The Wisconsin Legislature and governor are continuing in efforts to streamline government agency functions and reduce the touchpoints between state government and Wisconsin businesses across sectors. In 2011, the Legislature enacted and Governor Walker signed into law Act 21, which restricted state agencies’ authority to promulgate and enforce administrative rules. In particular, Act 21 proscribed state agencies from promulgating or enforcing a rule unless the agency has been given explicit statutory authority. In addition, Act 21 restricted state agencies by stipulating that if a statute contains a specific standard, requirement, or threshold, the agency may not promulgate or enforce a rule that contains a more restrictive standard, requirement, or threshold.
In order to give effect to the full intent of Act 21, at the beginning of the 2013 legislative session, the Wisconsin Assembly Republican leadership introduced its “Right the Rules” project, which sought to identify “unnecessary, burdensome, and outdated” administrative rules that need to be modified or eliminated. This resulted in the Assembly reviewing 353 chapters (out of 1,768), with 83 chapters being either modified or repealed.
In 2015, the Wisconsin Assembly Republicans renamed the project “Red Tape Review.” According the Red Tape Review Facebook page, the Assembly has reviewed 27% of Wisconsin’s administrative code.
The Assembly Republicans announced that they plan to continue the Red Tape Review during the 2017-18 legislative session. This provides an opportunity to review those administrative rules that agencies no longer have the authority to enforce.
Compliance with administrative rules can add significant costs to doing business. Moreover, many existing rules may no longer be lawful based on Act 21. It will be important to continue to follow the Legislature’s Red Tape Review to ensure that Wisconsin’s administrative code is up to date and is being enforced lawfully.