WNA constantly monitors activity at the Capitol, communicates with legislators and provides tools for members to advocate for the betterment of the industry. Through lobbying efforts, the WNA has fended off several attempts in the Legislature to limit access to public information and curtail public notice requirements.
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WNA Legislative Action
Here is a summary of the WNA’s more recent actions in the state Legislature:
- April 2017: The Joint Committee on Finance removed provisions from the proposed biennial state budget that would have eliminated newspaper publication requirements for the majority of First Class public notices that report on the activities of local government. This included meeting minutes, budgets, financial reports, ordinances, resolutions and many more. The provision would have allowed local governments to post the notices on their own websites instead of publishing them in the local newspaper. The language was withdrawn following an active lobbying effort by the WNA and an extensive editorial and house ad campaign by WNA-member newspapers.
- October 2016: The Legislative Study Committee on Publication of Government Documents and Legal Notices, following testimony from the WNA and participation of three WNA advocates on the committee, supported the continued publication of public notices in local newspapers. The committee recognized newspapers continue to be the most credible and reliable means of notifying the public of the happenings of local government. The committee also commended the industry for the WNA’s maintenance of an accurate statewide public notice website, www.wisconsinpublicnotices.org.
- February 2016: The WNA pushed through an amendment to a Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council bill in the Legislature that eliminated an antiquated provision from 1937 in the Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Act. The old legislation put newspapers at risk of having carriers — long considered to be independent contractors — reclassified as employees for the purposes of worker’s compensation coverage. The amendment prevented newspapers from being subjected to millions of dollars in fines, interest and back-premium payments.
- January 2016: The WNA lobbied for the reversal of a little-known Aug. 24, 2015, decision by the Public Records Board that allowed for the immediate disposal of so-called “transitory records.” The change was discovered when open records requests for text messages and visitor logs were denied based on the claim they didn’t need to be maintained because they were transitory. Under scrutiny by the public and Wisconsin’s newspaper editorial boards, the records board reversed its decision.
- July 2015: The WNA and state newspapers sprang into action during the Fourth of July weekend as the State Senate’s Joint Finance Committee introduced language in an omnibus bill that would have gutted Wisconsin’s public record laws. The proposal sought to exempt legislators’ inter-office communications and bill-drafting activities from the public records law, effectively obscuring how laws are made. Public pressure led legislative leaders to rescind the proposal less than 24 hours later.
- April 2015: Gov. Scott Walker signed WNA-initiated Assembly Bill 11, repealing an outdated recycling requirement for newspapers. The law eliminated a newspaper recycling fee, as well as the minimum percentage requirement of post-consumer waste content in newsprint. The requirements had become a burden to Wisconsin publishers as recycling efforts evolved and improved.
- April 2012: Gov. Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill 548, which reformed the newspaper public notice certification process administered by the Department of Administration. The bill also requires all public notices published in Wisconsin newspapers appear on the statewide public notice website, www.wisconsinpublicnotices.org, which is maintained by the newspaper industry.