News from Madison

By Representative Jim Steineke 5th Assembly District representative and Republican majority leader of the state Assembly.
As an elected official, I must face the voters every two years to see if you all approve of the laws we’ve put into place. This accountability is what keeps my colleagues and me grounded when making decisions in Madison. I strive to run an accessible office and I welcome feedback on every vote I cast.
Wisconsin’s economy is seeing steady, lasting growth. Our unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2000. We were named the tenth best state for business by Chief Executive magazine, up from 41st before Republicans took back control of state government in 2011. Wisconsin families are seeing their personal income growth continue to rise. There’s little question: Wisconsin workers are reaping the benefits of conservative leadership and reforms.
As we continue to prioritize an atmosphere in Wisconsin that is conducive to job creation and business growth, it has become increasingly clear that our regulatory environment is in need of some changes.
Wisconsin’s regulatory environment is heavily impacted by state agencies, such as the Department of Transportation or the Department of Natural Resources. In many ways, these agencies have the ability to create regulations that carry the same weight as laws passed by the legislature. The obvious problem with this model is, unlike elected public officials, these agencies and bureaucrats have no accountability to the people of Wisconsin to guide their rule-making process.
This problem has prompted the REINS – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny – Act, which will make several changes that will improve the transparency of the administrative rulemaking process. This bill was approved by the Senate earlier this month, and as the Majority Leader of the state Assembly, I’m committed to bringing it to the floor for a vote in June. The REINS Act will provide critical legislative oversight to agency rules as the legislature will now be able to vote on costly regulations. It also puts into place mechanisms to allow the legislature to hit the pause button, or even block a rule if it’s determined a proposed regulation is too costly or simply a bad deal for taxpayers.
This is a good starting point. The next logical step is to look at the volumes upon volumes of regulations that already exist here in Wisconsin. As a state, we not only need reform for how rules and regulations are created, but we also need to have the ability to go back and review the rules already on the books.
If you can believe it, the current structure allows bureaucrats to set rules that can be in place forever, with limited public input. Wisconsin’s regulations need to be reviewed from time to time to ensure they are not over-burdensome and that they are doing what they were intended for. Many states provide a sunset provision on rules, requiring legislative action for the rule to continue after a set amount of time. If a rule does what it is supposed to do and costs what it is supposed to cost, it can easily be renewed any number of times. I think it’s time for Wisconsin to start exploring a review process similar to other states.
By returning some of the responsibility of rule-making back to elected officials, I believe Wisconsin’s regulations will more closely align with the needs of our constituents rather than whims of individuals within state agencies. Ridding our state of excessive red tape will inevitably result in a stronger climate in which our economy can grow. All levels of government, and especially all laws, should get routine inspections by the general public to make sure they are, in fact, working for you.