Capitol Week-in-Review – December 7, 2017

Congress Begins Working on Reconciling Tax Reform Differences  

Late last week, the United States Senate approved its version of federal tax reform legislation. Because their proposal differs from the version approved by the United States House of Representatives, a bicameral Conference Committee has been created to reconcile the differences.

When the Conference Committee reaches consensus, their proposal will go directly to the floor of the House and Senate for an up-or-down vote. Subsequent approval by the President would be required before any federal tax code changes could go into effect.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation has published a very good summary of the major differences between the House and Senate tax reform plans.

WIB Lobbies for Civil Justice Reform Legislation

A group of state legislators led by State Representative Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) and State Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) has come forward with a legislative proposal that addresses the most pressing civil litigation challenge for Wisconsin employers – the escalating costs related to discovery.

By way of background, discovery is a process that begins after a lawsuit has been filed in order to allow the parties to prepare their case. Discovery may include responses to written or oral questions as well as the production of documents. Failure to answer or fulfill a discovery request may lead to fines and other sanctions.

The Born-Tiffany proposal aligns Wisconsin’s civil procedures for discovery to the corresponding federal rules. More specifically, their proposal:

  • establishes cost-benefit and proportionality requirements for discovery to prevent litigants from abusing the discovery process to leverage a higher potential settlement or engage in a “fishing expedition;”
  • puts on hold discovery and other proceedings pending the court’s decision on a motion to dismiss or other dispositive motions, protecting parties from costly discovery in cases that may be dismissed or where refinement of the pleadings may clarify the allegations and scope of relevant discovery;
  • provides notice of third-party litigation financing, if the financier has a right to receive compensation that is contingent on and sourced from the outcome of the action. This financing arrangement can increase the cost of litigation and cause lawsuits to be brought that would not otherwise have been financially justified;
  • limits discovery of electronically stored information (ESI) to address the escalating volume of ESI that is now one of the most significant discovery-related costs; and
  • unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, limits discovery to 25 interrogatories, 10 depositions, none of which may exceed 7 hours in duration, and a look-back period of not more than 5 years prior to the accrual of the cause of action.

WIB has joined a broader coalition of business advocacy groups to lobby in support of this civil justice reform legislation.

Wisconsin’s State-Local Tax Burden Falls Again in 2017

According to a new report from the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WisTax), Wisconsin’s combined state-local tax burden for 2017 was 10.7% of personal income, down from 10.8% in 2016. State-local taxes relative to personal income have declined six consecutive years since reaching 11.9% of income in 2011.

WisTax attributes this decline in the state-local tax burden to an 18.6% reduction in unemployment insurance tax collections ($922.6 million to $751.3 million) and the elimination of the 0.5% Brown County sales tax that paid for renovations of Lambeau Field.