Guest Column from Rep. Jim Steineke - Red Tape Review Helps the Economy and Promotes Efficiency

February 19, 2015

Assembly Republicans are back at work finding ways to make Wisconsin’s administrative code relevant to today’s standards. We officially launched the Red Tape Review for this session, and are focused on reviewing state rules to identify ones that need to be modified or eliminated. Last year we undertook the same initiative, but we still have a lot of work to do.

The administrative code consists of rules written by agencies that are used to enforce laws passed by the Legislature. They have the force and effect of law. There are 18 volumes of administrative code, containing 1,768 chapters and 11,764 pages. This is almost twice as much administrative code as we have state statutes. These rules have accumulated over many years and have never been reviewed in this capacity. Over time, they have incurred some adverse consequences. They can make it harder to do business because they are out of date, duplicate federal rules, require people to fill out unnecessary paperwork, delay projects, or add extreme costs to everyday tasks.

Last session, legislators reviewed 20 percent (353 chapters) of Wisconsin’s administrative code. Seventy-six pages were eliminated and eighty-three chapters were either modified or repealed. Some of these changes were a revision of our transportation regulations, making them shorter, easier to understand and more relevant to technology. We also updated code under the Department of Financial Institutions by removing obsolete language, matching federal code and redefining terms.

One of the main reasons this initiative is such is a high priority is that government regulation negatively affects economic growth. It is consistently identified as a top challenge for businesses at the state and federal level. Small businesses in particular are unfairly affected by regulation, spending 80 percent more per worker than large employers to comply with regulation. We also want to make government run more efficiently. In order to do this, we need to routinely analyze the effectiveness of laws and rules that have been in place for many years.

The review process will once again be led by committee chairs. Each committee will be assigned sections of the administrative code to read and discuss. Some of the questions that will be asked are: does it protect the public from a threat to public health, safety or welfare? Does it promote or hinder job growth and the economy? Is the rule outdated? What is the cost to implement the rule? Does it follow legislative intent? Have there been complaints about it? The process will include the public, the state agency that developed the rule and other relevant stakeholders. If a rule needs to change, then there will be an opportunity for the entire Legislature to vote on that specific regulation, after which it will have to pass through both houses and be signed by Governor Walker.

I would like to thank Representative Joan Ballweg for all of her efforts to spearhead this initiative and for making sure that we are eliminating red tape overload in the future by introducing legislation that would require the continuous review of our rules. If you would like to contribute in our efforts to revamp Wisconsin’s administrative code, please make your voice heard. You can contact my office at 608-266-2418 or email me at Rep.Steineke@legis.wi.gov.