WisBusiness: Regulatory reform bill passes Assembly easily

By Doug Cunningham

With backing from Republican and Democratic legislative leaders, plus the blessing of Gov. Jim Doyle, the Assembly passed the business regulatory reform bill on a 80-14 vote yesterday. The bill now moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mary Panzer said yesterday it would come to the flor for a vote on Tuesday.

Assembly Speaker John Gard said the governor deserves credit for his willingness to work with Republicans to pass this sweeping streamlining of the business environmental permit process. “The governor of this state is going to keep his word and sign it,” Gard said, “And there are a lot of people in large, medium and small businesses who are going to say – you know what? – they finally get it. It’s not just taxes. It’s not just regulation. It is a combination of the two.”

Assembly Democratic leader Jim Kreuser liked the praise Gard gave Gov. Doyle on this bill.

“There’s a couple of points that (Gard) made that I totally agree with,” Kreuser said, “That Jim Doyle in one year is making more strides than we made in the last sixteen. And I’m glad that he’s leadin’ the charge. And I’m glad that we’re workin’ in the spirit of cooperation. Because you know what? What comes out of it is a better product.”

Still, some Democrats strongly opposed the business regulatory reform bill that Republicans call the Job Creation Act.

They were clearly a minority within a minority party in the Assembly but Rep. Mark Pocan and Rep. Frank Boyle were passionate about their belief that the bill does nothing to create jobs while bending over backwards to give businesses what they want. Pocan says even calling this the Job Creation Act is misleading.

“Despite the fact that we’ve lost 60,000 manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin,” Pocan said, “There’s nothing before us today that deals with job creation. Instead we have bills that basically represent a wish list of every corporate lobbyist and special interest in this capitol.”

The Assembly’s leading environmental advocate, Madison Democrat Spencer Black, said the bill degrades environmental standards and may be unconstitutional. Disagreeing with the governor but agreeing with Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, Black said the bill erodes environmental standards while purporting to create jobs. He said high-end businesses are moving to Dane County in part because of good environmental standards.

“Protecting our waterways, protecting the quality of life, protecting the environment, creates jobs,” Black said, “And creates good-paying jobs. Creates the jobs of the future.”

Steve Hiniker of 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin told the Wisconsin Radio Network that he will “guarantee” that if this bill is passed it will “be the subject of a lawsuit within a couple of weeks after the bill is passed in order to protect the waters of Wisconsin.”