Extraordinary Session Update: Legislature Approves Critical Reforms

Legislature approves administrative rulemaking reforms, tax reform; maintains DPI oversight

The extraordinary session began in both the Assembly and Senate yesterday and was still going on while most Wisconsinites were eating breakfast this morning. A lot of changes were made, and in the end a grand total of three bills were passed. Yesterday, WILL released an analysis of some of the good and some of the bad things in the original bills. Here’s where those matters stand today:

First, much of the administrative rulemaking reforms were approved, including all the key parts of the proposals that we wrote about yesterday: limits to agency deference, shining light upon guidance documents, and ending sue and settle. That’s great news, and those provisions will help ensure that government remains both transparent and accountable.

Second, the legislature kept in provisions to make sure all settlement money obtained by DOJ are deposited into the general fund, and maintained provisions that would put certain waivers into statute to ensure their effectiveness going forward. Although they did limit some legislative oversight requirements that were put in place, what ultimately passed still includes some significant checks on executive power.

Third, voter I.D. regulations were put in statute, ensuring that those provisions will continue to be enforced during future elections.

Fourth, the legislature maintained key provisions that corrected the legal authority issues for implementing the online sales tax regulations. As we wrote yesterday, the original regulations were on shaky legal ground – and the legislature decisively fixed those legal issues yesterday. Kudos to those legislators for heeding our advice and including that fix as one of the very few tax reform provisions in the extraordinary session.

With regard to some of the “bad” provisions that we pointed out – the legislature took note and fixed some of those issues as well. The provisions exempting the Department of Public Instruction from certain rulemaking oversight and transparency requirements were removed, which is great news and helps ensure that all agencies in state government play by the same rules. Also, the provisions allowing a single scope statement for emergency and permanent rules were removed.

All-in-all, the vast majority of the “good” provisions we wrote on made it through and most of the “bad” provisions were taken care of. This is welcome news and these reforms will prove beneficial as we continue our work to hold government accountable in the years to come.


Lucas Vebber is the Deputy Counsel and Director of Regulatory Reform and Federalism at WILL

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