A victory over regulatory expansion

Relentless bureaucratic creep undermines competition and hurts consumers

Government regulation often adds complexity and costs to our lives in subtle ways. A narrow, state-imposed rule may seem innocuous on its own, but when woven in with layers of existing requirements, the resulting regulatory tapestry can smother initiative, efficiency and competition. And usually it’s the consumer who pays the price.

An example of this inexorable bureaucratic creep recently worked its way through the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). Fire inspectors asked the agency to establish a new rule limiting smoke damper inspections to – you guessed it – fire inspectors.

Smoke dampers, which are essentially doors in HVAC systems that prevent smoke from traveling through buildings when there’s a fire, are easy systems to inspect. None of Wisconsin’s neighbors require this restrictive inspection rule.

Unfortunately, efforts to limit the scope of practice to certain licensed professionals are not uncommon. By prohibiting other qualified parties from providing a service, those with a state-sanctioned monopoly get all the work and set the prices. If, as a result, it takes longer or costs more for that service, so be it.

The Badger Institute joined the Associated Builders and Contractors, Wisconsin Builders Association and the Commercial Real Estate Development Association in opposition to the proposed rule. When DSPS began to encounter bipartisan opposition in two key legislative committees, the rule was withdrawn.

While this may be a small victory, it demonstrates that bureaucratic expansion is not a foregone conclusion. Through a combination of awareness, diligence and principled persuasion, we can make it harder for the administrative state to rush through measures that add to the regulatory morass.

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