FRI AM News: Supreme Court ruling will make it easier to challenge DOR guidance in court

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— A circuit court should’ve weighed in on whether the Department of Revenue’s guidance on a new tax exemption for personal property constituted an unpublished rule rather than deferring to the Tax Appeals Commission first, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

The ruling will make it easier to challenge DOR guidance and other advice in circuit court rather than going to the Tax Appeals Commission, an independent agency the Legislature created to hear disputes between taxpayers and the departments of Revenue and Transportation.
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce didn’t agree with a letter DOR sent the business group over its interpretation of the personal property tax exemption and filed the suit, which was dismissed by an Ozaukee County judge

Writing for the majority, Justice Brian Hagedorn found the question of whether the letter constitutes an unpromulgated rule doesn’t draw upon the Tax Appeals Commission’s expertise in tax matters. Rather, the question “goes to the authority and process by which an agency must adopt and administer the law.”

That is best answered by a court, not an agency that “has no unique expertise over whether a letter fits the definition of a rule.”

The dispute began after WMC asked Revenue how a new exemption would be applied. The business group argued that “machinery, patterns and tools that are not used in manufacturing” are exempt under the change even if that property is “located on manufacturing property.”
Revenue disagreed, and WMC filed the suit. It argued the DOR letter amounted to an unpromulgaed rule and was invalid.

After an Ozaukee County Circuit Court dismissed the suit, an appeals court upheld that ruling.
Though the state Supreme Court was unanimous in believing the circuit court should’ve heard the case, only liberals Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky fully signed onto Hagdorn’s opinion. Meanwhile, Justice Pat Roggensack wrote her own concurring opinion that was joined by fellow conservative Rebecca Bradley.

Read the decision:

— The Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with Kohler Co. to remove another barrier to its plan to build another golf course along Lake Michigan.

The 4-3 decision yesterday reversed an earlier Court of Appeals decision that the Friends of the Black River Forest could move forward with challenging a Department of Natural Resources land swap agreement with Kohler. The swap would have DNR giving 4.6 acres of Kohler-Andrae State Park in exchange for 10 acres west of the park.

Kohler’s Vice President of Golf, Landscape & Retail Dirk Willis said the company is pleased with the move and it has a strong track record of environmental stewardship.

“We look forward to developing our public golf course in the City of Sheboygan on property owned by Kohler Co. for more than 75 years, and are committed to creating a world-class golf course that respects the property’s natural character and opens up private land to the public for the first time,” he said.

Friends of Black River Forest said it was disappointed in the decision.

“Today’s decision sets a disturbing new precedent for Wisconsinites and their ability to fight arbitrary and oppressive agency actions that affect their daily lives–actions that may extend far beyond where and whether they enjoy Wisconsin’s natural resources,” the group said.

— Marshfield’s PreventionGenetics has received FDA approval for its diagnostic genetic test for obesity patients.

Developed in collaboration with Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, the test is the first FDA-authorized Class II molecular companion diagnostic device.

The companion diagnostic genetic test is intended to analyze genomic DNA isolated from blood or saliva. The test is intended to look for gene variants in adult and pediatric obesity patients 6 and older so they can be matched to targeted therapies.

PreventionGenetics is a germline DNA testing laboratory that offers genetic testing to patients and physicians.

See more details in the press release section below.

— Gov. Tony Evers is providing $9 million to the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin through the Workforce Innovation Grant Program.

The group serves 53 counties in Wisconsin. It plans to use the grant to support its “Thinkability Wisconsin” initiative. The program will provide people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with education and training for manufacturing and hospitality careers, according to a release from Evers.

The program also seeks to improve societal expectations for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, form coalitions and implement public service campaigns to reduce barriers to employment.

The grant is part of $23.3 million Evers announced Wednesday that will be distributed through the Workforce Innovation Grant Program, which has so far given $150 million in grants, according to the release.

See more in a release below.

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See these and other press releases:

– PreventionGenetics: receives FDA approval for its companion diagnostic genetic test as a class II medical device
– Gov. Evers: announces $23.3 million to support early childhood education, reduce barriers to workers entering the workforce