Legislation to stop last-minute efforts at law making, such as the recent controversy over restricting microbreweries and other alcohol producers, is awaiting consideration by the state Assembly.
State Rep. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha) introduced the legislation to prevent 11th hour maneuvers that attach initiatives to the state budget.
The practice raises controversy in most budget sessions. Allen said his state budget transparency act would prevent late budget attachments by slowing down the process of enacting laws.
One recent example that raised concerns made Allen's proposal particularly timely.
Due to a leaked working paper about enacting stricter liquor laws, owners of local microbreweries, wineries and distilleries became aware of a plan that would restrict their current revenue streams.
Fear erupted that the restriction proposals would secretly become law by being inserted into in the state budget.
Raised Grain Brewing Co. of Waukesha, for one, claimed it quickly would go out of business if the initiative became law.
Allen argues that initiatives should be fully vetted by by the public, press and legislators and not slipped into the budget, escaping scrutiny and examination.
"Craft brewers were fortunate to discover potential budget proposal,"Allen said in a news release. "Recently a leaked proposal has found its way into the public sphere. The proposal would make changes to Wisconsin Chapter 125 of state statute regarding the three-tier system for alcohol sales.
"This leaked proposal was not introduced as a bill, and until it was leaked, did not received any legislative or public feedback."
Nick Reistad, a Raised Grain owner, said the initiative attempts to prevent brewers from operating taprooms where beer is sold directly to the public.
Reistad said breweries, along with wineries and distilleries throughout Wisconsin, must have the ability to make products, distribute them to other retailers and sell directly to the public in order to survive financially.
Big hitters in the the alcohol industry want a three-tier regulatory system now in placed better enforced.
State Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) said state alcohol regulations in Chapter 125 dictate that entrepreneurs must choose a purpose. Are they making a product, distributing a product or selling a product to the public? They must choose one and cannot bounce among all three.
Allen said his transparency bill has received bipartisan support.
It requires that all finance committee proposals be distributed to members of the Joint Committee on Finance and posted online at least 48 hours before the committee may consider or take executive action on any item.
"The public and legislators have a right to know in advance the contents of these proposals that can fundamentally change our laws," he said. "We are fortunate that the Chapter 125 proposal was leaked to the public, and passing the Budget Transparency Act will prevent future 'un-leaked' proposals from hiding in the dark.”
Allen said his initiative was introduced just before the Chapter 125, the law that regulates alcohol production, sales and distribution in Wisconsin, broke.
"The craft brewery incident is an illustration of why the transparency act is needed," Allen said later.