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Democratic Gubernatorial Forum Makes Clear Administrative Rule Process Must Change

April 11, 2012

With a standing room only crowd in downtown Madison Wednesday night it took only one line to set the tone for the Democratic candidate forum for governor.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett took to the podium and made it quite clear by stating “Governor Walker started a civil war.”

An older man  wearing a union button standing off to the side where I sat added “and we are going to win.”

While there was much interest in collective bargaining, and the way the four candidates vying to challenge Walker in a recall election would restore worker rights, it was not the only topic that was discussed.

Of particular interest to me was the discussion over ACT 21 that impacted how the administrative rule process is fashioned.  Currently the law that Walker signed requires an 18-step process that begins and ends in the governor’s office. Under this system, proposed rules often require economic impact studies, and take two to three extra years to run the procedural gauntlet.  Rules have the power of law, and are made to insure that signed legislation has the ‘nuts and bolts’ to function properly.

Mayor Barrett described ACT 21 as a “power-grab”, and told Dane County Democrats that he would “restore the balance”. 

State Senator Kathleen Vinehout spoke about the anglers and hunters who have felt the negative impact of Walker controlling the rule process.  With passion Vinehout said, “the tyranny of this governor has squelched” the rights of citizens.

My deep concern about the rule process is one that comes with a bit of background.  I was the Research Assistant for Representative Lary Swoboda when he served as Co-Chair of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. I was the committee clerk for JCRAR.  I fully understand that this issue is not sexy, and rarely makes for headlines.

But the administrative rule process matters to every citizen whether they understand it or not.

No governor from any party should have the rule making process begin and end in the executive office.  Rule making oversight from the legislature is a reasoned and appropriate manner in making sure the agencies promulgate rules in a timely and responsible fashion.  Why the current Republican controlled legislature thought it wise to relinquish legislative control over the rule process is one of the many unanswered questions of the past 15 months.

Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk struck another chord in the discussion by making it clear that “secretive and closed” meetings does not allow the rule making process credibility, and stated in regards to Walker that “no one should have too much power” when it comes to rule-making.

Secretary of State Doug LaFollette, who entered the room wearing his trademark hat and affable smile made it short and simple when responding to the rule-making mess.  “Repeal this process,” he declared.

Then with equal passion, and to a smattering of applause LaFollette made it clear he wanted  the DNR Board to make the selection of the secretary for the agency.  (This has been another one of those process issues that this blog challenged Democratic Governor Doyle over time and again.)

It was hard to judge from the applause which candidate was making more headway with the crowd.  Truthfully there was more a sense of moving beyond the primary and getting to the real election, that being the recall of Governor Walker.

One interesting statistic was bounced around the forum last night that should cheer supporters of all four candidates.

In 2010 there were 812, 086 fewer Democratic voters in Wisconsin than turned  out in 2008.  The Dane County portion of that number is 61,494.  In other words Democrats know the numbers are on our side.

There will be a ground game to get the voters to the polls, and as the candidates made clear to energized Dane Democrats there is no greater time to make a change in Wisconsin leadership than now.  And no greater reason why that change is needed.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Solly permalink
    April 13, 2012 12:01 AM

    Well, I worked for a state agency for 28 years, many of them working on administrative rules, and I can’t imagine promulgating a rule that the administration at the time didn’t support. It went thru the bureau, division, budget office, secretary’s office, department of administration, and most likely the Gov’s office, if it was at all controversial. I don’t think a department secretary would last if they went rogue. Once a rule was introduced, both standing committees had a chance for input, and hearings, and if they wanted changes they asked. And if there was a dispute, the full legislature could object. How much more frickin’ review is needed, the process pre-Act 21 would take a year or more. And most of the rules I worked on were to modernize the procedures to reflect advances in electronic communications and bidness practices, etc that the business community needed to remain competitive (read jobs). Let’s add Mr. Less Government Scott Wanker’s new 18 step process. The DNR is already under his thumb, what’s he afraid of? The one agency that’s critical to promulgate their own rules (subject to legislative review) is the Government Accountability Board. Actually, since they regulate the elected officials, maybe it should be only subject to judicial review, otherwise the foxes are guarding the henhouse.

  2. Pablo permalink
    April 12, 2012 8:52 AM

    I for one believe the act 21 needed to be acted on. I have been a part of an agency agenda gone amuck. Some one needs to over see and the current system of the ad rules committee does not work. No one says the Govs office makes the rules but I do believe what ever party is in control of the office, there should be oversight.

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