The Three Lies of Bill Smith and the Wisconsin NFIB

Bill Smith of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business is telling lawmakers they should oppose a regulatory reform bill strongly supported by Gov. Scott Walker. In making his most recent sales pitch in a memo to state Senators, Smith resorted to misrepresentations and factual distortions about what the proposed REINS Act, AB 251, would do and not do. Like its federal counterpart, the state REINS Act would require lawmakers to either approve or disapprove of state administrative rules that have an estimated economic impact of $10 million or more in any biennium.

The federal legislation sets the cost threshold at a higher level.

Smith claimed in the March 7 memo that “AB 251 seriously dilutes the rule-making authority of the Legislature by sharing key rule-making decisions with unelected bureaucrats in state agencies.” That is false and Smith is lying.

The proposal would increase the legislature’s check on state agencies, requiring not just the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules to sign off on some rules, but requiring the entire legislature – Assembly and Senate – to either approve or disapprove of costly new regulations. Under current law, that’s not the case. Already unelected bureaucrats have a large role in the regulatory process, and for the first time ever the state REINS Act would put a check on that by involving more lawmakers than ever in a review of costly proposed regulations.

When Smith asserts that AB 251 will reduce agency accountability to the legislature, he’s lying.

Smith also claims that the legislation increases “the role of unelected bureaucrats” in promulgating state regulations because it would create a new review board for future regulations and the proposal requires a new procedure for preparing economic impact statements that measure a proposed regulation’s impact. But Smith’s own NFIB chapter has previously supported regulator reform bills that modified the pre-legislative process of administrative rule development. That doesn’t reduce the legislature’s authority, it simply provides more clarity before the rule gets an up or down vote in the legislature (something that no rule currently undergoes at this point).

Finally, Smith asserts “There are 15 organizations opposed to [AB 251] or share our concerns” about the legislation.

At best that statement is misleading. There are only 3 organizations that have registered in opposition to the REINS Act; besides the NFIB those organizations are Clean Wisconsin and the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, the later two are extreme leftwing environmental groups. Their opposition to the REINS Act is because it would give elected officials – accountable to voters – more power, not less, in the regulatory process.

Gov. Scott Walker has said he wants to see the REINS Act become law this session and he’s ready to sign it if the Senate passes it. Prospects of a Senate passage for AB 251, however, remain fluid with the Senate scheduled to adjourn for the year this week.

Fascinatingly, the NFIB has hinted that the state of North Carolina should adopt a state REINS Act similar to the one its Wisconsin chapter opposes in the Badger State.

NFIB Wisconsin memo:

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