Wisconsin is one step closer to reining in regulatory rules and putting the power back into the hands of the people they elected to make the decisions.
On April 26, the Committee on Government Operations, Technology, and Consumer Protection recommended the passage of the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act. The act, which was approved in a 3-to-2 vote, aims to rein in the rule-making authority of regulatory agencies. Now, it will be scheduled for a vote by the Assembly.
“Wisconsin will have an opportunity to provide citizens with more transparency and greater input in the development and implementation of regulations in Wisconsin,” Eric Bott, state director at Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin, told Watchdog.org.
Earlier this year, Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee, and Sen. Devin Lemahieu, R-Oostburg, reintroduced the bill, which would require state agencies to get legislative approval for any regulation with an economic impact of more than $10 million. Additionally, it would empower officials to conduct independent economic analyses of a new rule’s costs instead of solely relying on agency estimates. The legislature also would determine the regulatory agency’s ability to create the rule.
“This proposal is not only necessary, but critical to improving the administrative rule-making process. It will bring additional legislative oversight into that process and provide more opportunity for the public to comment on the rules that will impact taxpayers and business owners alike,” Neylon said.
Currently for a regulation to take effect, an agency drafts a rule and submits it the governor for approval. The final draft is reviewed by one standing committee in each legislature and by the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative rules. The state House and Senate must pass a bill objecting to the regulation and then have the governor sign it to block the rule.
“The bill reforms the administrative rule-making process, helps prevent over-regulation on businesses, and provides more transparency to the public on the regulatory process,” Bott said. “It puts the power back in the hands of the people by allowing the people who were elected to office to get back control.”
Neylon said this act will be a relief for businesses.
“REINS will require state agency fiscal estimates to include the cost of compliance on their projections,” he said. “It will freeze costly new rules by requiring the Wisconsin legislature to approve spending over $10M within the first two years. This will greatly ease the burden on industries that have to pay huge sums of money to comply with regulatory changes that are often part of a political agenda. Agencies should be administering the law, not creating new ones.”
Supporters of the act in Wisconsin and nationwide have said the bill will provide more accountability and transparency prior to the implementation of any major regulations. Opponents have said the bill will obstruct the most basic of protections because it will require the House and Senate to approve all new regulations.
In 2016, a similar bill passed the assembly, but stalled in the Senate due to opposition from environmental groups and the Wisconsin branch of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
Bill Smith, director of the Wisconsin NFIB, told Watchdog.org that he opposed last year’s bill, but testified in favor of the current bill.
“We objected to the bill last year because it would have sent regulations that impacted small businesses to the Office of Business Development before the state Small Business Regulatory Review Board. We have the review board, we did not need review by the business development office, too,” Smith said.
Amendments were made to last year’s bill, specifically it left the regulatory review to the board, which consists of a group of appointed volunteer small business owners who examine and comment on rules and regulations that impact small businesses. With the changes, Smith said the NFIB felt comfortable supporting it.
“We support having our elected officials play the defining role in the regulatory process,” Smith said. “It will be interesting to see what happens. I don’t know if it will pass, but I think it has a better chance than it did the last session.”
A version of the REINS bill also is making it’s way through Congress. In January, the act passed the U.S. House, but has not gone before the Senate for a vote.
If passed at the federal level and it becomes law, the REINS Act would require that the House and the Senate vote to approve any new agency regulation whose estimated cost exceeds $100 million. If Congress fails to approve a new rule within 70 days of its publication, the regulation dies.