Legislative Notes

Baby Box Bill Now Law

Wisconsin will join at least 14 other states that have an anonymous 24/7 drop-off site for newborns. On Wednesday, Governor Evers signed Senate Bill 369 into law. Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), who co-authored the bill, says the new law will save lives.

 “Being a parent in ideal circumstances is tough,” he said. “For some in rough situations, it can feel impossible. If a parent finds themselves in a hopeless situation with nowhere to turn, the child could be in danger. Now, parents in Wisconsin have an anonymous and safe way to turn over custody of their child.”

After a baby was left in a field in Whitewater, Kitchens said he was approached by three doctors from Door County Medical Center, who wanted to prevent another tragedy. Kitchens worked with Rep. Ellen Schutt (R-Clinton) to draft the bill. 

Before the new law, a parent could drop off a newborn to a law enforcement officer, EMT, or hospital staff member anonymously, with no questions asked.

 “While the original law was well-intentioned, having to face someone in person might discourage someone from using this option,” Kitchens said. “In small towns, there can be a fear that someone will find out. If a baby box saves one child, it’s worth the investment.”

Fourteen states, including Iowa and Indiana, allow what is essentially a drop box for newborns. The baby boxes are attached to a hospital or fire department that is staffed 24-7. They have a silent alarm to alert medical professionals when a child is placed inside. The box is temperature-controlled and provides a 24-7 safe place for the child until help arrives.  

Both houses of the legislature unanimously approved the bill.

Payday-Loan Bill Looking For Sponsors

Sen. André Jacque (R-DePere) was circulating a memo last week seeking co-sponsors for the Predatory Lending Prevention Act, which limits interest rates on payday loans. The deadline for legislators to sign onto the bill was Dec. 20.

Jacque said data from a 2021 report by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions showed payday loans in Wisconsin come with an average annual interest rate of 516%. 

“These loans trap thousands of Wisconsin residents each year in an endless cycle of debt through their predatory lending practices,” he said.

The bill would prohibit payday lenders from charging an annual percentage rate of interest greater than 36 percent. If a payday lender violated the cap, the loan would not be enforceable.

The rate cap is the same Congress passed in 2006 with the bipartisan Military Lending Act, which required the Department of Defense to institute a 36 percent rate cap when active duty service members and their families took out predatory loans. The rate cap does not apply to veterans, Gold Star Families or anyone else.

Several other states have similar restrictions, already in place, including Nebraska, where voters (83% of votes cast) approved a binding ballot initiative to cap the payday loan rate at 36% throughout the state.

According to analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau, current law does not impose a limit on the interest a payday loan licensee may charge.