Bills of Note: REINS Act

On May 2, the Senate voted 19-14 to pass the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act. The bill (SB 15/AB 42) was reintroduced this session by  Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) after passing the Assembly last session, but stalling in the Senate.

The version passed by the Senate was Substitute Amendment 1, as amended by Senate Amendment 1. The main feature in the legislation is the requirement for explicit legislative approval – passage of a bill – for any rules costing $10 million over any two-year period. This legislative oversight was substantially weakened by an exemption for EPA air quality rules, including rules such as the controversial Clean Power Plan.

Other provisions in the REINS Act would:

  • Require the Department of Administration to review scope statements for proposed administrative rules for a determination of the agency’s statutory authority
  • Require agencies to hold public hearings on scope statements at the request of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR)
  • Allow JCRAR to request an independent economic impact analysis for a proposed rule
  • Allow JCRAR to make an indefinite objection to a proposed rule that prevents the agency from promulgating it

The co-authors say the bill gives citizens a voice in the rule-making process and would improve Wisconsin’s regulatory climate.

The Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection held a public hearing on the bill on March 30. Those testifying in favor of the bill included the National Federation of Independent Business Wisconsin Chapter, Wisconsin Independent Businesses, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin. Supporters testified that the bill would create new opportunities for large and small businesses to comment on regulations and give greater certainty, transparency, cost sensitivity, accountability and responsiveness to Wisconsin’s regulatory environment.

Business groups and small business owners again testified in favor of the REINS Act in an Assembly State Affairs Committee hearing on April 19. Groups including the Sierra Club also testified against the legislation, saying that it is not needed and would slow down Wisconsin’s ability to implement rules that help Wisconsinites and the environment.

In the May 2 Senate session, the REINS Act passed along party lines, with Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) the only Republican voting no. The Assembly Committee on State Affairs recommended the Assembly version of the bill for passage 10-5 on May 3.