Update: GOP-Led Senate Approves Special Interest Protection Bill

Posted: May 2, 2017
Updated: May 3, 2017

 

A bill to hamstring state agencies that want to implement rules and standards deemed too costly for businesses was approved Tuesday by the GOP-controlled Senate. The proposal, which now goes to the Republican-dominated Assembly for consideration, would affect policies and procedures involving public health and safety, the environment, and consumer protection, among other things.

The measure, Senate Bill 15, is backed by numerous wealthy special interest groups led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group, and Americans for Prosperity, a rightwing electioneering group created by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

The bill would prevent a state agency from creating any new rules and regulations that cost a business or industry more than $10 million without legislative approval. The measure would also allow legislative leaders to request a study of a proposed rule’s cost to the business community, independent of a state agency’s claims about the costs, and to file permanent objections to a proposed rule to effectively kill it.

The proposal is similar to a 2012 plan developed by a pro-business group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a special interest bill mill that unites business and other powerful special interests with state legislators around the country to develop “model” pro-business and social policies that can be introduced in state legislatures around the country. The Koch brothers also fund ALEC.

Special interests backing SB15, including construction, natural resources, agriculture, business, manufacturing, banking, tourism, energy, and transportation, doled out about $6 million in direct contributions between January 2011 and December 2016 to current GOP state senators, who hold a 20-13 majority, and two fundraising committees controlled by GOP leaders.  SB15 was approved by the Senate on a 19-14 vote with Republican Sen. Rob Cowles, of Green Bay, joining Democrats to oppose the measure.

In addition, WMC and Americans for Prosperity have spent an estimated $24.3 million since 2010 on outside electioneering activities to support conservative and GOP legislative and statewide candidates, including an estimated $1.5 million in the 2011 and 2012 state Senate recall elections that were mostly won by Republicans.