WHEELERweek – July 31, Veterans Day Legislation

As published by The Wheeler Report – 11/29/1973…


Governor Lucey signed the following five bills on Wednesday:

SB 14 (Chapter 140) VETERANS DAY (Bidwell) Changes observance of veterans day as a state holiday from the fourth Monday in October to Nov. 11.

President Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day November 11, 1919, one year after hostilities in World War I, “the war to end all wars” ended (generally accepted date) according to the U.S. DVA.

Wisconsin recognized Armistice Day in 1929 with Chapter 167. The act that stated, “The governor shall annually issue a proclamation calling attention to the fact that the eleventh day of November is the anniversary of armistice day, and requesting the people throughout the state to observe by appropriate exercises the hour at which the armistice was concluded.”

Also in 1929, an act (Chapter 168) directed schools to commemorate Armistice Day.

In 1931 Wisconsin declared Armistice Day a legal holiday (Chapter 17).

For a brief time in the early 1970’s Veterans Day was not observed in Wisconsin on November 11.  The federal Uniform Holiday Bill designated Veterans Day as the 4th Monday in October.  The bill was signed by President Johnson (statement) in 1968.  Wisconsin followed suit by passing SB-1, published April 11, 1972.  According to a Milwaukee Sentinel report, during Senate debate, then Sen. Roseleip said, “I will fly my flag on Nov. 11 (Veteran’s Day) no matter what you do to that day, gentlemen.”

The next session the Wisconsin Legislature passed SB-14, published December 1, 1973, reverting the observation of Veterans Day back to November 11. An amendment to the bill also changed the name of the holiday back to Armistice Day. In a Milwaukee Journal story at the time Sen. Risser said the name change was, “a slight to Vietnam veterans, veterans of World War II and all other veterans.”

President Ford (statement) signed s.331 (Public Law 94-97) in 1975, a bill that returned Veterans Day observation to November 11.

And Today …

In 2003, a bill (2003 Act 117) was passed that allowed an additional personal holiday for state employees “in recognition of Veterans Day.”

In 2005, SB-168 would have made November 11 a state holiday, closing state government and giving state employees a paid holiday on that day. The bill did not make it out of committee.

Sen. Hansen introduced similar bills (2007-2015 except 2011) that, if passed, would have required all employers in Wisconsin to give veterans a paid day off on Veterans Day.  None of the proposed bills made it out of committee.

Note: Sen. Hansen also proposed an amendment to 2017 SB-113 that would have closed state government offices and given a paid day off to all employees who are veterans.  The amendment died on a (point of order) procedural move on the Senate floor.

Senator Roth introduced 2017 SB-113. The bill closes state government offices on November 11, adds a paid holiday, and deletes a personal holiday for state employees.  The bill passed the Senate on June 14.  It’s companion, AB-163 (Rep. Jagler), passed the Assembly State Affairs committee unanimously on April 12.

In an interview with The Wheeler Report when asked about what the bill changes Sen. Roth said, “What this bill does is locks in, like every other state in America, it locks us in on recognizing November 11 as an official state holiday.  So we didn’t have to come up with funding a new holiday for state employees, we were able to use that floating holiday that existed because we didn’t have the Veterans Day and were able to apply that to Veterans Day.”

When asked if his bill was essentially trading a personal holiday for a legal holiday Sen. Roth said, “Correct, but the reason behind that is because Veterans Day is one of those days I believe that it’s imperative when you look at our state, we don’t exist if we don’t have the men and women doing what they did that that holiday recognizes.  That’s why I and others felt strongly enough about it to make sure the state of Wisconsin joins the other 49 states and takes a pause on that day by shutting down government. Obviously, we don’t shut down emergency services, and 24-hour operations but you know for those things just like any other holiday.  But by and large we shut down state government so that we can, out of a sign of respect to the men and women who did sacrifice, so that we can not only do that but have celebration within the government all across our state including in the state Capitol to recognize the service and sacrifice of these brave men and women.”

When asked about why Veterans Day had not been made a legal holiday prior to now Sen. Roth said, “I think it was because everyone assumed that because the federal government and the other 49 states did. And I think there’s just that general presumption that Wisconsin in fact did too. So I think people were, including myself, a little surprised that we didn’t officially recognize the holiday, which is why we stepped forward quickly to make sure that we did.”

When asked about his prediction for passage of the bill Sen. Roth said, “I know we’ve got a budget before us, between us and further legislation, but as soon as we can get this budget behind us and into the fall session I’m hopeful that the Assembly can pass it and confident the governor will sign it.”

Sen. Roth continued, “Really the significant thing is that this recognizes, this came into effect in Armistice Day in 1918, by adopting this and passing through the Legislature, it goes into effect the beginning of 2018, which means on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day which is now Veterans Day, when we celebrate the end of the war that was supposed to end all wars, this will be an official holiday in Wisconsin. In my opinion, we’re going to be closing the loop that was started with Armistice Day when it first started in 1918 in different states at different times have gotten on board with it and we’re going to be completing the circle here. It’s the last state to recognize it in time for the 100th anniversary.”