2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 227. Administrative procedure and review.
227.41 Declaratory rulings.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 227.41 (2017)

227.41 Declaratory rulings.

(1) Except as provided in sub. (5), any agency may, on petition by any interested person, issue a declaratory ruling with respect to the applicability to any person, property or state of facts of any rule or statute enforced by it. Full opportunity for hearing shall be afforded to interested parties. A declaratory ruling shall bind the agency and all parties to the proceedings on the statement of facts alleged, unless it is altered or set aside by a court. A ruling shall be subject to review in the circuit court in the manner provided for the review of administrative decisions.

(2) Petitions for declaratory rulings shall conform to the following requirements:

(a) The petition shall be in writing and its caption shall include the name of the agency and a reference to the nature of the petition.

(b) The petition shall contain a reference to the rule or statute with respect to which the declaratory ruling is requested, a concise statement of facts describing the situation as to which the declaratory ruling is requested, the reasons for the requested ruling, and the names and addresses of persons other than the petitioner, if any, upon whom it is sought to make the declaratory ruling binding.

(c) The petition shall be signed by one or more persons, with each signer's address set forth opposite the signer's name, and shall be verified by at least one of the signers. If a person signs on behalf of a corporation, limited liability company or association, that fact also shall be indicated opposite that person's name.

(3) Except as provided in sub. (5) (b), the petition shall be filed with the administrative head of the agency or with a member of the agency's policy board.

(4) Except as provided in sub. (5) (c), within a reasonable time after receipt of a petition pursuant to this section, an agency shall either deny the petition in writing or schedule the matter for hearing. If the agency denies the petition, it shall promptly notify the person who filed the petition of its decision, including a brief statement of the reasons therefor.

(5)

(a) The department of revenue shall, on petition by any interested person, or any group or association of interested persons, issue a declaratory ruling with respect to the applicability to any person, property, or state of facts of any rule or statute enforced by it. The department of revenue may issue a declaratory ruling on the facts contained in the petition. If the department of revenue does not deny the petition or issue a declaratory ruling on the facts contained in the petition, the department of revenue shall hold a hearing, as provided under s. 227.44, and shall afford all interested parties an opportunity to participate in the hearing. A declaratory ruling shall bind the department and all parties to the proceedings on the statement of facts contained in the ruling, unless it is altered or set aside by the tax appeals commission or a court or the applicable rule or statute is repealed or materially amended. A ruling, including the denial of the petition, shall be subject to review by the tax appeals commission as provided in ch. 73.

(b) A petition under par. (a) shall conform to the requirements under sub. (2) and be filed with the secretary of revenue.

(c) No later than 30 days after the day that the secretary of revenue receives a petition under this subsection, the department of revenue shall deny the petition in writing, issue a notice that it will issue a declaratory ruling on the facts contained in the petition, in which case the department of revenue shall issue the ruling no later than 90 days after issuing the notice, or schedule the matter for hearing. The department may deny the petition only if the petition fails to comply with the requirements under sub. (2) and par. (b) or if the department determines that the petition is frivolous, a justiciable controversy does not exist, the ruling would not provide guidance on matters of general applicability, or the ruling would substitute for other procedures available to the parties for resolution of the dispute. If the department denies the petition, it shall promptly notify the person who filed the petition of its decision and include with the notice a brief statement of the reasons for denying the petition. The department may not deny a petition for lack of a justiciable controversy solely because the only parties to the matter are the petitioner and the department.

(d)

1. If the department of revenue does not deny the petition, or issue a notice that it will issue a declaratory ruling based on the facts contained in the petition, the department shall hold a hearing and determine, no later than 180 days after the secretary receives the petition, whether the petitioner has presented sufficient facts from which to issue a declaratory ruling. The department of revenue, petitioner, and other parties may take and preserve evidence prior to and during the hearing using the methods allowed to parties under s. 227.45. With the agreement of the parties, the department may rule on the petition based on facts stipulated by the parties.

2. If the department determines that it does not have sufficient facts from which to issue a declaratory ruling, the department may deny the petition. If the department determines that it has sufficient facts from which to issue a declaratory ruling, the department shall issue a ruling on the merits of the petition no later than 180 days after the determination, unless the deadline is extended by written agreement of all parties. The ruling may deny the petition on the grounds that the petition is frivolous, a justiciable controversy does not exist, the ruling would not provide guidance on matters of general applicability, or that the ruling would substitute for other procedures available to the parties for resolution of the dispute.

History: 1985 a. 182 s. 27; Stats. 1985 s. 227.41; 1991 a. 316; 1993 a. 112; 2011 a. 68; 2013 a. 165.

Res judicata does not apply to administrative agency proceedings, but this section requires internal consistency within a proceeding by binding the agency within that proceeding to its own declaratory ruling. Board of Regents v. Wisconsin Personnel Commission, 103 Wis. 2d 545, 309 N.W.2d 366 (Ct. App. 1981).

This section does not provide a method for review of a determination already made by the agency, but only a method for requesting an agency to make a determination. Therefore, this section could not be used by prisoners to challenge the department of corrections' dismissal of their complaint under the inmate complaint review system. Aiello v. Litscher, 104 F. Supp. 2d 1068 (2000).

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