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Listen up, Wisconsinites: Big-time changes may come while you’re not looking

By   /   January 16, 2013  /   2 Comments

By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – The mere mention of mining will perk the ears of Wisconsinites.

But regulatory reform? Administrative rule changes?

WALKER: Gov. Scott Walker has pushed state agencies to review the rules and regulations governing how they do business. A report suggesting more than 300 changes, including the total repeal of 40 rules, was released this week.

For many in the state —  including, in all likelihood, a number of lawmakers — a discussion of how the state does what it does, how laws are implemented, is downright snooze-inducing.

But take a second look.

Seeking unemployment benefits? The rules will tell you whether, and how, you get them.

Looking to start a business? Regulations can help get you going, or be such a pain that your venture never gets off the ground.

Want to troll while fishing? The Department of Natural Resources apparently is looking to allow that statewide, “with some restrictions,” as part of a large-scale review of the agency’s operations.

Rules and regulations may seem dull on the surface, but they govern how, when, where and why people here get to do what they do.

So when Gov. Scott Walker announces a systemic review that recommends 307 changes, including the total repeal of 40 rules, as he did Tuesday, well, it’s probably worth listening up.

“We have an administrative code that is huge.  … And all of it, all 11,700-some pages were put there not by elected officials, but by people in the state agencies,” said Rep. Daniel LeMahieu, co-chair of the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules.

That’s necessary because the Legislature can’t take the time to fill in all of the details necessary to implement the laws it passes, LeMahieu said.

“The concern we have, and the concern I have, is that we’ve been doing this for decades, giving this authority away, and once these rules are promulgated, they become law, just like statute books,” he said. “And we never look at it again, and I think it’s time for the Legislature to look into this.”

The report this week by the Small Business Regulatory Review Board is the first step in a potentially years-long, comprehensive analysis of the state’s administrative rules, an effort LeMahieu’s office has been leading.

The review board’s recommendations are just that — recommendations that either need to be approved by administrators or voted on by the Legislature.

Lawmakers themselves are still figuring out what the proposed changes mean.

Even LeMahieu said he hasn’t been able to fully read the report, since it was released Tuesday evening.

“We are looking at those changes and the mining bill and doing analysis as quickly as we can,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca’s spokeswoman Melanie Conklin wrote in an email, responding to a question about whether Barca had a response to the proposals.

Barca then posted a response on his Facebook page that read, in part:

“I strongly support helping business navigate the regulatory process and eliminating unnecessary regulations. But there is a huge difference between that and eliminating protections that are important for workers, children, health or the environment. I cannot imagine people in Wisconsin would support the latter.

“To have an open, transparent and genuine process the public deserves to see details of specific proposals so they can be assured this will not impair key protections for the public.”

Some proposals require legislative action. Others can be done by simple rule changes.

Among the proposals:

— In order to receive unemployment benefits, Wisconsinites would need to perform four work searches each week, instead of the current two.

— The state would create the “Wisconsin One-stop Business Proposal,” intended to streamline the process for creating a new business.

— Veterinarians would be exempted from the prescription drug monitoring program that the Pharmacy Examining Board requires under a 2009 act.

— Small haulers less than 10,000 pounds would no longer have to stop at open weigh stations.

According to the report, “The review process also resulted in agencies codifying regulatory flexibility for small employers that act in ‘good faith’ to comply with administrative code.”

Included in the debate over the proposed changes will be whether the proposals that need legislative action should be considered individually or all in one bill.

“Each of these recommended rule changes must go through the rulemaking process in order to be modified or repealed. This process can be quite lengthy so one option to expedite these changes is for the Legislature to adopt legislation that bundles these rule changes into one package,” the report suggests.

Contact Adshead at [email protected] 


Kirsten formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Guest

    You assume we are idiots b your title. You so-called journalists should realize we are not dumb here and I am offended by the title of your piece. Barca is an idiot. What does he think streamlining a process means?? Liberals are so predictable. We can’t hurt the environment, workers,etc , sniff, sniff. Please, stop it. Let’s get some mining here, for the love of this economy!!! I am sick and tired of liberals standing in thr way of our economy over fictional environmental issues. What about the 1000’s of birds and bats being killed by wind power

  • This report is the 800 lb. gorilla of this legislative session. It will be interesting to see if any of it it inserted into the budget or an omnibus bill is written to do the work. Nice piece of journalism.