WDC Testimony Opposing Bill to Eliminate State Rules

Note: This testimony is in opposition to Senate Bill 295 that provides for the automatic expiration of government regulations after seven years.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign opposes SB 295 for the following reasons:Chairman Nass and distinguished members of the Committee, I’m Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which is now in its third decade as an advocate for clean and open government in Wisconsin.

It’s unnecessary: The legislature already has the power to oversee the functioning of the agencies, and if it doesn’t like any of the administrative rules that any agency adopts, it can suspend that rule.

It’s overly broad: Rather than deal with any specific administrative rules it doesn’t like, SB 295 would throw all of them out the window every seven years. This is a classic example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

It’s costly: This bill would be a bureaucratic nightmare that would increase costs and workloads across agencies. The Department of Health Services estimated that it would increase existing operations by $211,400 every year. The Department of Children and Families warns that it “could create a large increase in DCF workload…DCF staff estimate that it would take 200-400 hours of staff time to complete the standard rule-making process for one chapter” – and it appears that there are 252 chapters covering the DCF. I leave you to do the math. Meanwhile, the Department of Revenue warns that “the repeal of tax chapters may hinder the department’s ability to collect taxes and could result in a decrease in voluntary compliance.”

It’s an early Christmas present to corporate lobbyists and donors: The largest special interests in Wisconsin, which have backed this bill, want less and less government oversight, regardless of the necessity of such oversight for the health and well-being of Wisconsinites and our environment. This bill would reward these big business interests with an early Christmas present.

Most alarming of all, it would endanger the health and safety of the people of Wisconsin and its environment: Others are here to testify today about the risks to Wisconsin’s environment, so let me focus just on health and safety. Since the bill would put a 7-year sunset on every chapter of the administrative code, let’s just look at one chapter from the Department of Health Services.

Chapter 145 deals with “Control of Communicable Diseases.” Its purpose consists of providing “effective communicable disease reporting,” and providing ways to prevent, control, and investigate the “transmission of communicable diseases.” It has specific sections covering how employees of schools, health care facilities, day care centers, home health agencies, and restaurants and other food preparers should respond if they have a communicable disease. And it deals with such diseases as tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases, specifying in great detail how the public should be protected. Do you really want to just throw this whole chapter out, or force the Department to jump through a lot of hoops to get it renewed, when the health and safety of the public hangs in the balance?

For these reasons, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign opposes SB 295.

Thank you for considering our testimony.