First State-Wide REINS Act in the Nation Passes, We Talk to the Author

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This month, Governor Walker of Wisconsin signed into law the first state-wide version of the REINS Act in the nation. It stands for Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny, but how does it work? What does it do exactly?

We talked with Representative Adam Neylon, author of the bill, to find out.

Liberty Viral (LV): I hear you had worked hard on the REINS Act for several years. What exactly is the REINS act, and what does it do?

Rep. Neylon: The REINS Act makes several changes to improve the transparency of the administrative rulemaking process in Wisconsin.  It also empowers the public to hold legislators accountable for their actions, in a way that state bureaucrats cannot be held accountable.  If a legislator supports a regulation that is unpopular, he or she can be voted out of office by their constituents.  Not so with a career employee at a state agency.

LV: Why is it important that the people, through their representatives, are allowed to have a say in important regulations? Why would the judgement of legislators be preferable to those of regulators and bureaucrats, who may have more immediate technical knowledge?

Rep. Neylon: Essentially, REINS allows the legislature to require an independent economic impact analysis on a proposed rule or regulation.  This would allow an impartial third party to determine the cost of a rule instead of relying on bureaucrats.  It would also require a rule that would cost the taxpayers more than $10 million over two years in compliance costs to be approved by the full legislature before promulgation.  Now this doesn’t mean that legislators are automatically experts on all things when they arrive in Madison; it just allows them to get a second opinion on a cost estimate, and it allows them to do the job they were sent to Madison to do.

LV:  I hear you had worked hard on the REINs Act for several years. Can you tell me what problem, exactly, it was trying to address and provide examples of regulations that this act could have prevented had it been passed sooner?

Rep. Neylon: One prime example of the problem that REINS was designed to address is that of the Department of Natural Resources putting forward a new rule in 2010.  This rule dealt with new requirements to limit phosphorous in surface waters in Wisconsin.  While I agree with this goal, the estimates varied wildly in how much the rule would cost.  It also went even further in its restrictions than federal law required.  Under the laws in place at the time, this rule was allowed to go forward, and ultimately was found to cost taxpayers $7 billion (including interest).

LV: What kind of opposition did you encounter during your attempts to pass this bill? Who were your allies in helping to pass it?

Rep. Neylon: There has been some opposition to this law from the start.  I initially proposed REINS last session, and although it passed the full Assembly, it failed to get through the Senate in 2016.  I’ve had many allies throughout this process, namely the bill’s co-author, State Senator Devin Lemahieu.

LV: Many of our readers aren’t from Wisconsin, and aren’t very familiar with our local legislation or politics. However, many are pretty damn familiar with Rand Paul. Can you tell me how Wisconsin’s REINS Act differs from his proposed federal legislation of the same name?

Rep. Neylon: The differences between Wisconsin’s REINS and the federal REINS Act are chiefly in scope.  Where our bill requires the legislature to sign off on a rule that will cost taxpayers $10 million or more, the federal bill sets that threshold at $100 million.

LV: Given that Wisconsin has been the first to pass such legislation, why do you believe that Wisconsin has been the leader on this? What makes the current Wisconsin political climate different?

Rep. Neylon: I believe that Wisconsin has been the leader on REINS primarily because of our people.  Wisconsinites want jobs, they want businesses to WANT to come here.  The people of our state want Wisconsin to thrive, and that is reflected in who they send to the state legislature.  This is the most important part of this Act: the people, through their elected representatives, decide what is best for themselves and their families.  Boiled down, that is the whole point of REINS.

LV: Thank you very much for your time.

Rep. Neylon: Thank you for your questions, and I appreciate your interest in the REINS Act.

Gary Doan

Gary Doan

Obviously, he's a guy in front of a keyboard. He uses it to make money through the stock market for his career, but more importantly he uses it to tell other people on the internet how they're wrong, post dank memes, and stay in a constant state of research about economics, law, and history. He lives in a town called Salem in a geodesic dome with his lovely wife, lovely children, regrettable pets, and some random Sanders supporter that lives in his attic and drinks all his booze. He enjoys logic, snark, satire, tattoos, learning, and obviously writing and liberty (even of the viral variety).
Gary Doan
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