The principal unit of the statutes is the statute section. Related statute sections are organized into chapters numbered between 1 and 995, some of which are further subdivided into subchapters. Not all chapters are numbered consecutively. There currently are approximately 450 chapters.
Each statute section is given a mixed decimal section number consisting of a whole number that is the chapter number and a decimal number that indicates the section's location within the chapter. The decimal number consists of at least two digits and may contain as many as five digits. In a decimal system, 48.10 is the same as 48.100 and 48.100 follows 48.09, not 48.99. The decimal system allows the insertion of new sections in any location. If it is necessary to add a new section between 48.10 and 48.11, the new section can be numbered 48.105, for example.
Statute sections may be subdivided into subsections, which may be further subdivided. Subsections are indicated by numbers within parentheses: (1), (2), (3). Subsections are subdivided into paragraphs, which are indicated by letters within parentheses: (a), (b), (c). Subdivisions of paragraphs are indicated by digits without parentheses followed by a period. These subdivisions can be further divided into paragraphs indicated by letters without parentheses followed by a period. Sections 60.61
illustrate the use of subdivisions and the further division of subdivisions into lettered paragraphs. If it is necessary to insert a new statute subunit between two consecutively numbered subunits, it is done by introducing a letter suffix: (1e), (am), 1p. Note the distinction between (3) (m), which is paragraph (m) of subsection (3), and (3m), which is subsection (3m), and which may, in turn, be subdivided into lettered paragraphs including (3m) (m).
The following abbreviations are used in the Wisconsin Statutes and Annotations when citing the various statute units:
Chapter, chapters: ch., chs.
Subchapter, subchapters: subch., subchs.
Section, sections: s., ss.
Subsection, subsections: sub., subs.
Paragraph, paragraphs: par., pars.
Subdivision, subdivisions: subd., subds.
Paragraphs of subdivisions are cited by the subdivision number followed by the paragraph letter designation, as follows: subd. 1. a.
Statute Section Histories
The legislative history of every section affected by legislative or Supreme Court action after 1970 appears in a note following the section. For example, "History: 1971 c. 46; 1983 a. 36, 386". This note shows that the sample section was affected by Chapter 46 of the Laws of 1971 and by 1983 Acts 36 and 386. Commencing with the 1983-84 legislative session, legislative enactments are entitled "acts" and are shown in the history as "a." Prior to the 1983-84 session, legislative enactments were entitled "chapters" and are shown in the history as "ch." Sections that have not been affected after the 1969 session have no history note. The history of legislation affecting statute sections before 1971 may be found in Wisconsin Annotations 1970.
History notes do not indicate the specific treatment of the statute section by the act noted, such as whether the section was amended or created. This can be determined by referring to the chapter or act in the Laws of Wisconsin or by consulting the table of sections affected in that volume.
If an act renumbers a statute, in whole or in part, to a different statute section number, the history note of the renumbered statute will specify the act section number (as distinguished from the statute section number) in which the statute was renumbered. This reference is intended to direct the reader to the place in the act where the statute was renumbered. To further assist the reader, the history note will also contain the numbers of all of the other act sections in which the renumbered statute was affected. For examples, see Finding Annotations for Renumbered Sections
Section 13.92 (1) (bm) 2.
authorizes the Legislative Reference Bureau to renumber statute sections and to correct references to the renumbered section. The legislature occasionally creates two statutes with the same statute number. For example, in the 2007-08 session, the legislature created two sections numbered 84.1024. The Legislative Reference Bureau renumbered the section created by Act 161 to be 84.1018. When the Legislative Reference Bureau renumbers a provision under authority of s. 13.92 (1) (bm) 2.
, the renumbering takes effect immediately, but the change is submitted to the legislature for validation in the next correction bill submitted to the legislature by the Legislative Reference Bureau. A note explaining the renumbering is inserted by the Legislative Reference Bureau following the affected statute units, and the history note for the renumbered statute and sections with cross-references to the renumbered statute will initially include a reference to s. 13.92 (1) (bm) 2. When the correction bill validating the renumbering is enacted, the explanatory notes are removed and the reference to s. 13.92 (1) (bm) 2.
in the history note is replaced by the act number of the correction bill.
Section 13.92 (1) (bm) 3.
authorizes the Legislative Reference Bureau to substitute an actual date for a phrase such as "after the effective date of this act" and s. 35.17
authorizes he Legislative Reference Bureau to correct obvious typographical errors. These changes are not cited in the history notes.
authorizes the supreme court to make rules modifying or suspending statutes relating to pleading, practice, and procedure. The legislative history for an affected section contains a reference to the rule in the following form: "Sup. Ct. Order No. 00-02
, 2001 WI 39
, 240 Wis. 2d vi." The order number (00-02) indicates the sequential order and year of issuance of the order. The public domain citation number (2001 WI 39
) is a number assigned by the court when the order is issued by which the order can be officially cited. The final number (240 Wis. 2d vi) indicates the volume and page of the Wisconsin Reports
in which the order is published. Histories published prior to the publication of the order in the bound
show the effective date and publication date of the order, which is replaced with the Wisconsin Reports
citation when it becomes available.
Notes prepared by the Judicial Council or the Joint Legislative Council that are published as a part of Wisconsin Acts, or comments or notes included in Supreme Court Orders that aid in the construction and interpretation of affected statutes, may be published in full in the Wisconsin Statutes and Annotations or referred to in notes following the affected statute section directing the user to see the original act or order. These notes follow the history note and precede other annotations.
Notes indicating indicating cross-references to sections of the Wisconsin administrative code that are authorized by or interpret the statute are included in many statute sections.
Other uses of notes are discussed throughout this article.
Implied Amendments and Repeals
The legislature often passes two or more acts in the same legislative session that treat the same provision of the statutes. Section 13.92 (2) (i)
provides that if 2 or more acts of a legislative session affect the same statutory unit without taking cognizance of the effect thereon of the other acts and if the chief of the legislative reference bureau finds that there is no mutual inconsistency in the changes made by each such act, the chief shall incorporate the changes made by each act into the text of the statutory unit and document the incorporation in a note to the section.
If the same provision is amended by separate acts, and the amendments are not inconsistent the Legislative Reference Bureau incorporates both acts and inserts a note in the Wisconsin Statutes and Annotations
following the provision stating that the provision is printed as amended by both acts and as merged by the Legislative Reference Bureau under s. 13.92 (2) (i)
. The Legislative Reference Bureau subsequently inserts in a correction bill a provision validating the incorporation of the several acts into the affected provision and the note is removed from the Wisconsin Statutes and Annotations
upon enactment of the correction bill.
If the same provision is amended by separate acts, and the amendments are inconsistent, the last act governs; see Application of Bentine
, 181 Wis. 579. In that case, or if there is doubt or it would be impossible to incorporate both without rewriting the text, the Legislative Reference Bureau prints the statute as amended by the last enacted act and calls attention to the prior amendment by a note after the provision. Section 35.095 (1) (a)
defines "date of enactment" as "the day on which a bill becomes an act through approval by the governor, passage over the governor's veto or failure of the governor to act on it or the day on which a portion of the bill that has been vetoed in part is enacted over the governor's partial veto."
If the first action is a repeal and the second is an amendment, the general rule is that the repeal stands and the Legislative Reference Bureau prints nothing unless the amendment can stand alone as a statement of policy. If the amending act is first, and the repeal second, the intent to repeal is usually clear and again the Legislative Reference Bureau prints nothing.
In order to find the legislative history or other annotations for a statute section that has been renumbered, it may be necessary to find the annotations under a former section number. Section 29.974 provides an example. The history note to that section includes the following notations: "1975 c. 365 s. 46; Stats. 1975 s. 29.995" and "1997 a. 248 s. 723; Stats. 1997 s. 29.974." These notations indicate that the section was renumbered to s. 29.995 by ch. 365, section 46, Laws of 1975 and to s. 29.974 by 1997 Act 248, section 723. The number for the section prior to its renumbering by 1975 c. 365 can be found in section 46 of Chapter 365 in the 1975 Laws of Wisconsin or by finding s. 29.995 in the table of sections affected, found in the back of that volume. Both sources show that s. 29.995 was renumbered from s. 29.635. Annotations for s. 29.635 created prior to the 1970-71 legislative session are found in Wisconsin Annotations 1970.
A citation to a whole statute section number that does not appear in this edition of the Wisconsin Statutes and Annotations may appear in the table of "Decimal-numbered Sections Renumbered or Repealed" showing that the section was renumbered or repealed. A part of a statute section (subsection, paragraph, etc.) that does not appear as a part of that statute section, may also have been renumbered or repealed, which may be determined by consulting the entries for the statute section number in the table of sections affected printed in the Laws of Wisconsin for the legislative session during which the affected statute part was removed from the statutes.
Conversion Tables for Revised Statute Chapters
Legislative drafters have at times prepared conversion tables showing the relationship of current and former section numbers. For revisions made prior to the 1971-72 legislative session, these tables can be found in Wisconsin Annotations 1970 and for subsequent revisions, conversion tables are printed in these volumes, following the revised chapter. For example, see the conversion table following chapter 551.
Finding Present Numbers for Old Statute Sections
Prior to adopting the present decimal numbering system in the early 1900s, statute sections were numbered using consecutive whole numbers. A comparative table of whole section numbers and decimal section numbers is contained in the Wisconsin Annotations 1970, pages 2423 to 2453. This table was continued in the Appendix contained in editions of the Wisconsin Statutes and Annotations published prior to the 2007-08 edition, but because the table has not been modified since 1977 it is no longer included the Wisconsin Statutes and Annotations.
Contacting the Legislative Reference Bureau
Contact information for reporting errors, making suggestions, and asking questions is as follows:
Legislative Reference Bureau
One East Main Street
Mailing Address P.O. Box 2037
Madison, WI 53701-2037
Phone (608) 266-3561 FAX (608) 264-6948
The references in the Index
are to articles and sections of the Wisconsin Constitution
, to sections (or parts of sections) and chapters of the Statutes
, and to entries in the Appendix in the last volume of the printed statutes. (The appendix is not reproduced at this website, except for the Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules
. Please consult the printed volumes.)
The web version of the index allows the user to search for any word or combination of words used in the index and to find its specific location wherever it appears anywhere in the index. There is also a tree view available, by clicking "Tree view" in the upper bar. The, the left side of the screen contains an alphabetical list of all the index subject heads, which are links to those heads. Clicking on the plus sign next to the head names in the list shows all the entries included under the head, which are also links to the actual entries, which in turn contain links to the actual statute sections referred to. Heads in the list that are not preceded by a plus sign are followed only by cross-references and do not include entries. The terms used here to describe the components of the index are explained below.
How the Statute Index is Organized
The statute index is made up of:
1. SUBJECT HEADS - Broad categories and subjects affected by significant amounts of legislation followed by lines of text directing the user to specific statutory units.
2. ENTRY TERMS - Broad categories and subjects which have not been selected for use as subject heads which are followed by one or more "cross-references".
3. SUBHEADS - Subdivisions by subject matter of subject heads containing large amounts of material.
4. ENTRIES - References to individual statute units under a subject head or subhead
5. SUBENTRIES - References to individual statute units under an entry which has several distinct elements.
6. CROSS-REFERENCES - References from locations in the index where information does not appear to subject heads, subheads and entries where information does appear.
7. SCOPE NOTES - One or more sentences following a subject head or subhead preceded by "NOTE:" explaining the extent of coverage of the subject heading or subhead.
Popular Name Laws - If you are looking for a law which is known by a popular name, e.g., Bridefare, refer to the list under the subject head "Popular Name Laws."
Table of Words and Phrases - The Table of Words and Phrases contains an alphabetical list of terms defined in the statutes together with citations to the statute unit containing the definition of the specified term. This table appears alphabetically in the index under the subject head "Words and Phrases."
Constitution Index - A subject matter index for the Wisconsin Constitution is contained in the general index under the subject head "Constitution, Wisconsin." References to the constitution are also found throughout the remainder of the index according to the subject matter of the particular provision.
These tables show, in the ascending numerical order of affected statute sections (or parts thereof), the changes, by Act number, enacted by the Legislature during its regular and special sessions for the biennial period commencing in the year noted. In addition, the tables contain references to decimal-numbered statute sections affected in prior legislative sessions that have delayed effective dates that have not yet been reached and to decimal-numbered statute sections affected by Wisconsin Supreme Court Orders.
The listings in these tables are compiled by the Legislative Reference Bureau from the enrolled bills and joint resolutions passed by the Legislature. The Legislative Reference Bureau makes a reasonable effort to provide a complete and accurate listing, but assumes no responsibility or liability for possible errors or omissions. The table for the current legislation session is updated continuously throughout the session.
amended and renumbered
Assembly Joint Resolution
Chapter (Wisconsin Acts)
consolidated and renumbered
Controlled Substances Board
effected date changed
[Enrolled] Joint Resolution
repealed and recreated
Senate Joint Resolution
Supreme Court Order
13.93 [(1) (b)]
Revisor's authority to renumber
Controlled Substances Bd. change