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Cookie Bill Update

Straight Dough from the CEO

On September 11, 2013, a public hearing was held at the State Capital in Madison, WI by the Committee on Small Business Development chaired by Rep. Jeff Stone on Assembly Bill 182 relating to the sale of homemade baked goods and homemade canned goods more commonly referred to as the Cookie Bill.

This public hearing was scheduled with short notice but was attended by many of its supporters, with very little opposition against the passage!  WBA’s position submitted points of question in regards to passage of this bill that would go directly against current food plant laws in force since the early 1900’s, the need for professional baking operators to meet federal guidelines for labeling and allergen requirements and the overall impact on existing small bakery operations.

I was called to represent the WBA’s position at the committee hearing.  All of the members of the bipartisan committee listened intently to the comments I made and we had the opportunity to review our position point by point through AB 182.

In turn, several rounds of questions came from various area representatives with several echoing our concerns as well. However, the strong public support as well as having bipartisan support from 26 representatives in the Assembly and an additional nine senators will make the potential passing of AB 182 assured in the next session set for later this Fall at a date to be set.

45th Assembly District Representative, Janis Ringhand is the key drafter of AB 182. Following the 2 ½ hour public hearing, I had the chance to speak with both Rep. Ringhand and Chairman Stone.  They have asked for my direct involvement in seeking amended legislation moving forward to assure we do take into account protections for existing bakery operators and to work closely with DATCP to fulfill compliance with the AB 182’s registration requirements.

The entire purpose is to build a program to allow small bakers to build to the next step of opening their own bakery or certified kitchen space to operating wedding cake business, etc.

Testimony was provided by many people who have worked in the industry but want their own business, but not one hampered by the high cost of startup, equipment, and regulatory fees. This bill is seen as a way to help that. Many students from Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Baking Program were in attendance and several had the chance to speak on their position in favor of this as a way for them to get an easier start on their business plans.

While we constantly look to expand the baking business in Wisconsin, AB 182 will need to be viewed carefully moving forward. WBA now has a seat at the table going forward and Chairman Stone is also working closely with our friends at the Wisconsin Restaurant Association towards changes in our state’s food laws as well. His hope is to draft these into one passable pieces of legislature that both serves our respective industries as well as the general public. I assured Chairman Stone we would continue to work with the committee, but still carry concerns for our existing bakery operators as well as the potential for widespread food borne illness in the general public.

We will keep you informed as this moves forward, but WBA needs your support as well! Write your Assembly Representatives and State Senator and let them know your position and how it effects your bakery operation and business. Let your voice be heard as a member of WBA and a business leader in your community!