Baked-Goods Bill Gaining Traction

OPINION By Liam Marlaire The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A proposed bill in Wisconsin would remove barriers for people who want to make home-baked goods and sell them directly to consumers. The law currently requires bakers to obtain a license, use a commercial kitchen and submit to inspections and fees.

The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

In the world of government overreach, this example may just take the cake.

Selling homemade baked goods in Wisconsin, such as cookies and muffins, had been banned until LaFayette County Judge Duane Jorgenson recently ruled against the measure after three women represented by the Institute for Justice challenged the state law.

According to The Associated Press, "The law ... required bakers to obtain a license, which requires using a commercial kitchen, submitting to inspections and paying fees."

State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, has co-authored Senate Bill 271, an amended version of which was passed by a Senate committee shortly after the judge's decision.

SB 271 passed on a voice vote in the full Senate on Wednesday, while the companion bill, AB 360, awaits a public hearing in an Assembly committee.

"This bill would remove those barriers and allow people to produce truly home-baked goods and sell them directly to consumers," said Nick Levendofsky, government relations associate with the Chippewa Falls-based Wisconsin Farmers Union, of SB 271.

----Eliminating the ban would allow the producers of baked goods to sell their products at events such as farmers markets.

A $7,500 income cap in Harsdorf's original bill was raised to $25,000 by the Senate committee. That brings Wisconsin up to the national average for states with similar laws, Levendofsky said.

The Associated Press reported Harsdorf's bill "would allow people to sell without a license if they do it face-to-face, register with state consumer protection officials and generate less than $25,000 in annual revenue."

The products also must have low moisture amounts to avoid dangerous organisms.

"Aside from the barriers being lifted," Levendofsky said, "this bill would bring extra income to the rural economy and has the potential to help start small businesses across the state."

New Jersey was the only other state that banned the sale of home-baked products. Past measures in Wisconsin to lift the ban had twice passed the Senate but never came up for vote in the Assembly.

"This issue has actually received bipartisan support in the past, but always seems to hit a roadblock in the Assembly after passing the Senate," Levendofsky said. "Some groups are concerned this bill creates too much competition, but we feel that is not a valid concern."

----Critics of Harsdorf's bill include Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who released the following statement for a CBS News story:

"As a small business owner, I appreciate the need to remove unnecessary regulations that don't protect public safety or the environment. While it's important that Wisconsin attracts new entrepreneurs, it should not be at the expense of our small businesses that are currently meeting the standards and regulations."

Added Brandon Scholz of the Wisconsin Grocers Association in the same story: "It's not about muffins and it's not about competition; it's about public health. We don't want to have anybody get sick."

Erica Smith, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, a national nonprofit law firm, represented the home-bakers who sued the state.

"All we're talking about is people using their home kitchens and their home ovens to make a small amount of goods and sell them to their community," she said.

"It doesn't make sense to impose the same rules on a Hostess factory as it does a home baker."

No, it doesn't.

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