[Madison, Wisc...] A group of small business owners played a big part in eliminating 40 chapters from the Wisconsin Administrative Code.
The Administrative Code contains all the rules created by state agencies that have the same effect as law. It is 11,764 pages long and consists of 1,678 chapters. After Scott Walker was elected governor and Republicans won majorities in the Assembly and State Senate, an effort was launched to review the code.
Prior to 2011, the Small Business Regulatory Board consisted of a mix of lawmakers, business owners and bureaucrats. The legislature got rid of the bureaucrats, and last year Governor Walker ordered state agencies to work with the board to identify and change regulations that were impeding economic growth.
State agencies began pouring over the administrative code, which contains over a thousand chapters. Each time they found a rule that they thought could be changed, they took it to the board, which either approved or rejected the change.
Board Member Minoo Seifoddini, President of Custom Service Plastics, said the process was exhausting but well worth the effort.
"Some of them don't understand what we're going through because they are not a small business owner," she told the MacIver News Service. "So we got a chance to give our thoughts."
A report released on January 15th explained what changes were made, why they matter to small businesses, and what steps should be taken by the legislature.
The top reason rules were changed was because they had become obsolete. Others were revised for the purpose of clarity and 49 rules were changed because they conflicted with state statutes.
Not all changes came from bureaucrats pouring over volumes of rules. The process also involved public hearings and a survey of businesses in the state.
This resulted in the Department of Revenue requesting changes to the frequency of sales tax filings. Retailers file sales taxes monthly, quarterly, or annually depending on how much they owe. DOR wants to raise the thresholds, meaning retailers will have to file less frequently.
"These greater thresholds for filing frequency benefit small, start-up ventures by reducing administrative costs for start-ups enabling them to focus on growing business," the report states.
After hearing from frustrated employers about the state's unemployment insurance process, the Department of Workforce Development is working on a manual to guide businesses through the claims process.
State agencies also discovered rules that should be changed, but require legislative action.
The Department of Transportation is recommending exempting truckers hauling less than 10,000 pounds from having to stop at weigh stations.
"DOT found this was an unnecessary burden on small employers and other enforcement actions exist to monitor these haulers," the report states.
Senator Terry Moulton, who sits on the board and is also a small business owner, is happy with regulatory reform efforts so far.
"I'm very satisfied with the progress. I think that was a significant thing that we did in changing the makeup and the process to help small businesses," he told MNS. "It will be an ongoing process."