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Saturday, November 26th, 2022
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MADISON — A new policy brief from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty urges six reforms to improve Wisconsin’s burdensome regulatory climate. The proposals follow WILL’s recent report calling attention to the impact the state’s mountain of rules and regulations has on the lives of Wisconsinites.

The Wisconsin Administrative Code contained 12.25 million words as of 2020, according to the report, “Wisconsin Regulation in Focus” It finds the state’s big book of regulations includes more than 161,000 regulatory restrictions, not including requirements handed down by unelected bureaucrats through policy documents or the regs the Legislature puts in place directly via statute. The count also doesn’t include the myriad local and federal regulations on the books.

“Many small businesses find themselves over-burdened by costly and cumbersome regulations. The reforms outlined by WILL are common sense solutions aimed at easing that burden,” said Steve Kohlmann, executive director of Independent Business Association of Wisconsin (IBAW),

WILL Policy Director Kyle Koenen, and WILL Deputy Counsel Lucas Vebber, have drawn up six specific reforms they say policymakers can adopt to address Wisconsin’s burdensome regulatory climate.

  • Automatically sunsetting regulations over time: Regulations in Wisconsin stay in force in perpetuity until the agency or the legislature repeals or modifies them. A sunset provision would allow for a periodic review and action to be taken on each chapter of regulations, on a staggered basis, to ensure regulations receive scrutiny every few years.
  • Independent reporting on regulations before they’re promulgated: When rules are promulgated, the only information the legislature receives is reports prepared by the administrative agency that is seeking to promulgate the rule. Lawmakers should be seeking independent audits from the analysts at the Legislative Audit Bureau to better grasp the cost and benefit of a new rule.
  • Ensuring all new regulations are net-zero in cost by requiring cost savings whenever new costs are imposed: Wisconsin could require that whenever agencies adopt a regulation that imposes a cost increase on the regulated community, they simultaneously find cost savings to offset the new cost. Texas passed a law like this in 2017.
  • One rule per scope statement: A “scope statement” is a document which begins the rule-making process. To ensure proper oversight and public notice, lawmakers should amend the scope statement statute to provide that “An agency may only promulgate one rule from each statement of scope.”
  • Emergency rule-making reform: To ensure proper notice and oversight of the emergency rule-making process, the legislature should establish a shorter 6-month expiration date for scope statements of emergency rules.
  • Changes to public oversight of regulations, making it easier for private individuals to hold government accountable: Adjusting the provision to allow challenges in any circuit court would give more Wisconsinites the opportunity to challenge unlawful agency actions. Additionally, legal fees should be reimbursed if a court determines an agency unlawfully adopted a rule.

“Despite passing reforms over the past decade that control the growth of regulations, Wisconsin still ranks among the most regulated states in the nation,” Koenen said. “For the state to improve its competitive edge, more dramatic steps should be taken to reverse this burden that drives up costs on families and businesses.”

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