Who makes the rules? | WisCommunity

Who makes the rules?

Scott Walker, still delusional and thinking he will be crowned as emperor of Wisconsin on Jan. 3, has proposed a radical change in the way Wisconsin government makes administrative rules, which cover a host of activities, large and small.

Walker also appears under the illusion that some anonymous, pointy-headed bureaucrats make all these rules, and that it is really inconvenient for businesses to have to follow them and behave responsibly.

His proposal, he claims, puts decisions back in the hands of officials (or one official) elected by the public.  He wants the governor to sign off on any new rules.

But the state legislature -- elected by the people -- has oversight now on any administrative rules, although Walker pretends otherwise.

The non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) explains:

The legislature’s authority to delegate power to executive agencies to promulgate administrative rules is an essential part of Wisconsin state government. Agencies have the expertise to develop rules and procedures in specialized areas of government. However, to enable government to function effectively,the legislature can monitor and dictate the scope of the agencies’powers. Wisconsin’s system of checks and balances allows legislative oversight and judicial review of administrative rules to ensure that agencies comply with the legislature’s intent in delegating power to a particular agency.

Here's how it works: Since the state legislature can't anticipate every detail when it passes a law, the executive branch -- state agencies -- are empowered to pass rules to carry out the legislaure's wishes. The LRB says the rules are contained in Wisconsin Administrative Code ,"in 18 volumes and over 70 chapters, covering hundreds of topics ranging from the regulation of funeral directors to unemployment insurance to taxation to falconry>"

When a new rule is proposed, it is reviewed by the nonpartisan Legislative Council, Back to the LRB:

Agencies are part of the executive branch, yet they are accorded more latitude than the judiciary and the governor to exercise legislative powers because, as a creation of the legislature, they are subject to greater legislative control. An agency’s existence, plus its powers, duties, and scope of authority, are all subject to monitoring, change, or even elimination by the legislature. Moreover, the legislature can suspend administrative rules.

So elected officials have the last word. (Also, some of the departments, like Justice and Public Instruction, are headed by officials who are elected statewide. )

You have to wonder whether Republican legislators will be anxious to give up all of that power, even to Scott Walker, especially when they realilze the next governor may well be a Democrat.

Walker, in effect, is proposing a system which would allow him to veto a rule before it even got to the legislature for review. He denies it, but it's a power grab, pure and simple. Even GOP legislators should say no and protect their own turf, instead of rolling over and playing dead.


December 22, 2010 - 4:17pm