SB 100 Regulatory Reform: Scope Statement Expiration
Testimony of Senator Steve Nass
Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology & Consumer Protection
March 30, 2017  •  411 South, State Capitol

Thank you Chairman Stroebel for holding a public hearing and allowing me to provide testimony in support of Senate Bill 100.  This legislation is one step in a number of actions we plan to take this session to reform the regulatory climate in the state of Wisconsin.  SB 100 will limit the duration of a scope statement authorizing promulgation of an administrative rule to no more than 30 months.

As co-chairman of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR), one of my priorities has been to scrutinize new rules to ensure that they are authorized by statute and absolutely necessary to protect the public, so we can reduce the regulatory burden on Wisconsin’s citizens and businesses.  One of the top concerns cited by many business owners around our state and nationally is the cost and burden of overregulation.  In many cases they cite onerous regulations as an even larger problem than tax levels.

Under current law, a state agency must submit a statement of scope to the Governor for approval in order to begin promulgating an administrative rule.  The scope statement must outline the objective of the rule, provide a policy analysis of the rule, and demonstrate that the agency has the statutory authority to promulgate the rule.  The Governor can either approve the scope statement, allowing the rule process to move forward, or reject it, in which case the agency cannot continue with the new rule.

After the Governor approves a scope statement, it is submitted to the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) for publication in the Wisconsin Administrative Register.  Once a scope statement is approved under current law, it never expires.  The agency can move forward on it at any time in the future, even if it is many years later.

This bill provides for the expiration of a scope statement after 30 months (2.5 years).  If an agency wants to move forward with promulgating an administrative rule based on an expired scope statement, the agency would have to resubmit the scope statement for approval by the Governor.  Under the bill, all new scope statements will expire 30 months after publication in the Wisconsin Administrative Register.  All currently approved scope statements will expire 30 months after the bill is signed into law.
Our goal is to have agencies move forward on necessary rules in a timely manner based on current realities, but not indefinitely maintain rulemaking authority many years after the fact, when the underlying conditions that once granted the authority may have significantly changed.

As the JCRAR co-chairman, I have seen a number of examples of state agencies advancing rules on the basis of a scope statement that was approved many, many years ago, by different Legislatures and even a different Governor.  In one example, a rule was held so long by the agency that the underlying statute creating the rule had already sunset.  In another case, we received a rule in which the scope statement was filed almost 10 years before submittal to the Legislature. 

This bill will ensure that all new administrative rules have up-to-date approval from elected officials, are based on current and accurate information, and are acted on in a timely manner.  Expiration dates on scope statements will lead to a more transparent and effective rulemaking process by allowing for increased public involvement and greater oversight by elected members of the Legislative and Executive branches.