Wisconsin's legislative and executive leaders believe new regulatory approaches are needed to ensure environmental excellence and economic growth. The current regulatory process is considered inefficient and harmful to the state's business climate and job creation.
However, Wisconsin is poised to be a global leader once again in environmental protection, especially in light of regulatory reform efforts that may enable the state to achieve higher levels of environmental protection without incurring major economic costs.
Led by Graham Wilson of the La Follette School of Public Affairs and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Style: New Approaches to Regulatory Innovation works with legislators, state agencies, environmental groups, business organizations, academics and others to reinvent and create approaches to regulatory reform that draw upon best practices from nations around the world. The goal is to produce higher levels of environmental performance by businesses through collaboration and cooperation, rather than through the top-down adoption of rigid laws, regulations and taxes.
The project emphasizes bringing people together from around the world in large and small gatherings to share ideas about innovations in environmental regulation. The project's organizers have facilitated many exchanges among U.S. and European academics, businesses, and governmental and nongovernmental organizations.
In addition, the project sponsored research by political scientist Kenneth L. Kowalski; forged an ongoing partnership with the Multi-State Working Group on Environmental Performance; helped organize four Wisconsin bus tours and a conference to showcase Wisconsin's green businesses and the state's 2004 Green Tier law; established an advisory council to bring together business, government and environmental organizations; and held the Environmental Law in a Connected World conference that drew more than 300 people from around the world to share approaches to innovative environmental regulation.
Funded largely through a three-year grant from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment to the La Follette School of Public Affairs, the project is also enabling La Follette School professors and staff to work with Wisconsin policymakers to nurture the second phase of the "Bavarian Pact," a partnership between Wisconsin and Bavaria, Germany, to develop innovations for better environmental protection. A new 2004 Law School course, "New Approaches to Regulation: Law and Policy," complemented the project.
The Baldwin grant to the La Follette School attracted an additional $50,000 from groups, such as the American Chemistry Council, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Joyce Foundation. Additional university support has come from the Chancellor's Fund, the Center for the World and Global Economy and the La Follette School of Public Affairs.
Two milestones heralded the start of the Wisconsin Style: New Approaches to Regulatory Innovation project. The first was passage and signing of Green Tier into law in April 2004. The second was a fact-finding mission to Bavaria, Germany, a world-wide leader in innovative public-private pacts that address environmental policy. There, in October 2004, a Wisconsin delegation examined innovative technologies, "green building" practices and new directions in environmental governance. The broad-based Wisconsin group explored how the Green Tier law (modeled, in part, after Bavaria’s environmental pacts) could encourage companies to improve environmental performance while boosting productivity and cutting costs.
Wisconsin’s voluntary Green Tier law rewards superior environmental performance that improves the quality of air, water, land or natural resources beyond the minimum standard required by law. Green Tier allows the state to differentiate among good environmental actors and those performing at or near the regulatory minimum.
Under Green Tier, companies, communities and governments negotiate contracts and charters that are flexible, innovative, efficient and enforceable. Contracts and charters are usually linked to an organization’s environmental management system to assure predictable performance, and continual improvement. Self-auditing, public involvement and reporting make the processes transparent, and verify the results.
It will work with legislators, state agencies, environmental groups, business organizations and others to re-invent and create approaches to regulatory reform that draw upon best practices from nations around the world. The goal is to produce higher levels of environmental performance by businesses through collaboration and cooperation, rather than through the top-down adoption of rigid laws, regulations and taxes.