Avatar
All Posts by Empower Wisconsin

Evers’ team’s sneak attack on property rights

Empower Wisconsin | Feb. 17,  2020 

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — The Evers administration and their government lobbying pals just got busted trying to sneak in a change to Wisconsin’s Homeowners’ Bill of Rights that would have watered down protections against unwanted home assessments. 

Billed as a mere technical change to the 2018 law, the legislation would loosen language that requires assessors, when requesting to view the interior of a residence, to provide written notice informing property owners of their right to refuse entry. The bill changes just one word, replacing “notice” with “information.” But that one word changes the intent of the legislation, according to the statute’s author, Sen. David Craig.

“It would victimize people all over again,” the Town of Vernon Republican said. 

Craig’s provision was part of a broader package of property rights bills written by Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and then-Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake). For full disclosure, Jarchow serves as president of Empower Wisconsin’s news organization. 

Craig wrote the accessor piece following a property rights lawsuit in the Town of Dover. Homeowners Vincent Milewski and Morganne MacDonald sued the local government, its Board of Review and the company contracted to conduct property assessments for the town. The property owners alleged their constitutional rights were violated when they refused to let an assessor into their home and then were not allowed to challenge the resulting assessment.

State law at the time did not restrict property owners from denying accessors access, but it did prevent them from appealing final assessments. 

Craig argued the law was unconstitutional, violating the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments on unreasonable search and seizure and due process. 

Craig said the “technical” change, sought by Evers’ Department of Revenue, would undermine the core of the property rights legislation, opening the door for assessors to enter the home without providing proper notice of rights. 

Sources say the Wisconsin Towns Association is lobbying hard for the revisions. Local governments don’t care for a law that prevents assessors from getting a complete look at the home — in the pursuit of local tax collections.  

“There has been different interpretations of the word notice by assessors, local government officials and DOR (Department of Revenue),” the agency wrote in a legislative proposal summary.  

But Joseph Kreye, Legal Services Manager for the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, said he’s not sure why the Evers Administration wants the change in the first place. 

“I can only speculate that DOR believes using the word ‘notice’ implies certain substantive and procedural due process requirements not implicated by using the word ‘information’ and that DOR is, consequently, more comfortable with using the word ‘information’ and perhaps avoiding legal implications,” Kreye wrote in a memo.

So, Evers’ Revenue team is more “comfortable” easing up on language that would protect constitutional rights and get them off the hook legally. 

It is not a difference without a distinction. Kreye notes in the memo that Wisconsin statutes contain more than 8,500 instances of “notice” and all seem to use the term as it is generally understood: to give the public notice of rights, proceedings, and governmental events. Notice is more formal, packs more legal weight. Just the kind of protections property owners were promised under the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights.

Assembly Bill 881 appeared to be on the fast track for a vote this week, but several lawmakers have raised red flags about the substantial changes to the law. 

More so, Craig is raising concerns about the effort from the Evers administration, bending to the will of government lobbyists like the Towns Association and the League of Municipalities, to sneak through a dramatic change to a law. The senator said it was fortunate staff members with knowledge of the law caught the subtle one-word alteration. Lawmakers on the review committee apparently did not. 

“This merits a deeper look into how this bill came about,” Craig said. “This Legislature has to take even more serious these bills coming forward and we need to look at reforming if not eliminating this now-abused process.” 

Listen to more:

Explore More
Kewaunee’s controversial marina scheme

Kewaunee’s controversial marina scheme

Citizens of Kewaunee, Wis., just wanted a relatively inexpensive fix to their flooded-out public marina, a key part of the important recreational fishing industry for this Lake Michigan city of nearly 3,000 residents. 

Read More »

September 23, 2020
Evers extends illegal mask mandate

Evers extends illegal mask mandate

Gov. Tony Evers pushed the bounds of the constitution and state statute again Tuesday, in issuing yet another emergency health order and extending his controversial mask mandate.

Read More »

September 23, 2020
Who funded Kenosha rioters?

Who funded Kenosha rioters?

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil is calling on U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate last month’s Kenosha riots; his opponent, Democrat Roger Polack is defending a radical group that, at the very least, appears to have come to Kenosha to aid and abet rioters. 

Read More »

September 23, 2020
Biden botches Pledge of Allegiance

Biden botches Pledge of Allegiance

2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden screwed up the Pledge of Allegiance Monday during a campaign speech in Wisconsin.

Read More »

September 23, 2020
There’s no ‘Biden Rule’ in the constitution

There’s no ‘Biden Rule’ in the constitution

There’s no sugarcoating that the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court from the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg comes at a turbulent time in a turbulent year. With emotions running so high, people would be wise to start with the basics of our federal government structure.

Read More »

September 22, 2020
DHS wants 16 percent budget increase

DHS wants 16 percent budget increase

The state agency that led the lockdown of Wisconsin’s citizens and economy is seeking a whopping 16.4 percent increase its 2021-23 budget. 

Read More »

September 22, 2020

8 thoughts on “Evers’ team’s sneak attack on property rights

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *