Construction industry leaders want Gov.-elect Scott Walker to trim the regulatory fat from the state Department of Commerce while remaking the agency into a partly private board.
“This is the perfect time to look at all of Commerce’s regulations,” said Jim Boullion, director of governmental affairs for the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin. “The most important thing they can do is look at all these rules and determine which ones have a purpose.”
Walker wants to replace Commerce with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., a 12-member board that would promote business in the state and encourage job growth. A chief executive officer — not a secretary — would lead the corporation, and Walker would serve as chairman of the board.
But the state will stumble in promoting business growth if it doesn’t commit to at least some deregulation, said John Mielke, vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin Inc.
“There are good regulations, and we don’t want to see them orphaned when Commerce is eliminated,” said Mielke. “Our primary objective is to see that whatever secretary is in charge of the rules has what I call the right regulatory attitude.”
One piece of legislation Mielke said the industry could do without goes into effect next year and requires the licensing of workers who wrap insulation around pipes.
“Among other things, the legislation requires a statewide inspector who will be paid $80,000 a year to inspect the insulation,” he said. “I’m not sure the state has the money to hire an inspector even if it is needed.
“The legislation also requires that a thermal mechanical contractor be trained under the supervision of a licensed thermal contractor,” Mielke added. “That’s a problem since there are no licensed thermal mechanical contractors.”
Wall bracing regulations enacted two years ago also deserve a second look, said Jerry Deschane, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Builders Association.
“The requirements were developed from a national model and require that new construction withstand hurricane-force winds,” Deschane said. “Do we really need that in Wisconsin?”
The state should also consider getting out of the business of inspecting the plans for commercial buildings, he said.
“Right now, it’s done by the state and the municipality,” Deschane said. “You need one good inspector looking at the plans. You don’t need to do it twice.”
Mielke also questioned a requirement that contractors pay $125 every four years to be listed on a building contractor registry maintained by Commerce. While the cost is minor, it’s also irritating, he said.
“I’m not sure what they do with the money or the list,” Mielke said. “I don’t know what we get for it other than a plaque for our office.”
Deschane predicted many of the regulatory duties of Commerce would be shifted to the Department of Licensing and Regulation following Commerce’s reorganization.
“The state has to sift through all of these regulations and figure out which ones make sense,” Deschane said. “Too many of them just hinder job creation, and those need to be eliminated.”