Bills of Note: Occupational Licensing Review & Regulatory Reform

Several bills regarding occupational licensing review and regulatory reform are currently moving through the legislature. In this edition of Bills of Note, we highlight three bills that would change the process of reviewing both occupational licensing and administrative rule regulations in Wisconsin. Assembly Bill 369 / Senate Bill SB 288 would create a council to regularly review occupational licensing rules. Assembly Bill 384 / Senate Bill 295 would provide for the expiration of administrative rules after seven years. Assembly Bill 317 / Senate Bill 322 would create a new process for agencies to review and repeal administrative rules.


AB 369 / SB 288

AB 369/SB 288 would create the Occupational License Review Council within the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). The Council would be made up of members appointed by the governor, senate majority leader, and assembly speaker as well as a nonvoting member from DSPS. The Council would provide a report recommending the modification or elimination of occupational licenses that would be introduced in the legislature and voted on via the standard legislative process. The Council would reform and repeat the process every ten years. Gov. Scott Walker requested a similar occupational licensing council in his proposed 2017-19 state budget. The Joint Finance Committee removed the council as a non-fiscal policy item but included a motion that would instead direct DSPS itself to study occupational licenses and submit a report to the legislature.

In addition, the legislation would require the Department of Administration prepare and issue an “occupational license” report regarding any introduced legislation which would create a new licensing requirement to engage in a particular profession or occupation. In part, the report must contain an evaluation of “whether the unregulated practice of the profession, occupation, or business can clearly harm or endanger the health, safety, or welfare of the public, and whether the potential for the harm is recognizable and not remote or speculative,” an evaluation of “whether the public can reasonably be expected to benefit from the requirement for the license,” and an evaluation of “what the least restrictive regulation is that will effectively protect the public.”

The Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations and the Assembly Committee on Regulatory Licensing Reform held a joint hearing on AB 369/SB 288 on August 24. The bill’s authors, Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) and Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) testified that occupational licensing requirements increasingly burden Wisconsin workers. The bill, they said, would give the legislature the opportunity to review potentially burdensome and outdated license requirements and thus lower barriers to employment in Wisconsin. Opportunity Solutions Project, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Institute for Justice, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, and Americans for Prosperity also registered in favor of the bill.

Opponents of the bill, including AFL-CIO and several trade associations that are currently licensed, said licenses are necessary to protect consumers and promote public trust in industries. However, the bill’s authors emphasized that the bill only designs a process for reviewing licenses and does not necessarily alter any professional regulations. Proponents of the bill also specified that the public would have a voice throughout the review process as the Council’s recommendations move through the legislature.


AB 384/SB 295 & AB 317/SB 322

These two sets of bills would create new processes for reviewing administrative rules. AB 384/SB 295, authored by Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna), would require that each chapter of the Wisconsin Administrative Code expires seven years after the chapter takes effect, subject to a schedule to be created by the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. In the year before a chapter is to expire, an agency may notify the legislature that it intends to readopt the chapter and the chapter may be considered readopted, unless a member of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules or the appropriate standing committee with jurisdiction over the agency objects. If an objection is raised, the agency may readopt the chapter using the rule-making process under current law.

AB 317/SB 322, authored by Rep. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) and Sen. Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) would make various procedural changes for reviewing and repealing administrative rules, including an expedited procedure for repealing rules, agency review of rules and legislative enactments that affect rules, a biennial report on rules by the Legislative Reference Bureau, and retrospective economic impact analyses.

The Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform held a hearing on the two bills on August 29. The bills’ authors testified that these new processes for reviewing administrative rules would improve Wisconsin’s burdensome regulatory climate and efficiently repeal duplicative, outdated, and unnecessary rules. Several business groups, including Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business, also spoke in favor of the bill, saying that reviewing administrative rules would lighten the regulatory burden for businesses that want to begin, hire, expand, and invest in Wisconsin. Those opposing the bills are largely environmental groups including Clean Wisconsin, Sierra Club, and League of Conservation Voters who cited the necessity of maintaining regulations to protect Wisconsin resources.