Local business owners meet with lawmakers

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Jim Leute
Thursday, October 3, 2013

JANESVILLE—Administrative rules, regulations and laws—both new and old, needed or not needed—were front and center on the minds of small business owners who gathered Thursday with the area's Democratic lawmakers.

Organized by Rep. Janis Ringhand of Evansville, Thursday's forum at the Rock County Job Center was an invitation for business owners to share their ideas on economic development.

Reps. Deb Kolste of Janesville and Andy Jorgensen of Fort Atkinson joined Ringhand and Sen. Tim Cullen in the listening session attended by a handful of business owners and representatives of civic, business or government organizations.

Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, were invited but did not attend.

Ross Walcott, who is retired from a Janesville water treatment business, kicked the comments off by asking why the state Legislature couldn't make one law that prohibited the creation of any more.

Small businesses, he said, are burdened by stacks of unnecessary rules and regulations that create work and costs that detract from the businesses they're trying to run.

“Government can pretty much stay the hell out of the way,” he said. “We can do our own jobs.”

To a point, the lawmakers agreed, saying that every legislative committee and agency in the state is tasked with the elimination of unnecessary, antiquated rules.

Dating back decades, most rules and regulations were the result of one business organization or another asking for them, Cullen said.

“Businesses come to Madison and they want a law or a rule that 'fences me in and fences you out,'” he said, noting a rule that requires barbers to have 1,000 hours of training to get a license.

“Do you think the guy getting his hair cut wants the barber to have 1,000 hours of training? No, the barbers with 1,000 hours wanted it so they could keep other barbers out.”

Kolste said the state is now tackling the more obviously antiquated rules for review.

“There are so many rules, laws and regulations that we couldn't possibly know the importance of everything in the statutes,” she said, adding that lawmakers need to hear from their constituents about the rules and regulations that are in need of review but are not so obvious.

That's a difficult task, Cullen said, because the Legislature in 2011 wrongly gave up its legislative oversight of administrative rules to the governor.

“We're trying to open a lot of legislative history,” Jorgenson said. “In a bipartisan way, we need to look at the laws that make no sense for businesses in 2013.

“You folks can educate us, and we can go back and educate our colleagues in Madison.”

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