Licensing & Regulation

League members may also request an opinion directly from the League via email. Please include the subject heading and number when making such a request.

403. Article by Attorney Remzy D. Bitar of Municipal Law & Litigation Group, S.C., addresses municipal authority to regulate and license short-term rentals under Wis. Stat. § 66.1014 and highlights a recent Sheboygan County circuit court decision concluding a town ordinance enacted pursuant to § 66.1014 was not preempted by that statute. 

402. Town's denial of permit sought by wireless infrastructure provider to construct a cell tower on private rural land based on Town's conclusion that proposed tower would be incompatible with neighboring land uses based on its impact on the uses and lifestyle for which the neighborhood was zoned and the economic impact on neighboring property values was reasonable and was not based solely on aesthetic concerns as prohibited by Wis. Stat. § 66.0404. Eco-Site, LLC v. Town of Cedarburg, 2019 WI App 42, 388 Wis. 2d 375, 933 N.W.2d 179.

401. Article by Attorney Barry J. Blonien, Boardman & Clark, LLP, highlights Wisconsin’s “Industrial Hemp” program, administered by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the 2018 Farm Bill, and the legality of CBD products.

400. Legal Comment details issues that arise with more frequency during summer months such as closing of streets for festivals, issuance of temporary (picnic) licenses allowing the sale of beer and/or wine, temporary amendment of licensed premises, issuance of fireworks permits, and wage and hour requirements related to summertime recreational employees and limitations applicable to employment of minors.

399. Legal comment discussing the constitutionality of panhandling ordinances in the wake of Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 135 S.Ct. 2218 (2015) and Norton v. City of Springfield, 806 F.3d 411 (7th Cir. 2015).

398. Article by Weld Riley attorneys David Richie and Daniel Gustafson explains changes made to Wisconsin’s Fair Employment Act by 2017 Wis. Act 278 which, among other things, created sec. 111.335(4), changing the circumstances under which a licensing agency may base its decisions to approve, deny, or revoke a license based on an individual’s criminal history. Changes affect when a pending charge can be considered and, except for certain exempt offenses, require a licensing agency that denies or terminates a license based on a prior conviction to state its reasons for doing so in writing and allow the individual to show evidence of rehabilitation and fitness to engage in the licensed activity. The licensing agency must consider a list of factors, such as the seriousness of the crime and relevant mitigating circumstances and must accept specified items as competent evidence of sufficient rehabilitation and fitness.

397. Comment reviews local government sign regulation in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 135 S.Ct. 2887 (2015) and provides some suggested responses. 9/30/15.

396. Legal comment examines why municipalities may want to update ordinances regulating taxi and limo services to include Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) which are companies that use an online-enabled platform, such as smart phone technology, to connect riders and drivers in real time. Comment briefly details some of the concerns that TNCs present in terms of passenger protection and safety, and provision of service and fairness issues in municipalities that regulate taxicabs and limos. 2/26/15.

395. Note by Department of Safety and Professional Services explains that new licensure standards for electricians established by 2013 Wis. Act 143 and effective April 1, 2014, do not apply to any person with 15 years’ experience who was born on or before Jan. 1, 1956 and suggests how municipalities can verify eligibility until DSPS promulgates rules for issuing licenses to those persons. 3/1/14.

394. Municipalities that use music at municipally sponsored festivals, concerts and other events, or at municipal skating rinks, pools and other parks and recreation facilities, when placing telephone calls on hold, etc., should consider whether an annual blanket license from ASCAP or BMI, based on the municipality’s population, is necessary to protect against claims of copyright infringement liability for the music performed or played at these local venues. Special events exceeding $25,000 in gross revenue are not included under the licenses and require additional payment. 5/31/12.

393. 2011 Wis. Act 35, effective November 1, 2011,  creates sec. 175.60 which establishes a procedure requiring DOJ to issue licenses to carry concealed weapons to applicants who aren’t disqualified under the law from obtaining one. 8/31/11.

392. Wisconsin Statute sec. 283.63 does not require the DNR to hold a public hearing to review a permit issued when the premise is that the permit fails to comply with basic requirements of the Clean Water Act and federal regulations promulgated thereunder. A contrary conclusion would undermine the "careful federal and state balance created by the Clean Water Act and would thwart the finality of permits properly issued under the WPDES permit program." Andersen v. Department of Natural Resources, 2011 WI 19. 4/30/11.

391. Legal comment discusses content neutrality, overbreadth, vagueness and prior restraint  constitutional principles and current issues regarding municipal zoning and licensing regulation systems for adult entertainment businesses. 10/30/09.

390. Legal comment provides overview of 2009 Wis. Act 12 which bans smoking in enumerated enclosed spaces, as well as in enclosed places that are places of employment or public places.  Comment details the city of Eau Claire's experience implementing its 2008 smoke-free ordinance, which is similar to the state law, and offers suggestions based on Eau Claire's experience as to how municipalities can prepare to implement the law by educating the community, anticipating a possible increase in permit and license requests that might be generated by the law's provisions, and preparing to enforce the law.  Lucie McGee, 10/1/09.

389. Explains local authority and responsibility for issuing permits under Wis. Stat. sec. 167.10 authorizing the purchase, possession and use of fireworks, as well as local authority to enact ordinances regulating fireworks under sec. 167.10(5). 5/31/08.

388. Describes 2007 Wisconsin Act 42, which dramatically changes the cable franchising process in this state by replacing municipal franchising with a state franchising process under Wis. Stat. sec. 66.0420. The Act took effect January 9, 2008. 2/1/08.

387. AT&T's upgrade of its telecommunications network, known as "Project Lightspeed," which includes plans to place many large boxes in the municipal right-of-way, raises many issues of concern to local governments as does AT&T's position that it does not need to obtain a local cable franchise before providing video services. This legal comment details those concerns and how municipalities can act to protect municipal interests. Anita Gallucci 8/31/06.

386. Legal comment summarizes Eau Claire's updated pawnbroker ordinance which requires pawnbrokers to submit pawn transactions electronically and uses the Minneapolis police department's Automated Pawn System (APS), a collective, searchable database of pawn transactions, created to reduce administrative costs, improve effectiveness, share pawn transactions electronically and improve stolen property recovery rates. In an unpublished decision, the Wisconsin court of appeals upheld the ordinance as constitutional in the face of a challenge based on Equal Protection grounds. Article by Eau Claire City Attorney Stephen C. Nick, 7/31/06.

385. Summarizes the Federal Communications Commissions's (FCC's) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 05-189) that will examine whether the current practices of local cable franchising authorities are unreasonably delaying the entry of providers into the multichannel video programming distributor marketplace. The proposed rulemaking threatens local cable franchise authority and the League urges municipalities to submit comments to the FCC so that it proceeds on the basis of facts and understands the true importance and value of local franchising. 1/30/06.

384. In National Cable & Telecommunications Association v. Brand X Internet Services, 125 S. Ct. 2488(2005), the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC's) classification of cable modem service as an unregulated "information service" rather than a common carrier "telecommunications service" or a locally franchised "cable service" under the federal Communications Act which means local governments cannot subject cable modem service to cable franchise fees and other cable franchise requirements. 1/30/06.

383. Comment surveys First Amendment principles regarding; (1) disparate treatment of commercial and noncommercial speech; (2) content-neutral versus content-based speech regulation; (3) the Doctrine of Prior Restraint and; (4) the Public Forum Doctrine and highlights application of these principles by the Supreme Court and other federal courts to a variety of political sign regulations. 8/31/04.

382. Discusses state budget act provisions that modify enforcement of state video gambling provisions found in secs. 945.03(2m) and 945.04(2m), Stats. and the impact of these changes on local regulation of video gambling and other gambling activity. 9/30/03.

381R1. Summarizes particulars relating to local regulation of fire works and issuance of fireworks permits under Wis. Stat. sec. 167.10. 2/27/10.

381. Summarizes particulars relating to regulation and prohibition of fireworks and issuance of fireworks permits under sec. 167.10, Stats. 5/31/02.

380. Explains Federal Communications Commission (FCC) declaratory ruling that cable modem service is an "interstate information service" and subject to FCC jurisdiction, as well as significance to municipalities of FCC determination that cable modem service is neither a "cable service" nor a "telecommunications service." 3/31/02.

379. Explains formal and informal renewal proceedings under the federal Cable Act and important considerations during cable tv franchise renewals such as assessing the cable operator's past performance and assessing the community's future cable-related needs and interests. 2/28/02.

378. Under sec. 167.10(5)(b), Stats., municipal regulation of the sale, use and possession of fireworks may be more but not less restrictive than state law. Concludes that a proposed ordinance creating a possessor's permit which allows the holder to possess, but not use, fireworks and authorizing fireworks sellers to issue such permits is clearly a less restrictive regulation of fireworks than is provided for in state law and therefore conflicts with sec. 167.10(5)(b), Stats. 5/5/00.

377. Federal, state and local law may give municipal franchise authorities the right to approve transfers of ownership or sales of cable TV systems. See 47 U.S.C. sec. 537 and sec. 66.082(5), Stats. Municipal franchise authorities have 120 days after the cable operator files FCC Form 394, detailing the qualifications of the transferee and how the sale or transfer will affect service, with the authority. Failure to act on the request within the 120-day period is deemed an approval. 5/26/98.