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Wisconsin Constitution – Construction – General

State v. Phillip Cole, 2003 WI 112, on certification
For Cole: Michael Gould, SPD, Milwaukee Appellate

Issue/Holding: “¶31. In interpreting a constitutional provision, we first turn to the plain meaning of the amendment in context.” The court next examines the legislative history of the amendment, including drafting records of the legislative reference bureau and legislative council staff, ¶36 and id. n. 12. Further “analysis includes an examination of the practices in effect at the time the amendment was passed, including “the practices and interpretations of other states,” ¶39. “The final source this court is to consider in construing a constitutional amendment is the first related legislation passed after the amendment was ratified,” ¶42. “Finally, … indications of the will of the people,” as expressed in polling data is relevant to the meaning of the amendment, “are valuable,” ¶44. (Yes, that’s two final sources of intent, but don’t let that distract you: reliance on polling data to determine the effect of a constitutional amendment is the interesting part.)

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