may constitutionally prescribe a criminal penalty for violation of an administrative rule. State v. Courtney, 74 Wis. 2d 705
, 247 N.W.2d 714
Provisions of s. 144.07 (1m) [now s. 281.34 (1m)], that void a DNR sewerage connection order if electors in the affected town area reject annexation to the city ordered to extend sewerage service, represents a valid legislative balancing and accommodation of 2 statewide concerns: urban development and pollution control. City of Beloit v. Kallas, 76 Wis. 2d 61
, 250 N.W.2d 342
Mediation - arbitration under s. 111.70 (4) (cm) is a constitutional delegation of legislative authority. Milwaukee County v. District Council 48, 109 Wis. 2d 14
, 325 N.W.2d 350
(Ct. App. 1982).
The court will invalidate legislation only for constitutional violations. State ex rel. La Follette v. Stitt, 114 Wis. 2d 358
, 338 N.W.2d 684
Reference in a statute to a general federal law, as amended, necessarily references the current federal law where the act named in the statute is repealed and the law rewritten in another act. Because reference is stated as part of a contingency, it does not constitute unlawful delegation of legislative authority to U.S. Congress. Dane County Hospital & Home v. LIRC, 125 Wis. 2d 308
, 371 N.W.2d 815
(Ct. App. 1985).
The supreme court declined to review the validity of the procedure used to give notice of a joint legislative committee on conference alleged to violate the state open meetings law. The court will not determine whether internal operating rules or procedural statutes have been complied with by the legislature in the course of its enactments and will not intermeddle in what it views, in the absence of constitutional directives to the contrary, to be purely legislative concerns. Ozanne v. Fitzgerald, 2011 WI 43
, 334 Wis. 2d 70
, 798 N.W.2d 436
Proposed amendments to bills creating variable obscenity laws that would exempt motion picture films shown at theaters that comply with the film ratings of the motion picture association of America constitute an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. 58 Atty. Gen. 36.
The one man-one vote principle is inapplicable to legislative committees since that principle applies only to the exercise of legislative powers and such powers cannot constitutionally be delegated to these committees. There has been no such unconstitutional delegation as to the joint committee on finance, the board on government operations, the joint legislative council or the committee to visit state properties. Legislative oversight of administrative rules discussed. 63 Atty. Gen. 173.
Legislature, how constituted. Section
The number of the members of the assembly shall never be less than fifty-four nor more than one hundred. The senate shall consist of a number not more than one-third nor less than one-fourth of the number of the members of the assembly.
[As amended Nov. 1910, Nov. 1962 and Nov. 1982
] At its first session after each enumeration made by the authority of the United States, the legislature shall apportion and district anew the members of the senate and assembly, according to the number of inhabitants. [1907 J.R. 30, 1909 J.R. 55, 1909 c. 478, vote Nov. 1910; 1959 J.R. 30, 1961 J.R. 32, vote Nov. 6, 1962; 1979 J.R. 36, 1981 J.R. 29, vote Nov. 1982
Institutional populations, as well as other populations that may include persons disenfranchised for some reason, may not be disregarded for redistricting purposes. 70 Atty. Gen. 80.
Representatives to the assembly, how chosen. Section
[As amended Nov. 1881 and Nov. 1982
] The members of the assembly shall be chosen biennially, by single districts, on the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday of November in even-numbered years, by the qualified electors of the several districts, such districts to be bounded by county, precinct, town or ward lines, to consist of contiguous territory and be in as compact form as practicable. [1880 J.R. 9S, 1881 J.R. 7A, 1881 c. 262, vote Nov. 1881; 1979 J.R. 36, 1981 J.R. 29, vote Nov. 1982
U.S. Supreme Court decisions requiring almost absolute equality of population among electoral districts render nugatory the state court's construction of art. IV, sec. 4, as prohibiting assembly districts from dividing counties except where a county is entitled to more than one assembly member. 58 Atty. Gen. 88.
Senators, how chosen.
[As amended Nov. 1881 and Nov. 1982
] The senators shall be elected by single districts of convenient contiguous territory, at the same time and in the same manner as members of the assembly are required to be chosen; and no assembly district shall be divided in the formation of a senate district. The senate districts shall be numbered in the regular series, and the senators shall be chosen alternately from the odd and even-numbered districts for the term of 4 years. [1880 J.R. 9S, 1881 J.R. 7A, 1881 c. 262, vote Nov. 1881; 1979 J.R. 36, 1981 J.R. 29, vote Nov. 1982
Qualifications of legislators. Section
No person shall be eligible to the legislature who shall not have resided one year within the state, and be a qualified elector in the district which he may be chosen to represent.
A candidate for election to Congress need not be a resident of the district at the time he or she files nomination papers and executes the declaration of intent to accept the office if elected. A candidate for congress must be an inhabitant of the state at the time of election. 61 Atty. Gen. 155.
Organization of legislature; quorum; compulsory attendance. Section
Each house shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members; and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may compel the attendance of absent members in such manner and under such penalties as each house may provide.
Rules; contempts; expulsion. Section
Each house may determine the rules of its own proceedings, punish for contempt and disorderly behavior, and with the concurrence of two-thirds of all the members elected, expel a member; but no member shall be expelled a second time for the same cause.
Courts have no jurisdiction to review legislative rules of proceeding, which are those rules having "to do with the process the legislature uses to propose or pass legislation or how it determines the qualifications of its members." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. DOA, 2009 WI 79
, 319 Wis. 2d 439
, 768 N.W.2d 700
The legislature cannot sentence a person to confinement for contempt without notice and without giving an opportunity to respond to the charge. Groppi v. Leslie, 404 U.S. 496
[As amended April 1979 and Nov. 2014
Each house shall choose its presiding officers from its own members.
The legislature shall provide by law for the establishment of a department of transportation and a transportation fund. [1977 J.R. 32, 1979 J.R. 3, vote April 1979; 2011 J.R. 4, 2013 J.R. 1, vote Nov. 2014
Journals; open doors; adjournments. Section
Each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings and publish the same, except such parts as require secrecy. The doors of each house shall be kept open except when the public welfare shall require secrecy. Neither house shall, without consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days.
Meeting of legislature.
[As amended Nov. 1881 and April 1968
] The legislature shall meet at the seat of government at such time as shall be provided by law, unless convened by the governor in special session, and when so convened no business shall be transacted except as shall be necessary to accomplish the special purposes for which it was convened. [1880 J.R. 9S, 1881 J.R. 7A, 1881 c. 262, vote Nov. 1881; 1965 J.R. 57, 1967 J.R. 48, vote April 1968
Ineligibility of legislators to office. Section
No member of the legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any civil office in the state, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during the term for which he was elected.
A legislator may be elected to a constitutional or statutory state elective office even though the emoluments of the office were raised during his or her legislative term. If so elected, the legislator is limited by 13.04 (1) to the emoluments of the office prior to the increase. A legislator is not eligible, however, for appointment to an office created during his or her term or to an office the emoluments of which appointive office were raised during his or her legislative term. 63 Atty. Gen. 127.
Ineligibility of federal officers. Section
[As amended April 1966
] No person being a member of congress, or holding any military or civil office under the United States, shall be eligible to a seat in the legislature; and if any person shall, after his election as a member of the legislature, be elected to congress, or be appointed to any office, civil or military, under the government of the United States, his acceptance thereof shall vacate his seat. This restriction shall not prohibit a legislator from accepting short periods of active duty as a member of the reserve or from serving in the armed forces during any emergency declared by the executive. [1963 J.R. 34, 1965 J.R. 14, vote April 1966.
Filling vacancies. Section
The governor shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies as may occur in either house of the legislature.
Exemption from arrest and civil process. Section
Members of the legislature shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest; nor shall they be subject to any civil process, during the session of the legislature, nor for fifteen days next before the commencement and after the termination of each session.
The privilege under this section can be invoked by a legislator only if the legislator is subpoenaed, not if an aide is subpoenaed. State v. Beno, 116 Wis. 2d 122
, 341 N.W.2d 668
The members of the Wisconsin Constitutional Convention did not intend to create a legislative privilege from criminal arrest and prosecution when they included article IV, section 15 in the Wisconsin Constitution. The phrase "treason, felony and breach of the peace" in that section was intended to mean all crimes. State v. Burke, 2002 WI App 291
, 258 Wis. 2d 832
, 653 N.W.2d 922
Privilege in debate.
No member of the legislature shall be liable in any civil action, or criminal prosecution whatever, for words spoken in debate.
The sphere of legislative action protected under this section is broader than floor deliberations. A legislator may invoke the privilege under this section to immunize an aide from a subpoena to testify as to an investigation conducted by the aide at the legislator's request. State v. Beno, 116 Wis. 2d 122
, 341 N.W.2d 668
Not all activities of a legislator are protected by this section insofar as that activity is not an integral part of the deliberative and communicative processes. While legislative acts are protected by the speech and debate clause, political acts are not. Hiring, directing, and managing legislative caucus staff to oversee political campaigns is not protected. By its very nature, engaging in campaign activity is political. State v. Chvala, 2004 WI App 53
, 271 Wis. 2d 115
, 678 N.W.2d 880
, 03-0442. See also State v. Jensen, 2004 WI App 89
, 272 Wis. 2d 707
, 684 N.W.2d 136
This section provides only immunity from prosecution based on use of communications, and not secrecy for communications of government officials and employees. Legislative Technical Services Bureau Custodian of Records v. State, 2004 WI 65
, 272 Wis. 2d 208
, 680 N.W.2d 792
In a federal criminal prosecution against a state legislator there is no legislative privilege barring introduction of evidence of the legislator's legislative acts. United States v. Gillock, 445 U.S. 360
Enactment of laws. Section
[As amended April 1977
The style of all laws of the state shall be "The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows:".
No law shall be enacted except by bill. No law shall be in force until published.
The legislature shall provide by law for the speedy publication of all laws. [1975 J.R. 13, 1977 J.R. 7, vote April 1977
The enacting clause is not required for each particular statute. According to legislative rule, when an act, or part of an act, creates a statute section number, that action indicates a legislative intent to make the section a part of the Wisconsin Statutes. Hence, because the legislature can intend that only a part of an act creates a statute, it does not follow that each statute must contain all the constituent parts of an act, namely, the enabling clause. State v. Weidman, 2007 WI App 258
, 306 Wis. 2d 723
, 743 N.W.2d 854
In order for the legislature to create a law, the proposed law must be enacted by bill. Mere enactment of a bill to ratify a collective bargaining agreement and publication of it as an act was not sufficient to cause a provision of the collective bargaining agreement to become a law enacted under this section to create an exception to the public records law, s. 19.35. The act did not reference s. 19.35 or the contract provision that purportedly modified that law, did not purport to amend any published statutes, and did not contain any language that might give notice that the statute was being amended. As a result, the contract provision was not enacted by bill and remained a contractual provision and was not a "law" that is an exception to s. 19.35. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. DOA, 2009 WI 79
, 319 Wis. 2d 439
, 768 N.W.2d 700
Under certain circumstances, incorporation by reference in a bill may be effective to work a change in the law. Cases recognizing incorporation by reference have generally dealt with incorporating the provisions of other published statutes and with the establishment of standards by reference, not incorporation of sources being given the force of law. The source being incorporated cannot be a law itself without having been enacted in a manner sufficient to satisfy this section. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. DOA, 2009 WI 79
, 319 Wis. 2d 439
, 768 N.W.2d 700
In order for the legislature to create a law, the proposed law must be enacted by bill and be published. For some action to be sufficient to constitute publication, that action must be evaluated in light of the purpose publication seeks to achieve, i.e., was the public provided with sufficient notice of the law that is being enacted or amended. The publication requirement is meant to avoid the situation where the people have their rights sacrificed by the operation of laws that they are bound to know, but have no means of knowing. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. DOA, 2009 WI 79
, 319 Wis. 2d 439
, 768 N.W.2d 700
This section vests the legislature with the constitutional power to "provide by law" for publication. The legislature has set the requirements for publication. If a court can intervene and prohibit the publication of an act, the court determines what shall be law and not the legislature. If the court does that, it does not in terms legislate but it invades the constitutional power of the legislature to declare what shall become law. This a court may not do. Ozanne v. Fitzgerald, 2011 WI 43
, 334 Wis. 2d 70
, 798 N.W.2d 436
The state legislature cannot constitutionally adopt prospective federal legislation by reference. 63 Atty. Gen. 229.
Article VII, sec. 21  requires full text publication of all general laws, and publication of an abstract or synopsis of such laws would not be sufficient. Methods other than newspaper publication, under 985.04, may be utilized to give public notice of general laws. 63 Atty. Gen. 346. See also s. 14.38 (10).
Title of private bills.
No private or local bill which may be passed by the legislature shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.
Chapter 418, laws of 1977, s. 923 (48) (a) is a private or local bill enacted unconstitutionally. Soo Line R. Co. v. Transportation Dept. 101 Wis. 2d 64
, 303 N.W.2d 626
A specific prison siting provision in a budget act did not violate this section. The test for distinguishing a private or local law is established. Milwaukee Brewers v. DHSS, 130 Wis. 2d 79
, 387 N.W.2d 254
Challenged legislation, although general on its face, violated this section because the classification employed was not based on any substantial distinction between classes employed nor was it germane to purposes of the legislation. Brookfield v. Milwaukee Sewerage District, 144 Wis. 2d 896
, 426 N.W.2d 591
A bill has a single subject if all of its provisions are related to the same general purpose and are incident to that purpose. A title is insufficient only if it fails to reasonably suggest the purpose of the act or if a reading of the act with the full scope of the title in mind discloses a provision clearly outside the title. Brookfield v. Milwaukee Sewerage District, 171 Wis. 2d 400
, 491 N.W.2d 484
A 2-prong analysis for determining violations of this section is discussed. City of Oak Creek v. DNR, 185 Wis. 2d 424
, 518 N.W.2d 276
(Ct. App. 1994).
Courts will not afford legislation challenged under this section a presumption of constitutionality unless the record shows that the legislature adequately considered the legislation in question. When a majority of the members of the Assembly co-sponsored a single-subject bill exempting YMCAs from property taxation before the measure was added to the budget bill and a majority of senators either co-sponsored the stand-alone bill or considered and voted for the proposal as members of the Joint Finance Committee, there was a presumption that the legislators who sponsored the bill or voted for it in committee adequately considered the proposal. Lake Country Racquet and Athletic Club, Inc. v. Morgan, 2006 WI App 25
, 289 Wis. 2d 498
, 710 N.W.2d 701
Origin of bills. Section
Any bill may originate in either house of the legislature, and a bill passed by one house may be amended by the other.
Yeas and nays. Section
The yeas and nays of the members of either house on any question shall, at the request of one-sixth of those present, be entered on the journal.
The taking of yea and nay votes and the entry on the journals of the senate and assembly can be complied with by recording the total aye vote together with a listing of the names of those legislators who voted no, were absent or not voting or were paired on the question. Art. V, sec. 10; Art. VIII, sec. 8; Art. XII, sec. 1 discussed. 63 Atty. Gen. 346.
Compensation of members.
[Amended Nov. 1867 and Nov. 1881; repealed April 1929; see 1865 J.R. 9; 1866 J.R. 3; 1867 c. 25, vote Nov. 1867; 1880 J.R. 9S, 1881 J.R. 7A, 1881 c. 262, vote Nov. 1881; 1927 J.R. 57, 1929 J.R. 6, vote April 1929.
Powers of county boards.
The legislature may confer upon the boards of supervisors of the several counties of the state such powers of a local, legislative and administrative character as they shall from time to time prescribe.
Milwaukee county may, by ordinance, provide credit in a retirement system for service of an employee with another municipality. 61 Atty. Gen. 177.
Town and county government. Section
[As amended Nov. 1962, April 1969 and April 1972
] The legislature shall establish but one system of town government, which shall be as nearly uniform as practicable; but the legislature may provide for the election at large once in every 4 years of a chief executive officer in any county with such powers of an administrative character as they may from time to time prescribe in accordance with this section and shall establish one or more systems of county government. [1959 J.R. 68, 1961 J.R. 64, vote Nov. 6, 1962; 1967 J.R. 49, 1969 J.R. 2, vote April 1969; 1969 J.R. 32, 1971 J.R. 13, vote April 1972
Abolishing the office of town assessor in those counties adopting a countywide assessor system does not amount to the creation of a different system of town government. Thompson v. Kenosha County, 64 Wis. 2d 673
, 221 N.W.2d 845
Only enactments that unnecessarily interfere with the system's uniformity in a material respect are invalidated by this section. Classifications based upon population have generally been upheld. State ex rel. Wolf v. Town of Lisbon, 75 Wis. 2d 152
, 248 N.W.2d 450
Chief executive officer to approve or veto resolutions or ordinances; proceedings on veto. Section
[As created Nov. 1962 and amended April 1969
] Every resolution or ordinance passed by the county board in any county shall, before it becomes effective, be presented to the chief executive officer. If he approves, he shall sign it; if not, he shall return it with his objections, which objections shall be entered at large upon the journal and the board shall proceed to reconsider the matter. Appropriations may be approved in whole or in part by the chief executive officer and the part approved shall become law, and the part objected to shall be returned in the same manner as provided for in other resolutions or ordinances. If, after such reconsideration, two-thirds of the members-elect of the county board agree to pass the resolution or ordinance or the part of the resolution or ordinance objected to, it shall become effective on the date prescribed but not earlier than the date of passage following reconsideration. In all such cases, the votes of the members of the county board shall be determined by ayes and noes and the names of the members voting for or against the resolution or ordinance or the part thereof objected to shall be entered on the journal. If any resolution or ordinance is not returned by the chief executive officer to the county board at its first meeting occurring not less than 6 days, Sundays excepted, after it has been presented to him, it shall become effective unless the county board has recessed or adjourned for a period in excess of 60 days, in which case it shall not be effective without his approval. [1959 J.R. 68, 1961 J.R. 64, vote Nov. 6, 1962; 1967 J.R. 49, 1969 J.R. 2, vote April 1969
A county executive's power to veto ordinances and resolutions extends to rezoning petitions that are in essence proposed amendments to the county zoning ordinance. The veto is subject to limited judicial review. Schmeling v. Phelps, 212 Wis. 2d 898
, 569 N.W.2d 784
(Ct. App. 1997), 96-2661.
A county executive's partial-veto power is similar to the governor's power. 73 Atty. Gen. 92.
A county board may not amend a resolution, ordinance, or part thereof vetoed by the county executive, but can pass a separate substitute for submission to the executive. The board has a duty to promptly reconsider vetoed resolutions, ordinances, or parts thereof. 74 Atty. Gen. 73.
A county executive has the authority to reduce a line item budget appropriation from one specific dollar figure to another through the use of his or her partial veto. Constitutional amendments limiting the Governor's veto authority in Art. V, s. 10 (1) (c) impose no corresponding limit upon the veto authority of the county executive. OAG 6-14.