Republican Governor Scott Walker signed a bill Wednesday that makes it much tougher for state agencies to modify or create new rules to protect the environment, consumer rights, and public health and safety, among other things.
The new law prevents a state agency from creating any new rules and regulations that cost a business or industry more than $10 million without legislative approval. The law also allows legislators and the Department of Administration to review proposed agency rules, require hearings on them, and file permanent objections to effectively kill them. Current law already allowed the governor to approve or reject new agency rules.
The new law was 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 law is also 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 Kochs also fund ALEC.
The measure was approved earlier this summer on party line votes in the GOP-controlled Assembly and Senate.
WMC, which praised the new law, secretly raised and spent an estimated $18.6 million between January 2010 and December 2016 on outside electioneering activities to support Republican and conservative legislative and statewide candidates. In addition to its secret, outside spending on elections, WMC also represents more than a dozen special interests, including business, real estate, manufacturing, and construction, which contributed $16.7 million since January 2011 to current Republican legislators.
Americans for Prosperity spent an estimated $5.7 million between January 2010 and December 2016 to help elect conservatives and Republicans for statewide office and the legislature. The group said the new law shows “conservative reformers across America how to get the job done.”